Tuesday, November 1, 2005

‘Reality’ therapy

“[I]n the 21st century, ‘personality’ exists only if it is broadcast, rated, praised and consumed by as many people as possible — put on display for strangers as well as intimates. …

“An avalanche of celebrity magazines offer candid photographs of movie stars without makeup or taking out the garbage, with headlines conveying the message, ‘Stars: They’re just like us!’ At the same time, cable networks such as VH1 and MTV broadcast programs, like ‘The Fabulous Life’ and ‘Cribs,’ that do little more than offer an endless array of images of celebrities’ decadent homes, spa vacations, shopping sprees, and private jets.

“The intent is paradoxical: to make celebrities seem more like regular people (and thus make regular people feel better about themselves) and to encourage envy of those same celebrities for their lavish lifestyles, which are unattainable by regular people. …

“Today, TV is itself a form of therapy, and not merely for those who tune into Dr. Phil or Oprah. Television offers 24-hour-a-day reassurance that our ‘reality’ can be interesting — interesting enough, even, to broadcast to millions.”

Christine Rosen, writing on “The Overpraised American,” in the October/November issue of Policy Review

Fat politics

“In the war on fat, fat isn’t just winning, it’s crushing the opposition.

“A new study reports that in the course of a lifetime, 9 out of 10 men and 7 out of 10 women are going to become overweight. The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] says that a third of the country is currently obese. This puts a large portion of the nation’s population in an unenviable predicament, since antipathy toward the fat, it’s frequently remarked, is the last sanctioned form of bigotry.

“But bigotry is traditionally the plight of minorities, and the fat are fast becoming a majority. So, is America’s spreading waistline at least a plus for anti-fat-discrimination efforts? …

“Contesting the usual origin story about fat — excess calories, individual blame — is high on the activist agenda. …

“The origin question is important in the politics of fat because it shapes the approach to policy and advocacy issues. For instance, should the primary battle now be to ensure that obesity is included under the Americans with Disabilities Act? Some argue that this is a misguided strategy, since it turns fat into a disease instead of a rights issue — though if it were a recognized disability, suing over workplace discrimination and access issues would be a lot easier.

Laura Kipnis, writing on “America’s Waistline,” Friday in Slate at www.slate.com

Sign of trouble

“The [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s] idea of civil discourse in the 21st century is Kweisi Mfume accusing President Bush of ‘divide and conquer’ tactics ‘when it comes to black organizations and black people and black thinking.’ It’s Julian Bond comparing Republicans to Nazis and the Taliban and asserting that there is a right-wing conspiracy against blacks ‘operating out of the United States Department of Justice.’

“Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel calls President Bush ‘our Bull Connor,’ the notorious police commissioner in Alabama who turned dogs and fire hoses on civil-rights demonstrators in 1963. … When the rhetoric of so-called elder statesmen is materially no different from hip-hopper Kanye West’s, it might be a sign that the movement is in trouble.

“Or that it’s irrelevant.”

— Jason L. Riley, writing on “When the Leaders Of Civil Rights Were Civilized,” Friday in the Wall Street Journal

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