February 23, 2007

Schadenfreude Friday: The Self-Examination Edition

This week, the world has been coated in a nice, sweet, sticky layer of schadenfreude. Hence the humidity. Turn left, schandefreude. Turn right, more schadenfreude. Turn left again, same schadenfreude but a little bit more than there was when you looked there last. You get my point. There's no room at the Schadenfreude Inn. But - and this might come as a shock - I've never been conventional nor have I ever chosen the obvious. That's why, this week, I unleash my Schadenfreude Pointy Finger and turn it right back on myself. Well, all of us actually.

See, aside from all the schadenfreudey goodness, there's a lot of stuff that is truly important going down, here and across the globe. There's this pesky little thing called Iraq in which American soldiers and innocent civilians are dying. The political landscape leading up to the next election year keeps shifting. People are dying of AIDS, violent crime is taking the lives of innocent men, women and children, the school systems flounder, the systems in place to maintain a modicum of health and education for our nation's poor remain woefully understaffed and underfunded, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and Michael Jackson is recording a new album and must be stopped. Yet, despite all this craziness, what's grabbing headlines are two of the most tragically flawed, deeply fucked up trainwrecks of our century - Branna. Antney. Brinna. Oh, fuck it - Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears.

Last evening I did a little surfing and noticed something that made my butt clench - the media doesn't give a shit about actual news. (I realize this is old news. It's honestly something I noticed quite a few years ago. This is a device I'm using called sarcasm.) I checked out eight sources of online news - CNN, MSNBC, Fox, Yahoo, BBC, Washington Post and USA Today. Instead of reporting on actual news - you know, the shit that matters - there were 32 mentions (headlines, blurbs, polls and links) about Anna on the homepages of these sites. Britney got eight nods. So, it's clear - the media is obsessed with society's dysfunction and Britney needs new PR people.

I'll be the first one to admit that I dig the gossip, that I think it's entertaining as hell to follow the cliche and see how that other half lives. I lurves me a trainwreck; it's the very essence of schadenfreude! But we, as a society, are corralled and fed from the heaping vats of starstruck, celebrity-fueled fast food served by idiots with press passes at the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet of Media Mediocrity to the point at which the media feels validated and, worse, thinks this is what we need more of.

So Britney checked into rehab, checked out, shaved her head, checked into rehab, checked out, then checked in again this time, hopefully for good. So Anna Nicole Smith, who, incidentally has generated almost as much press since she died as she ever did while she was alive, never rewrote her will, probably overdosed, screwed almost any guy who could walk (and, considering her ex-husband, even that qualification is debatable), got knocked up and lost a son. While they were dancing on the edge of sanity, tiptoeing around the tipping point, both of these women were fun to watch. But once they crossed that threshold, they merely became two tragic figures, one dead beyond any help, the other very much alive, who should be left alone to sort out her demons while her hair grows back.

Posted by Chris at February 23, 2007 7:23 AM

It's possible that you have never been more correct. Now, if only CNN and FoxNews would read your site...

Posted by: Alissa at February 23, 2007 8:01 AM

And when the stories slow down, we get speculation that ANS' son may be her baby's father, and that's why he killed himself...

I've given up on the general news sites; I use Google News and filter based on what I want. The home page is usually pretty good about keeping the tripe to a minimum, since the source is global not just US media.

Just my $0.02.

Posted by: SciFi Dad at February 23, 2007 8:32 AM

News has become entertainment and that is sad.

Posted by: William at February 23, 2007 8:32 AM

It's been a bad week, that's for sure.

Posted by: Maribeth at February 23, 2007 8:42 AM

so, so very true. I honestly just want to give the girl (Britney) a hug.

Posted by: Corinne at February 23, 2007 8:46 AM

I so need to look up the word Schadenfreude.

You forgot to mention that Brit attacked a paparazi car with and umbrella.

Posted by: August Goddess at February 23, 2007 9:06 AM

delight in anothers misfortune. I learned a new word. If only I could pronouce it. This site is not only entertaining, it's also educational. Thanks Chris!

