Perez Hilton and the celebutante meltdown

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.

*Via Feministing.

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15 comments for “Perez Hilton and the celebutante meltdown

  1. BabyPop
    July 30, 2007 at 3:55 pm

    PH disgusts me. It is a guilty pleasure, but I am looking at it less and less frequently. The hypocrisy of Perez calling out homophobes, while being a complete fucking mysogynist really irks me.

  2. July 30, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    To read Perez Hilton, you just have to switch to your bizarro moral compass where it’s legitimage to criticize people for not having plastic surgery or wearing wrinkled pants. The problem is when you forget to switch back.

  3. elena
    July 30, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    What he does is abusive and it’s bullying. No one, celebrity or otherwise, “deserves” to be abused.

    Respect your fellow human beings. Treat others as you wish to be treated. These are values I was taught as a child.

    It can certainly be argued that social constructs are not always a good thing, but I can’t imagine a world where basic human decency and respect for all life become passe, and abusing each other without a second thought, merely for the sake of entertainment, becomes a social norm.

  4. Anne
    July 30, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    I think Perez is just as hard on men as he is on women. I don’t think this is a feminist issue per se. It’s more of a should-he-or-shouldn’t-he thing.

  5. evil fizz
    July 30, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t think this is a feminist issue per se. It’s more of a should-he-or-shouldn’t-he thing.

    Two questions:

    a) What’s the “this” that you’re referring to?
    b) Should he or shouldn’t he do what?

  6. July 30, 2007 at 4:34 pm

    I read the NYT piece earlier today and then looked at the site out of curiosity. I thought it was pretty uninteresting and also, yes, misogynistic.

    On the other hand, I read Go Fug Yourself practically daily and it doesn’t tend to rub me the wrong way. Maybe the difference is just that they’re funnier and I’m shallow.

  7. evil fizz
    July 30, 2007 at 4:45 pm

    Maybe the difference is just that they’re funnier and I’m shallow.

    I think the women who write Go Fug Yourself are extremely funny. (They have a way with analogies like none other.) Maybe it’s just my sense of humor that makes the difference?

  8. micheyd
    July 30, 2007 at 5:32 pm

    I agree re: Go Fug Yourself. Their humor is not meant to humiliate or degrade, but kind of the “roasting” humor that seems generally in good taste (whether you are a celebrity or not). And they’re damn funny!

  9. July 30, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    It’s a truism in recovery circles that women statistically do better than men in recovery, because for females, addiction and the accompanying addictive behaviors are still a major stigma. Addict = slut.

    For a man, it’s the total opposite: he’s a regular guy who enjoys a good time, and that good time maybe just gets excessive and out of hand, sometimes, that’s all. Could happen to anybody! Addict = poor schmuck.

    I am aware some male addicts fit the “bad boy” persona. But that is considered more glamorous and very different from “crack whore.”

  10. SarahMC
    July 30, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    I’ve been to Perez Hilton’s site a few times. I got curious because a friend raved about it, but I feel uncomfortable almost every time I visit. I thought maybe he WOULD be subversive and funny, but it’s mostly just cattiness from him.
    Go Fug Yourself, however, is hilarious. Those women are actually great writers, and I’ve LOL’ed more times than I can count. Their commentary doesn’t come across like it’s meant to tear down. Perez’ does.

  11. July 30, 2007 at 8:42 pm

    “What you see is not just garden variety misogyny, but also an element of pearl clutching.”

    Well, yes, and on top of all that, there is the question of why they feel the need to “rebel” in the way they do. They certainly are old enough to take responsibility for their own actions but, nevertheless, there is something particularly rage inducing about mothers clutching their pearls at Britney’s breakdown, Lohan’s lack of panties*, and the Olsen twins food issues when a lot of the pressure that drove them to that came from their daughters husbands – who were just counting the days til these once little girls became legal.

    I don’t think it’s any coincidence that most of the actresses “sowing their wild oats” so to speak, entered the business as children. That industry – which includes all of us – does really nasty stuff to kids, especially girls.

    *yes, I know Lohan has done much worse than this, but I was going for the alliteration.

  12. July 30, 2007 at 8:57 pm

    i am so damn happy to see a post on this, i kno you arent supposed to pity the rich and famous, youre supposed to revel in every bad thing that happens to them cos youre supposed to want the lives they have and tsk as they toss them away, but i cant do it. instead i daydream about opening a home for wayward celebrity girls to heal from all the hate that gets tossed at them daily. i imagine if people said those sort of awful things about me constantly, if i were stalked by mobs and lived under a microscope, i might want to get wasted all the time too.

  13. July 30, 2007 at 10:07 pm

    I absolutely refuse to buy celebrity magazines because in the same spread they’ll do their self moralizing bit on celebrities being too thin, or setting unrealistic standards for regular people, but then you turn the page and there is a whole bit pointing out so-and-so’s cellulite and whathisname’s acne, and oh look! guess who just put on a few pounds! I hate those mixed messages that those magazines promote; how can you blame a celebrity for setting up unrealistic body images and lifestyles, but then criticize them deeply by pointing out their so-called flaws? Like wearing the same shoes at a different event (gasp!) or wearing jeans and a tshirt to the grocery store. One thing I’ve never liked about Perez is his penchant for outing celebrities…I don’t think he has the right to force someone’s outing…It can lead to dangerous consequences for the person if they are not ready to do so, and robs them of the agency that coming out can grant them. I get all my juicy smut from; she’s not perfect, but she’s hilarious, and clever, brings in a lot of her own personal life into her commentary in a non-narcissitic way, brings in a lot of advocacy for agencies like Covenant house, and has just started a book review section too. As well, she refuses to do “sad gossip” and wont report about things like Anna Nicole Smith’s death and subsequent baby issues unlike most other rags and major news outlets. I totally heart lainey (and not just because she’s Canadian, too :P).

  14. QLH
    July 31, 2007 at 10:23 am

    My friend from L.A. insists that *everyone* reads Perez Hilton’s blog, like it’s their main source of news. As in, it’s ridiculous to think of anyone *not* reading it. Which makes me ill.

  15. Rose
    July 31, 2007 at 11:50 am

    I saw a picture of a lovely young woman on his blog. I think she’s Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s daughter. Anyway, the point of the picture was to ridicule her for being sooooo ugly. The comments went like this: “What a butt ugly Jewess! She better get a nose job fast!”

    After that I decided his site was too facist for my taste. And I get a kick out of sleezy celebrity gossip.

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