Everyone seems to bemoan how mean-spirited we have become as a society. No matter who you talk you, he or she will tell you we don’t treat each other as well as we did last month, last year, or last decade. We all seem to want it to change…or do we?
If our taste in entertainment is any indication, maybe we are the problem. We have become the Mock-arazzi, dedicated to chasing celebrities with insults like the paparazzi chase them with cameras. We are the unwavering fan base for reality TV shows, radio shock jocks, and print and online publications that exist to highlight and make light of the problems of famous people. Worse still, our insatiable desire to mock each other may be changing the way we relate to each other.
There is no question that we get a large amount of our entertainment and joy from the misfortune of others. This week, and for many previous weeks, society’s favorite punching bag has been singer Britney Spears. She appeared on the MTV Video Music Awards recently and gave a performance that was less than her best. This performance was met by a sickening amount of glee.
Fellow celebrities openly mocked Britney. Comedians came out of the woodwork to revel in her misfortune. Joy Behar, the fifty-something co-host of ABC’s The View, likened Britney’s body (perhaps five to ten pounds heavier than at her best) to that of the morbidly obese Sopranos star James Gandolfini. Comedian Sarah Silverman cracked jokes about Britney’s children immediately after her performance, calling them “cute mistakes.”
No one seemed to have an ounce of pity for a woman still in her twenties that appears to be on the bullet train to real trouble. In fact, we seem rather entertained by her travails. What does that say about us?
We have become an extension of those ambulance-chasing dudes armed with Nikons. Just as overly aggressive photographers make their living scaling security walls to get forbidden photos of celebrities, we now have joined the chase with our insults. Our desire to hear bad news about stars seems to be insatiable.
We have made people like Perez Hilton into successful media players due to their ability to tickle our funny bones with cruelty and derision. Perez and others could not exist without a faithful customer base. Our support of Perez and his ilk has created an industry that thrives upon abusing the helpless. Pulling the wings off of butterflies and stealing candy from babies is now, sadly, very much en vogue.
Some people will say, “Who cares?” They will say celebrities know what they are getting into when they sign up for fame. This sort of abuse is the tax celebrities agree to pay when they come to work, like the FICA withheld from their checks. Maybe.
If we are so willing to treat Britney like yesterday’s donuts, why would we treat our fellow citizens any differently? Does this behavior not help set the standard for our behavior in general? Are we saying that strangers, as Britney is to most of us, deserve no common decency and no modicum of compassion?
At the end of the day, we are responsible for this mean-spirited world in which we live. With every day we tune into mock someone else’s misfortune we increase the likelihood that we will be the butt of the joke. Every time we tolerate a world in which underachievement is more entertaining to us than achievement, we allow that world to become more and more entrenched. For every day we seek to have one set of rules for ourselves and a less favorable set for our neighbor is a day that we deserve the emotional violence visited upon us when we misstep. Is this really the world in which we want to live?
It is time to rise up and rise above our Mock-arazzi tendencies.