I've always felt that I have a New Yorker's approach to celebrities - certainly as long as I've ben a New Yorker, possibly since I was a child of 8 or 9 - which is that celebrities, per se, are not all that important, but trends have to come from somehwere. Which is to say, it's always good to know who the latest important celebrities are... and then try not to care all that much about them or what they do.
Lately, it's become next to impossible to keep up with all the variations and dimensions of "celebrity" out there - I blame reality television - but generally, the rules still hold; it's best not to care too much about who's famous or why, but occasionally, one may want to stay up to speed on what's happening with some of the big names of the day.
Which brings me to a few stories that seem to be comsuming a lot of oxygen just now.
First, Paula Deen has Type 2 Diabetes. I spent a lot of time not knowing who Paula Deen was - this is especially easy if one tries very hard not to watch the Food Network - but then I kept seeing pictures of this odd looking (i mean, the expression of perpetual surprise/fear on her face) woman on the covers of magazines at my local drugstore, including her own, and kept wondering, "who is this Paula Deen?" only to find out that Deen, apparently, is southern, and cooks, and became famous talking about southern cooking on television. Also, apparently, "southern" is another way of saying "use a lot of butter and cream and sugar" and the results are often fried or gooey or both.
A lot of the discussion of Deen's diagnosis - which is actually about three years old - has something to do with "just desserts" or the clucking of food moralists, which mostly is a reminder that food moralists may be right but are also annoying and unlikely to win people over. I admit, I find it curious that Deen is suddenly all too willing to discuss her health and ideas for healthier cooking (via her son's new cooking program), just at the convenient moment when she's signed a lucrative endorsement deal with Novo Nordisk. But mostly, I wonder why Deen matters at all, making food most of us wouldn't eat, let alone make on a regular basis.
Then there's Tim Tebow. Tebow is a quarterback for the Denver Broncos, and apparently grew up home schooled by his Baptist missionary parents. So he's very religious. So religious, apparently, that when he scores a touchdown, he drops to one knee and prays, thanking God for his scoring success. I think this is silly, but you know, there are worse things one could do.
But my goodness, how this whole thing has gotten people up in arms! There are the people who seem to find it crucial to compalin about Tebow and his prayers - and his mediocre playing, or so I'm told - and then there's the copnservatives who seem determined to turn Tebow into a rightwing icon, and "Tebowing" into the next big trend.
It would be easy to do the "I'm gay and who cares about sports"... but I'm gay and like sports, not football that much, but I try to keep up. I tend to think the conservative embrace of Tebow is, in its way, deeply cynical; it's one thing for other evangelical types to admire Tebow and his openness, another when cynical DC types embrace Tebow because it plays well to the conservative base. Both, though, are in some ways a good example of not being especially godly; using Tebow as a cudgel to judge the religiosity of others misses the point that the wonder of America is that we can all pray any old way we want to... or not pray at all. At the same time, the Tebow haters tend to give their game away by making Tebow into some sort of reliigious zealot, a reminder that there is, among the less religious, a discomfort with religious expression because it is, in fact, so reverent, and thus so hard to assail. Tebow's praying should, really, just be a colorful side note to a moderately successful career. Over time, it may well be just that.
In these uncertain, politically enervating times, the escapism of celebrity gossip is easy and inviting. I picked up the Star Magazine to find out more about the Kardashians, spent and hour or more discussing who wore what at the Golden Globes; I don't claim to be above the celebrity news. the thing about celebrity culture is that it isn't, and shouldn't be our only definition of culture. It's sad to see how much of what passes for "news" these days is warmed up, or leftover, or day old celebrity gossip stretched into filler. Paula Deen is now a "health" segment. Tebow leads the sports pages and political discussions, when he is less than crucial in either space. Kardashians, the saga of Donald Trump, Stephen Colbert and some comedic comment on the cmapaigns... it all goes on and on, and it's amusing, at first, how much we have a thing about celebrities. But not for long.