The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Slaves for celebrity news

Adrian Northrup

Last week, millions of Americans flipped through pamphlets and articles printed about various candidates in an effort to prepare to cast an educated vote. Millions more paged through the latest People Magazine because they saw the headline, “Britney and K-Fed Split” and went into shock.

Are these pop culture-obsessed drones even aware of the fact that we had an election last week? Do they know that the strength of the senate has dramatically shifted towards those that generally oppose President Bush? The resignation of Donald Rumsfeld is meaningless to the followers of Hollywood happenings. I’d like to know why the headlines of People are so important to such a vast portion of the American society.

I don’t care who Britney Spears is divorcing, and it doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference to me whether she raises the kids with or without help from Kevin Federline. I’ll admit that I really don’t know who Federline is, other than the ex-husband of a former pop princess (I’m relieved to know that Microsoft Word also ignores his existence by underlining his last name with the squiggly red line that tells me I’ve made an error in my spelling. An ounce of my faith in American humanity has been restored).

But apparently, there are people out there who have been following this couple since their beginning. There are people that are traumatized by the split and wondering how on earth poor Britney is going to raise two boys and reclaim her pop-princess crown.

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The other headline that caught more attention than the Democratic overtaking of the House and Senate was the one involving Reese Witherspoon and Ryan Phillippe. But the People-reading population was much more confused by this breakup than the previous. And we have much more compassion for Witherspoon as a single mother than we do for Spears, because Reese has never been on a worst-dressed list and her now ex-husband isn’t ridiculed in every one of Adult Swim’s cartoons on a weekly basis.

So why are these headlines drawing more attention than the ones that directly affect those that read them? It’s possible that we’re so discontent with our own lives that we seek comfort in the flaws and failed marriages of the stars. I understand that it’s all very entertaining, and I’ll admit that I’ve flipped through People and ignored the political world from time to time. But my own happiness does not depend on whether or not the stars are living happily ever after. I’m convinced that life will go on regardless of whether or not certain celebrity marriages do.

But it’s the entertainment that we so desperately need. “Real people” crave the news of celebrity living. The treatment of detainees, the anti-illegal immigrant bill in Texas, and the opposition to civil unions aren’t as amusing as the marriage of people we will probably never have the opportunity to meet. And everyone needs a laugh in the face of their own personal despair.

So by picking up People or Us Weekly or whatever your poison, you’ll accumulate all sorts of knowledge on a subject that has no direct effect on you whatsoever, other than the fact that it might come up in conversation. And the conversation companions you’ll find will be 13-year-old girls wearing miniskirts and humming along with Spears’ latest on their pink iPods.

That’s the crowd that is allowed to shamelessly follow these trials. They don’t have anything else to worry about yet. The overwhelmingly Democratic presence in the House and Senate means little to the younger adolescent generation. And it doesn’t have to because they aren’t the ones casting the votes that helped make that happen.

The political world directly affects us, while the entertainment world was only created to give us something to watch. The bills we choose to put into action and the people we elect to represent us are far more important than the celebrity lifestyles we often wish we could be living. It’s so easy to fall into the tabloid trap, but it is imperative that we pay attention to the decisions being made that will directly affect our lives.

Otherwise, we risk becoming so focused on the entertainment media that we write in “Ryan Phillippe” on the ballot of the next election.

Accumulating so much knowledge on the Spears and Federline divorce or the Witherspoon and Phillippe split isn’t going to benefit us. One hundred years from now, these trials will hardly matter to the general public. I doubt they’ll make it into the history books. But a primarily Democratic House with a Republican president has the potential to affect us for many years to come. There isn’t one presidency that hasn’t been touched upon at least once in our history courses throughout the years. We should be aiming to have intelligent, mind-broadening conversations with the people we meet instead of aimless gossip over the tabloids.

If you went out and bought Federline’s new album but didn’t vote, it’s probably time to sort out your priorities.

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Slaves for celebrity news