We’ll always hate Paris

The public outrage over Paris Hilton's early release from her L.A. prison cell may be justified -- but why are we expending so much energy protesting the antics of a spoiled media whore?

Topics: Celebrity, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton,

We'll always hate Paris

“There’s nobody in the world like me. I think every decade has an iconic blonde — like Marilyn Monroe or Princess Diana — and right now, I’m that icon.” — Paris Hilton

“I hate reading! Someone tell me what’s on this menu!” — Paris Hilton

We’ll always hate Paris.

If Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana were “candles in the wind,” and Anna Nicole Smith was a bonfire in a hailstorm, Paris Hilton, for all her frailness and vulnerability, is a huge, flaming meteor that can penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere, bypass all weather completely and destroy millions of lives wherever she happens to feel like plummeting.

Paris has been one of our most arresting national disasters. She’s too rich, skinny, blond, nude, slutty, drunk, spoiled and famous. She ignores the law and openly flouts our social mores, as if they don’t apply to her.

Proximity to Ms. Hilton is a proven health hazard: She blows all the clothing, morals, inhibitions and self-control of her victims sideways, leaving them emaciated, dehydrated, broke, disoriented and immune to even the most powerful panty-biotics.

Paris has managed to hold herself together comparatively well during severe marathons of hard partying — at least compared with the rest of her friends.

While Paris tiptoed around looking vacuous but relatively docile, La Lohan, Britney Spears, Brandon “Greasy Bear” Davis, Nicole Richie et al. sunk into binge-puking, Mercedes-totaling, infantile oblivions, involving willful and sustained refusal of all food but Vicodin, stints in inpatient rehabilitation facilities that cost $45,000 a week, and unsightly public meltdowns, leading to the consumption of more big bowls of cocaine and opiate painkillers and more trips to rehab (rehab being the new day care for shrieking Hollywood narcissists who can afford never to develop their own maturity, self-control or respect for other human beings).

While Paris is constantly derided for being stupid and whorish, she is, in fact, a post-Warholian pop genius of media manipulation: an extraordinarily talented infamy artist. In an information-saturated age, no publicity is good publicity, but there is enormous money to be made in disgrace. Fame is made of quantity of attention, not quality. More attention (positive or negative) means … you win, even if you’re incarcerated.

Today’s outrage centers on La Hilton’s release from prison, for the “medical condition” of galloping emotional feebleness brought on by advanced, drug-resistant wealth. The release was a tragic P.R. decision. As of the posting of this article, the ball, ridiculously, is still in the air. The sheriff’s office is being held in contempt, and our general contempt for Paris is being held in check until some responsible grown-up is able to resolve this absurd morality farce.

She might have used this 23-day opportunity in the clink to become a black Muslim and great spiritual leader. Or write “Mein Kampf II: Bones for Blondie.”

Or have a scorching lesbian affair with a fellow inmate, captured on a guard’s cellphone (“The Banlieue Is Burning: One Night Just Outside of Paris”). She could have done crafts that would have sold for bajillions on eBay — God’s eyes, potholders. The missed merchandising opportunities alone are heartbreaking: Think of how much bank Martha Stewart made off of her Hard-Time Poncho pattern.

Cries of foul “Celebrity Justice” are ruling this news cycle. Objections poured in from the sheriff’s deputies union, Al “Morally Outraged Again” Sharpton, and attention-seeking Los Angeles city attorneys like Rocky Delgadillo.

“What transpired here is outrageous,” L.A. county supervisor Don Knabe whined to the Associated Press. Knabe said he received more than 400 angry e-mails and hundreds of phone calls from all over the country … apparently from pathetic, boring, homely, forgettable, attention-starved losers with tragically uninteresting lives and nothing better to do than attempt to elevate their own labile self-esteem and moral superiority by vengefully pissing on Paris Hilton.

While much of America was getting its panties in a fist-size knot over Paris’ lack of panties, there were plenty of other things we might have paid attention to. Lookie! The Iraq war! Presto! The “ongoing investigations” of atrocious, illegal acts committed at the highest levels of government! Instead, we are engaging in our new favorite dysfunctional love-hate relationship: Public stoning of the celebrity hooker.

When a starlet is enhanced by too many cocktails and breezy sexual sophistication, it makes her a target, because we get to regard her as indecent.

Nothing shows so well how unkind we are, as a society, than the way we report on our fallen women. Even the cool kids get in on it. At the MTV movie awards, Sarah Silverman remarked that the prison wanted Paris to feel more at home, so it “painted the bars to look like penises … I’m afraid she’s going to break her teeth on them.”

David Letterman hurled his rock: “You know what [Paris' surveillance anklet] means for me? A lot of nasty scratches on my back.”

The prevailing cultural trope of “Kill the slut” has claimed quite a few bodies over the years: Marilyn Monroe. Princess Diana. Anna Nicole Smith.

Linsday and Paris? Run for your lives.

Before the DUI, Paris was being talked about because she liked urinating in hotel lobbies and taxicabs and restaurant booths. This “outrageous” behavior didn’t exactly make her go broke. Paris Hilton charges $200,000 to show up at a party for 20 minutes. This works out to $10,000 a minute to spend time with a woman whom you can’t even sit with on the good sofa.

(Just to give this price tag some sense of proportion, in 2004 the average per capita annual income in Iraq was $422. So it would take the average Iraqi over 20 years to earn one minute with Paris Hilton, or around 24 Iraqis one year to divide and share that one minute with Paris between them — which would just be a complete waste of money unless they could use that one minute to swallow all her jewelry and handbag and shoes.)

Paris has come to embody the angst of our increasing sense of powerlessness — she’s the blonde whom we punish, because we understand her crimes. We don’t really understand all the crimes of the administration — congressional bribes, organized mass deceit via domestic propaganda, policy fixing, violations of privacy and human rights.

Those are too legally complicated. While we were busy ogling Lindsay’s drug binges, Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and Britney’s shaved head, our leaders larded us with misinformation, illegally invaded another country, murdered we-don’t-even-have-any-idea-how-many innocent civilians (not to mention independent journalists), stole a nation’s oil, tortured enemy prisoners, quietly bankrupted our economy and our international moral standing in service to the short con of military Keynesianism, effectively built Dick Cheney his own private Praetorian Guard, and ushered in the most serious threat to American freedom in our history: the very real threat of despotism.

God, that is depressing. Hooker! Where’s the hooker? “If you put Paris in jail, you feel like you haven’t been screwed by the Man,” said a friend of mine. “If Paris goes to jail, there is still a middle class. There’s still an illusion of hope. We’re not the Philippines, yet. There’s still some kind of justice, and we’re not all just fucked.”

You can kick the blonde all you want, but kicking the wrong ass, while momentarily satisfying, really won’t make life better.

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows



Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>