No, I’m not just a bitter, middle-aged hater with no life. I do not begrudge them their youth, their talent (however that be measured) or their insane, outrageous (and in no reasonable way justifiable,) jillion dollar incomes. I do not envy their fame and resulting lack of privacy or their larger-than-real-life, extravagant lifestyles. And even though I’ll go on record as saying I’m not a fan of either teen angst movies or sports, this is not where the problem lies. This is America—where there’s something for everyone and unless your preferred “something” hurts somebody, I’m pretty chill about all that freedom of choice—especially in entertainment, even as that extends to slasher movies, watching curling tournaments. Go right ahead, enjoy! I’m a writer. I get the way it works and know first hand that taste and choice don’t necessarily go hand in hand—and that we can’t legislate or arbitrate either. And that’s OK.
My issue is with the amount of media attention these two young people have garnered in recent weeks and what that says about us and our priorities.
Working backward from the most recent coverage, I point to the unfortunate Ms. Lohan. Yesterday, I did not see any local (NYC) or network news broadcast--morning, noon, evening or late, that did not report Lilo’s incarceration either as the lead story or the second news item. In the days immediately preceding her inevitable an unenviable trip to the slammer her story was still in the first five minutes of news reports. Really?! Was there nothing more important happening in our cities, country or even the world than a story they’ve already reported on ad nauseam? The tale of this spoiled, sad, ungrateful, irresponsible, disrespectful, marginally talented, severely under-parented young woman and her escapades has been paraded before us for years now and we’re still watching the spectacle like it’s new, or worse yet, important??
Then two weeks ago, it seems the whole world was hanging by tenterhooks, holding its collective breath for 25 year old basketball wunderkind LeBron James to decide what team/town would be graced with his athletic prowess and money generating presence. I grant you that he is a talented ball player and seems to be an all around nice guy who still takes advice from his mother. All of which makes him refreshing (at least so far) in comparison to the over blown, foolish, ego driven, stupid antics of so many athletes in the news. But the exercise of his free agency clause was so crucial to our American well-being that it commanded an entire TV show— “The Decision”, albeit on ESPN, a network dedicated to sports worship. Seriously?! The special drew nearly 10 million viewers—and the network had hoped for more. Seriously.
Libraries are closing.
Schools are under-funded.
High school drop out rates are increasing at an alarming pace.
High school graduation rates are decreasing at an alarming pace.
Teachers are underpaid.
There are at least a dozen other countries ahead of us in education rankings.
And we’re focused on Lilo and LeBron and Real Housewives and Snooki? This is what we think is important? If the medium really is the message as McLuhan said, then the message is: “We’re idiots.”