Posted by: August Goddess at February 23, 2007 9:08 AM

Part of the fascination with screwed up celebs has always been that their stories make us feel so much more sane/normal.

I'm a Court TV junkie and this week has been unbelievable, given the ANS hearing in front of the wackiest judge I've ever seen in my life! Look for Judge Seidlin to get his own show in the next year. He's unconventional.

I soooo want the paternity test to be done soon. May then we can take a break from hearing about it.

And I think Brit Brit's on crystal meth, judging from her look/changes/fingernails. Hopefully rehab will work. Those poor babies of hers need a mom.

Posted by: coolchick at February 23, 2007 9:31 AM

For a breath of fresh air, try The Christian Science Monitor. On the day Anna Nicole died, that was the ONLY paper/news site I saw that didn't have her as front page news.

Posted by: Sphincter at February 23, 2007 9:47 AM

I'm a simple man and that's how I like things. Most of our news is so sensationalized and skewed that I can't tell what's what with most news channels. That's why I hate them so very very much.

Have you seen any of John Stewart's bits on cable news networks (his latest one was on the astronaut)? They're freakin' funny as hell....

Posted by: Kyle I at February 23, 2007 9:51 AM

Amen, Chris. Amen.

I'm scared coolchick is right and Judge Seidlin will probably be getting his own show. Oy. Also, WHYYYY are these paternity tests taking so damn long? Maury could have had this shit over with in two days, tops.

Posted by: Fraulein N at February 23, 2007 9:56 AM

I was just talking about this last night with some people. You know it's a problem when someone in Lebanon turns on CNN and spends the next hour hearing about these two. (This actually happened to one of the guys in the conversation. He was all, "What? Why? Huh?")

Posted by: Dawn at February 23, 2007 10:00 AM

You know, as I drove in to work this morning I was thinking very similar thoughts. I noticed that the last few news reports I heard/watched/read lead with Anna Nicole and then went into how people (Americans and Iraqis) were dying in Iraq. Way to have your priorities straight, news media.

Posted by: bad penguin at February 23, 2007 10:04 AM

Perhaps I don't feel so bad about mostly ignoring the news as of late if all they're reporting on is ANS and Brit...

well said, btw. As a former journalist disallusioned with the whole media world, this resonates.

Posted by: suze at February 23, 2007 10:11 AM

The Britney stuff makes me so sad - the pictures of her shaved bald really disturbed me - simply because I didn't think she was making a fashion statement. I literally pray that she'll stay in rehab and get the help she needs, and that the papparazzi will leave her alone. I understand that everytime I click over to people.com, I help feed the frenzy - and that makes me feel guilty.

Posted by: Sam at February 23, 2007 10:28 AM

I turn on CNN when I get up in the morning. For once they're not talking about Anna or Britney but it's all over the "crawl" at the bottom of the screen. I won't watch FOX. I think they were talking about interest rates on credit cards. For the most part, I keep up with the news on the computer.

They just announced that Larry King will devote his hour to them.

I look at those two women and feel nothing but sadness. The granny part of me wishes I could bring Britney home and take care of her (along with all the other unknown Britneys).

Meantime, I'm still sitting here waiting for the first word from CNN about anything of importance. I may wait a while.

Have a good weekend, you 3.

Posted by: ann adams at February 23, 2007 10:39 AM

The thing that creeps me out about news websites now is that when they aren't reporting on what the latest celeb is doing/saying, they are reporting horrific things about children. I went to CNN the other day and there were 3 stories about fucked up things happening to kids: one was on fire (and calling for their mother-they had video footage), one was a toddler who got thrown out of their house into freezing weather by a step-dad, and I don't remember what the last was. I think it was some kid who got killed. It's miserable. There is more news to report on than just that.

Posted by: Phoenix at February 23, 2007 10:45 AM

Fine for you, Chris, but if Pat O'Brien doesn't tell me about it, I'm not interested.

