I have no particular love for Perez Hilton (real name Mario Armando Lavandeira) , and clearly he doesn’t mind it that way. (For those with the fortune to have missed out on the PH phenomenon, he’s a celebrity gossip blogger with a penchant for abusing photoshop.) While the New York Times cheerfully documents his misadventures, I can’t help but notice the kinds of language that are being used in the piece. We’re supposed to believe that Perez is really just an edgy, edgy gossip columnist who’s loud and crude. And off course, the article goes to great lengths to explain to us how subversive misogyny, slut-shaming, and photoshopping a celebrity soiling themselves really are.
Mr. Lavandeira brags about his “exclusives” and “sources” but describes his formula simply: He says what many people think but never utter aloud.
Clearly, we have the set up for someone edgy. He’s going to give voice to all those cruel and obnoxious things you were thinking and just knows covet Angelina Jolie’s newest outfit and scorn Kirsten Dunst’s. Oh happy day when miracles take place! I mean, no one else has thought to snark about celebrities before.
In his blog postings, he lavishes exclamation points on the ravishing looks of arbitrarily chosen heroes like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez and Dita Von Teese, and snarkily picks on so-called villains like Clay Aiken, Kirsten Dunst and Sienna Miller for perceived sins like excessive drinking, promiscuity or denying homosexuality.
Because criticizing celebrities for their alcohol abuse and their perceived sexuality is what defines edgy. There’s something deeply subversive about calling someone a slut. And it’s skating even closer to the line to talk smack about someone’s substance abuse. The perceived misdeeds of celebrities have always been fodder for gossip pages, but let’s not pretend that Perez is some sort of vanguard, sticking it to the man, and calling it like he sees it. (He also has a thing about Victoria Beckham’s refusal to smile and “routinely ridicules” her for this. Yes, celebrities are expected to smile and mug for the camera, but seems to be more of the same when it comes to scolding women about smiling.)
Unsurprisingly, Perez is far from universally popular. He has lawsuits pending against him by both his celebrity targets for libel and paparazzi photographers who claim he’s grabbed their images without paying or giving credit. When he appeared on the view, the show’s hosts were unimpressed with his tendency to mock the children of celebrities. (He called Suri Cruise an alien, among other things.) However, he’s hardly alone in his obsession with celebrity and, I’d argue, is part of the pattern of the obsession with the proverbial bad girl*.
But as Vanessa at Feministing wonders, is this a feminist issue? Is the obsession with the behavior of female celebrities something we should be worried about and calling attention to? I’d argue yes. There’s something particularly hateful and something particularly perplexing about the antics of the Britney, Lindsey, Paris, et al. crowd. What you see is not just garden variety misogyny, but also an element of pearl clutching. Part of the reason these antics go unremarked (or less remarked) with men is because double standards (he’s a player, she’s a slut) and stereotypes (boys will be boys) make their behavior seem slightly more mundane and expected.
When women engage in exactly the same kinds of behaviors, we look for explanations like blaming it on dear old mom rather than saying “Well, people do stupid shit all the time.” For reasons that I’ve not yet fully developed in my head, I think there are a lot of people who will refuse to say such a sentence as it regards women. Women should have known better, they should have dressed differently, they should have done something else! Those are not lines you hear about men. Men are known and expected to be stupid. Women are just reminded of it every time they make a mistake.