As 2006 comes to an end, it seems that the year is determined to be defined by celebrity scandal. When Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah Winfrey’s couch in late 2005 we had no idea that this seemingly goofy incident would not only affect the career and bank-ability of arguably Hollywood’s biggest star, but also create a whole new cottage industry of internet blogging around celebrity misfortunes.
With each miss-step, there are thousands of web sites and bloggers there to comment, post videos and rehash every element of the celebrity’s downfall. Of course, the bloggers aren’t totally to blame, as celebrities seem to have gone out of their way to make this year one that is notorious for famous people making famously offensive, obnoxious, or just plain stupid mistakes. When Mel Gibson was pulled over in Malibu California in July of this year for suspicion of drunk driving and broke into an anti-Semitic tirade, it was hard to imagine that he was just getting things started. Since that time Michael Richards, who played Cosmo Kramer on TV’s Seinfeld, was filmed screaming racial slurs at a Los Angeles comedy club and Danny DeVito has made an appearance on TV talk show The View seemingly intoxicated and doing a rambling impression of the President of the United States. And that’s not even counting the “Celebutants”, those young female celebrities that are more notable for their party-going and revolving door of boyfriends then for any artistic accomplishment. Over recent weeks the internet has been a flutter with photos of panty-less Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Even scarier for L.A. drivers (and society) is the recent arrest of Nicole Richie for driving under the influence of a mixture of drugs. What is seemingly more notable from Mr. Gibson and Ms. Richie’s arrests is the danger that they not only put themselves in, but other people. Say what you will about Tom Cruise, but the only person who could have been injured that day was Oprah.
Of course, for many celebrities, specifically the young Celebutants with little else creatively to rely on, getting in the news is part of (if not completely) the point. It is certainly no surprise that when Yahoo! recently released its list of top searches for 2006, 4 of the top 10 searches were young female celebrities in the news for their break-ups and miscues more than anything else. Britney Spears was number one, with Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan rounding out the top 10.
Lohan is the perfect example herself of a scandal queen. Currently news about her stint in AA and rumors of her cutting her own wrists punctuate sites like Babes Of Hollywood (www.babesofhollywood.com) which focuses on the latest happenings of Hollywood’s most popular females. And there is also the role of technology in all of this as well. With web sites easily being created by even the most novice surfer, camera phones at nearly everyone’s disposal and video becoming ever prevalent on the web, the amount of content and the ability to distribute it has never been stronger. One can only imagine the effect that video phone in the comedy club in Los Angeles had on Michael Richards and his life and career. Much like the tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear, you have to ask yourself – If Kramer makes racial slurs but nobody is there to record it, does that still make him a racist?