In 2007, the death of Anna Nicole Smith was the most covered story in the media. The reason is clear: it’s too expensive to cover “real” news.
Over the years, a sub-genre of media was created that is haply nicknamed ‘tabloid’ media. Historically, the tabloid media focused on the off-screen lives of Hollywood celebrities, but thanks in part to the expanding outlets of tabloid media, and a genuine lack of real celebrities nowadays, they’ve since expanded their subject matter to include politicians, athletes and newscasters. The tabloid media create celebrities, often through reality TV shows and/or scandals also.
Sadly, we the general public, and I am including myself for I am very much a participant in this celebrity culture worship, eat it all up like fast food, either because we can’t escape it or because we use it as a mean to escape our daily, mundane lives. Afterall, the speciality of this type of media is sensationalizing and glamorizing the private lives and mistakes of celebrities.
The latest in one such tabloid scandal is the “saga” of billionaire golfer Tiger Woods, who may or may not have cheated on his wife with 10 women and who may or may not have been physically assaulted by wife, Swedish former nanny Elin.
The media has made a spectacle of his life like they have done to so many others before him: David Letterman, Michael Jackson, Jon and Kate, etc.
When will it end? Never–not until we stop watching and picking up tabloid magazines. And when will we do that? The truth is, stuff like this sells–it’s fast food for the mind–it’s terrible for us, but we eat it up because it tastes good.
Sadly also, this [tabloid] culture has permeated the mainstream and “legitimate” media outlets. Networks like CNN, which used to be a credible news organization, cover stories about celebrities with the same fervor and giddiness of Access Hollywood and The Insider. The sensationalizing of the stories are never lost, as each source claims to have a new twist and plot in the “saga.” I keep using terms like plot and saga because that’s what coverage of the lives of wealthy and famous people have become: entertainment. The “saga” of Brad, Angelina and Jennifer Aniston has become the new Ashley Wilkes, Melanie and Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind). The meltdown of Britney Spears is the real-life meltdown equivalent of the Howard Beale character from Network who yells to the viewing audience: “I’m mad as hell and I am not going to take it anymore.” In the movie, Beale continues to work as a newscaster in the midst of his mental breakdown because, well, the network executives saw a spike in their ratings as a result of the world watching his breakdown for entertainment.
We, the viewing audience, like the madness of it all. We like the crazy scramble to get deeper into the lives of the target celebrity; we love the spectacle that is the coverage of a celebrity in ruin; although, truthfully, celebrities rarely get ruined these days. If they come from the Internet or a scandalous relationship with a famous person, they get reality TV shows and book and commercial deals. If they were already famous, they become even more so.
Tiger Woods is simply the latest in a long line of celebrity frenzy stories that have and will continue to dominate the [tabloid] media.
Right now as we speak, the next story is developing somewhere, waiting to be found by the fiends called the media and when they find it, half-bake it and flip it, we’ll be ready to gobble it down.