Sunday, May 21, 2006

Is Paris really the face of glamour today?

If so, God help us all. There is a great series of articles on the past, present and future of Hollywood in today's LA Times. I think the following sums the "glamour and consumerism thing" up pretty well:

The contrast between what is glamorous now and what was glamorous in the days of Cary Grant and Norma Shearer says much about how American society has changed. Glamour used to present an idealized version of adulthood. Now it presents an idealized version of adolescence. In the old days, glamour was all about unattainability, i.e., fantasy projection. These days, it has become unthinkable that a major Hollywood director might echo Cecil B. DeMille, who instructed Edith Head's department at Paramount to make clothes "that make people gasp when they see them. Don't design anything anybody could possibly buy in a store."

Today glamour is tied to the idea of shopping to maintain the illusion that you are (a) kind of famous, or (b) on your way to being famous, or (c) essentially the same as famous people, because you share the same taste in home furnishings, core values and dog shampoo. Some of the stars with whose dog shampoo brand we may be intimately acquainted don't even appear in the movies, or at least not often. They may appear in TV shows that aren't so much TV shows as a chance to observe celebrities in their natural habitats. Which kind of resembles ours. Mainstream magazines have transformed themselves from facilitators of idol worship to guides to glamour consumption.

Ironically, the movies are just about the only kind of media left not dedicated to creating complex mythologies about the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Once upon a time, a life like Paris Hilton's (pre-fame) was just the sort of fantasy life the movies sought to re-create for our amusement. With the rise of the glamour industry, no one, not even Paris Hilton, is immune to the lure of mass-media glamour.

The real-life heiress marshals all of her considerable powers to transform herself into the loudest, gaudiest, most embarrassing thing she can dream up — a ketchup-splattering porn star, a gangster's moll who wants to be an actress, a chorus girl banging down society's door.

With $300 million in disposable income, she might have purchased anything her little heart desired. And what she bought was the cheapest kind of fame.

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