Posted by: andy at February 23, 2007 11:04 AM

Perhaps you should go live with Kim Jong ll in communist china...perhaps Mia could go to Oprah's school in Africa or in the Sudan, Dufar?
Take your pick.....you fruitty tree hugging liberals...where would we be without you? Thanks for keeping up in line....

Posted by: JoJo at February 23, 2007 11:10 AM

Putting words to what we all feel. Thanks!

But what would Larry King talk about if all this Anna stuff was sorted out?

And can we talk about that ridiculous judge? OMG!!!

Posted by: MammaLoves at February 23, 2007 11:52 AM

So what you're saying is, you're pulling a Craig Ferguson. Cool. I can get behind that.

Posted by: bhd at February 23, 2007 12:12 PM

Sing it sister!

Posted by: Annie at February 23, 2007 12:52 PM

I dig the gossip too. I watch the news everyday, multiple times and its very true that enterainment issues are always top on the list. Its much easier to hear about Britney and ANS than it is to hear about our people being killed in Iraq. Doesnt make it right, but I think that we as a country are sheltered from a lot of what this war is doing to our troops. Maybe if aside from the deaths they should start reporting from all the hopsitals all over where our troops are recovering from life changing injuries, losing limbs etc then more of us would realize how much more important it is than what Britney is wearing in rehab. sorry if i went on a tangent there ;)

Posted by: mad mom at February 23, 2007 12:58 PM

Your post is so relevant to the world. And yet it was hard for me to get past the 1st line in the 3rd paragraph. It made your butt clench. That is a good one, I'll have to remember that.

Posted by: Chandra at February 23, 2007 1:28 PM

If you haven't watched Craig Ferguson's take on this whole deal, you might want to. It's refreshing. Plus, a Scottish brogue!

I admit too that I enjoy gossip, but all the brouhaha surrounding Britney's current situation really crosses the line. She's ill, and it's not nice OR right to make fun of people who are ill, whether it's mental illness, terminal cancer or addiction.

Posted by: FW Sunshine at February 23, 2007 5:02 PM

I've totally given up on tv news (aside from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert). I just can't keep from yelling at Katie Couric "this is NEWS???" so I figure I better just cut myself off. My parents get BBC news with their fancy cable package, and I could get down with that. I like celebrity gossip, of course (I'm the Pop Culture Librarian after all), but I do like that stuff to be separated. I think Perez Hilton and Pink is the New Blog have a role to play in my life, and it should NOT be the same role as the Washington Post. Oh my god this is a long comment and I need to shut up immediately.

Posted by: Librarian Girl at February 23, 2007 6:03 PM

You know, I knew, just knew, that those two poor chicks would absolutely deserve to be here today in the midst of schadenfreude Friday. But I did also have a hunch that you would have a way to do it so that it did not completely joke about their tragic circumstances. Because I know you aren't like that. And you know, you did not let me down. I'm so happy I was right. Well done Chris.

Posted by: Kate at February 24, 2007 12:27 AM

Tell me about it. My mom's friend was killed in Iraq on Sunday and I was looking for some type of new related to that. Coudn't find a thing.

I think all of the celebrity gossip takes attention away from all of the messes our "leaders" have made. It's a conspiracy!

Posted by: nila at February 24, 2007 5:42 AM

You? Sarcastic? Pfft. I don't buy it.

Seriously, the news priority is so fucking warped. It kind of annoys me (and by kind of, I mean a lot). I'm over hearing about Britney's hair.

Posted by: statia at February 24, 2007 11:42 AM

I'm soooo happy to read that I'm not the only Craig Ferguson fan! I try to catch at least his monologue each night, but sometimes I conk out during it. He totally rocks! Hilarious dude, and the expressions and brogue are icing on the cake. I just wish he came on earlier.

Posted by: coolchick at February 24, 2007 1:03 PM

thank you for writing what i think we've all been thinking. i agree that the entertainment media is covering up all the mistakes being made by our current government---but why aren't we talking more about how to fix the demand on our earth's resources--oh yeah, cause that would require brain cells that our culture is using to watch american idol...

Posted by: kate at February 24, 2007 8:00 PM