Today was my cousin’s funeral. It was a very classy, dignified service for him. It has been a long, emotionally draining day. So I’m going to do something here I never do. I’m going to write about tabloid culture, specifically a music video. It’s mindless and easy to deal with right now, so bear with me. Besides, knowing me, I’ll find some manner to intellectualize it. I’m that pretentious!
Far be it for me, a guy who reads The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire for fun, listens to fascinating radio shows on CBC Radio about Parisian courtesans and considers a great deal of television to embody the credo of Kent Brockman – “it tugs at the heart, fogs up the mind!” – with the notable exception of The Simpsons and The Hills to comment on Texas’ most vacuous export, Jessica Simpson.
I used to think, during her salad days of Newlyweds, that she was either a woman of above-average intelligence who played the dumb-dumb role with MTV’s expert editing in tow in order to secure that all-important demographic mix of people who adored her “sweetly stupid” personae and those who embraced her undeniable Train Wreck Factor (i.e. it’s so over-the-top dumb that you can’t look away, but you really want to). Or, on the other hand, she was, perhaps ironically, not unlike her rival Britney Spears – a woman so hungry for celebrity, so driven, that she listened only to Svengali-like characters with advice that involves that sometimes-risky combination of tabloid-like insanity and doing incredible, dignity-losing actions that feeds a salicious public. In either case, it’s all about being famous. Famous at any cost. (Sidebar: I’d never link to that normally)
So why is this woman back in the media for reasons other than tabloid-driven gossip (which just keeps beating up real journalism, one day at a time, but it is this era’s version of media fascism – the new-and-improved opiate of the masses)? Well, apparently she’s got a new album coming. But, of course, there’s the hype surrounding her new song, A Public Affair. The video’s got loads of celebrities in it. It’s directed by a guy you may have heard of along the way, he directed some obscure flicks like X-3: The Last Stand – Brett Ratner.
Listening to this song is a lot like drinking yourself into a stupor: you kind of enjoy it at first, but then it really hurts afterwards. It’s a fun track, but you hate yourself. You hate it not because of the song (let’s be honest, when you’re at a night club, even the most rabid haters of pop music will still dance to pop music tracks when they come on), but because it’s the biggest load of B.S. in recent video music memory. It’s emblematic of the digital age – an attempt to nudge-nudge an increasingly media-savvy public through cheap, superficial irony. It’s there, but not at the same time.
First off, does anyone believe girls like Jessica Simpson, Christina Milian, Eva Longoria or Christina Applegate would ever hang out together? These are A-list stars, not hangers-on. And Ryan Seacrest slumming it as a limo driver? I know they’re going for irony here, but this isn’t working. Real irony would involve, you know, quality actors, and the only actor in this bunch worth paying attention to is Applegate. Irony also involves The Funny, and seeing Jessica spout off corn-fed lines like “I wanna be more famous than the internet” isn’t funny. To quote Golden Words, it’s tragic but at the same time surreal. She is more famous than the internet. No really. Think about it.
Then comes the Andy Dick factor.
I wish I could find Andy Dick funny. Watching him grab Pam Anderson’s breasts at her appalling celebrity roast and use them as talking cartoon mouths (it must be seen to be believed, but I wouldn’t want you to see it, it’s *that* bad) could be called funny to some. And his, *cough*, personality, straddles between 21st century-era slapstick and drug-and-booze-fueled unpredictability. Of course, he’s on his best behaviour here, given the kind of talent and power at arm’s length (and I mean that literally). He gets licked by Jessica and Christina Milian, licks a roller skate with erotic fervency and acts like an extremely hormonal teenage boy. But hey, he’s getting paid.
Which leads to another point: the roller skating theme. Wow guys, what a concept. I haven’t seen this before. Oh wait, yes I have. I’ve seen it movies, I’ve seen it on That 70s Show, I’ve seen it many times before. Would it have been too much to do something new? Really Mr. Ratner, you’re a talented guy – seeing Eva Longoria dance on a rink and Christina Applegate doing her best to not burst out laughing doesn’t cut it. Considering the money involved here, the final result’s really lame.
Lastly is Jessica herself, or rather the strange sub-text involving Jessica throughout this video. A veritable Nick Lachey clone makes numerous appearances with her unbridled affection visibly apparent. Of course, she can’t resist some violent pot shots at sexual rivals (cue hair pulling madness!) and even walks away with Clone Boy at the end. Heal Thyself, Jessica. Your reputation is one tabloid piece away from Paris Hilton Territory, so showing Nick your change of heart via music videos is a pretty decent stretch.
All in all, this video’s a piece of eye candy that even Kent Brockman would love. I think I’m going to go back to Law & Order now.