by Collen Raezler [media critic]
America’s culture is desperately in need of a revamp when Perez Hilton is considered a “tastemaker.”
Hilton, best known for his vicious celebrity gossip Web site, was labeled a “tastemaker and troublemaker” in an August 7 article in the Los Angeles Times.
“Troublemaker” definitely fits. Hilton built his career around, as he told the Times, “being a b—-.” He launched a public attack earlier this year on former Miss California Carrie Prejean for her belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Hilton has also been known to force gay celebrities out of the closet by outing them on his blog. He also has no qualms about posting sex videos or nude photos of celebrities.
But a “tastemaker?” Hilton is a person who regularly features celebrity photos on his site that he’s “enhanced” with crude drawings of genitalia and bodily fluids. He labeled Prejean a “dumb b—-” in a video response to the answer she gave during the Miss USA pageant, then went on national television and announced, “I called her the b-word and hey, I was thinking the c-word and I didn’t say it.” Just two months after Hilton found Prejean “politically offensive,” “divisive,” and “alienating to gays and lesbians” for her defense of traditional marriage, he called Black Eyed Peas singer Will.I.Am a “faggot,” and was punched in the face for it.
Hilton also derided the news of Michael Jackson’s heart attack as “cold feet” in a post he later removed after the singer’s death was confirmed.
It’s lucrative to be obnoxious. The Times’ Robin Abcarian reported that Hilton’s blog “commands as much as $72,000 for a single 24-hour wallpaper-style ad that incorporates the banner logo across the top of the site.” Traffic estimates indicate Hilton receives between 246 million and 300 million page views each month. Hilton’s even able to pay his own mother a salary and benefits for her role in his enterprise as a “professional mom.” She makes his bed, fills his car with gas and walks his dog.
And the blog is not Hilton’s only business venture.
Abcarian said of Hilton, “Increasingly, he is a force to be reckoned with in other spheres of pop culture as well.” As evidence, Abcarian offered, “He has boosted the careers of a number of pop acts, including Adele, Katy Perry, Mika, Lady Gaga (his current passion) and newcomer Eric Hutchinson.” Hilton now oversees his own record label under Warner Bros. Records and hosts a twice-daily gossip report that airs in 55 radio markets. He’s also reportedly attempting to break into television with an entertainment news show.
While Abcarian noted that celebrities such as Madonna and Britney Spears “cultivate” relationships with Hilton, she did not examine if these relationships stem from a fear of ending up on the blogger’s bad side. Abcarian also cited an unnamed Hollywood publicist, who was skeptical of Hilton’s reach, but still believed he “is an intelligent business man.” Henry Copeland, president of BlogAds, which runs the advertising on Hilton’s site, called him “brilliant.”
Abcarian failed to examine what Hilton’s influence means for American pop culture. It is now acceptable, thanks to Hilton and others of his ilk, to go on national television and use words once considered to be the worst of the worst. It’s now acceptable to deface photos in the most demeaning of ways and to slime people who dare to express opinions different your own.
Worse than that, the next Perez Hilton will have be even more obnoxious and depraved to shock American sensibilities into giving him or her the influence they’ve given the current one. ExileStreet
copyright 2009 Culture and Media Institute
Collen Raezler is a staff writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.