Is there a place for humor and gossip?

In the aftermath of last week's terror, readers express their views on the need for trivial pursuits.


Amy Reiter
September 18, 2001 8:07PM (UTC)

You people amaze me.

Yesterday, I asked you to write in and let me know if you felt humor and gossip still had a place in this world and in your lives. I got hundreds and hundreds of e-mails from all over the world, expressing all sorts of views. I heard from many of you who felt that laughter and your daily gossip routine were just what you needed at a time like this -- and others who couldn't imagine caring about celebrity trifles ever again.

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And I got something else from your letters: Comfort. And inspiration.

Here's hoping you can find it in one another's words, too.

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"Laughter is a form of catharsis. For the past week, we Americans have been living in a state of misery from which we are completely unable to escape. We've all done so much crying, and now -- though we're not quite finished -- it's time to take those first few tentative chuckles to allow the real healing to begin."

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"We have to laugh. We have to pursue the trivial, [or] else we descend into pits of despair. The foolishness of the people we enjoy through gossip lightens our view of humanity.

"Humanity is confirmed through laughter. Suffering is not mocked by laughter, rather it can be eased, lessened. Life continues, with all the joy and stupidity that humanity is capable of. Let us never become dour and stifled by terrorists.

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"Humor provides perspective and balance in an insane world. It is humanity's safety valve -- and it is sorely needed in the hardest of times."

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"I suppose it is funny, to read a column full of the stupidest things people have said lately. But don't the wisest things people have said lately deserve equal or greater attention? We sure could use a little wisdom right about now."

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"On one hand, we have gone back to gossip after every tragedy the world has ever known. It fills the need for something that won't take up too many brain cycles, while giving us something else to talk about. God knows, we need something else to talk about, and Whitney or Britney will do. On the other hand, who really cares about this stuff? I guess I do."

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"Do I want to read about the private lives of celebrities? No. I used to think it was harmless, but now I've come to feel that our society's preoccupation with celebrity is corroding our ability to understand the issues that we face."

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"Will I need the snarky gossip when all is said and done? In a word, yes. Humor is part of what makes us human. Crying isn't the only way we feel; laughing is just as valid."

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"I started regaining some sense of normalcy and appreciation for trivial pursuits on Saturday when NBC returned programming to our local affiliate. The weekend edition of "Access Hollywood" was previewing the new Keanu Reeves Little League baseball film, "Hardball." At one point, the reporter turned her attention to the child actors co-starring alongside Reeves and said, 'Many of the youngsters were acting for the first time and naturally turned to Reeves for a few pointers ...'

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"I SCREAMED with laughter. I couldn't contain myself. I hadn't busted a gut in a few days."

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"How can we go to bars and read celeb gossip when people trying to save us are possibly suffering in that rubble?"

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"Most of the time, I'm annoyed by celebrities and their affluenza, but it's comforting to read this kind of news at a time like this."

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"I feel numb. I feel joyless. Shows and movies and the fall TV season and Mariah Carey's hospitalizations don't mean a thing to me right now.

"But next week they might."

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"There will be a time when I am again ready to laugh at the ridiculousness of Michael Jackson's Llama herd, or the Tristan and Isolde-like depth of Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears' passionate romance, or the thought of N' Sync as the 21st century Beatles, or another 65-year-old actor marrying a woman young enough to be his granddaughter. These things are now covered with the dust and debris from the horrible collapse of the World Trade Center last week, but one day we will be ready to dig them up again."

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"One cannot exist if it means being merely or mostly -- grim. Gossip and neighborly concern have ever been with us, and always will."

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"I'm glad that the gossip writers took a cue and halted their reportage. Yes, it really is less important. And, at the same time, it really is OK to indulge our curiosity, as long as we do so with some semblance of responsibility, at the very least. We need to stay aware and educate ourselves on issues of global and historical import. Otherwise we really do become dumb Americans."

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"Reading about celebrity minutiae, no matter how bizarre, seems distasteful at the moment. We'll know when the mood is right to start up again. It isn't now, that's for sure."

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"Yes, news about the Backstreet Boys, Britney and Whitney is silly and irrelevant. I, for one, need some silliness now."

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"In the face of real tragedy, I am powerless and defenseless. I am without snide comment, or the finger of blame, which I can point at Whitney for her problems or A.J. or Ben Affleck. So bring back the stories of people with more money and fame than me, whom I can feel morally and intellectually superior to, whom I view with both awe and disdain and envy and whom I can occasionally empathize with, and take my mind off of AIDS leaving a continent of feral orphans, religious conflict killing children and women and terrorists bringing a conflict to people who can't locate Afghanistan on a map."

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"I woke up on Sept. 11 to a new world, a new set of rules. For me there's a new aristocracy made up not of prancing artistes wearing the latest couture but weary men and women, ordinary people wearing smoke- and ash-covered uniforms. Men and women who dispensed mercy and sweat and literal blood in lieu of red-carpet condescension and air kisses. Life givers instead of life suckers. Glitter has been replaced by steel."

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"Gossip columns are as American as baseball and football, but I won't complain if the seasons ended Tuesday. But if they're not back next year, then THEY WON. And that would be truly horrible. That seems trivial right now, but what doesn't?"

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"It's not so much that I don't care about the lives of celebrities anymore, it's just that in the past week, after finding out that all my friends, families and myself are OK and accounted for, diversion isn't about what stupid thing Britney said, or whether or not A.J. McLean managed to not drink a bottle full o' Jaeger during this week, it's about actually taking the time to listen to my friend Jason tell the story of how he accidentally fell off his bike in front of 200 people this weekend, or that my roommate got new carpet. As the bigger world gets scarier, it's the smaller things that count."

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"I don't agree with the people who say we need more escapism right now. We're a whole country dedicated to escapism, more or less, either through work or religion or sports -- you name it. Whole cottage industries have sprung up to give Americans a way out of facing up to the world around us and our place in it.

"Would it hurt us to be serious? Would it be so wrong to grow up?"

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"I found myself diverted, this weekend, by the Yasmine Bleeth story, which seemed totally ridiculous, because who gives a crap about Yasmine Bleeth, so, yes, I think there's still room for gossip about ridiculous celebrities."

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"I think for a while I only want to hear that celebrities are being good parents, or donating some of their ridiculous bazillions of $$ to a relief organization to aid families, or something other than spa-ing, screwing, snorting drugs right and left."

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"It's important for us all not to be permanently frozen in a state of grieving, allowing the terrorists to steal our lives as well as our loved ones. Nothing defeats tragedy better than the continued desire to seek joy in spite of it."

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"Do Britney's boobs or Whitney's weight mean anything after such a senseless tragedy. The answer in my opinion is of course it does. Gossip is a distraction from a life filled mostly with silent desperation. That now our desperation, or pain, and our suffering is audible means that 'trivial pursuits' are needed even more. Not to forget, but to distract from the numbing pictures of death and destruction."

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"Each 'normal' activity that I can do each day gives me one more touchstone, one more reassurance that things haven't changed so much as to be unrecognizable. To step back and look at our silly American obsessions and pronounce them utterly not worth doing is to in part agree with the terrorists' conclusions about our country and lifestyle. And yeah, maybe with some things they've got a point, but I'm suddenly LESS willing to change than ever."

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"In all honesty, unless you are writing to tell us readers how much money celebrities have donated to relief efforts like the Red Cross, I'm no longer interested in what they are doing with their lives."

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"YES! Give me entertainment. For chrissakes -- I'm terrorized enough. I'll get the news from reputable media sources, but please don't take away my entertainment."


Amy Reiter

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