Media, culture, and politics from an aesthetic-materialist's perspective.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Almost Infamous

The BBC's Matt Frei wrote a humorously observant article on this week's prominent celebrity jailings. Paris Hilton checked herself in at a Los Angeles county jail to serve 23 days for multiple DUI arrests. For his politically motivated "outing" of Valerie Plame, Scooter Libby was sentenced to 30 months in jail and ordered to pay $250,000 in fines. Paris and Scooter will serve time for different offenses, then, but it may become apparent that they share a peculiar quality among fallen celebrities: the ability to use the media's fascination with their infamy to orchestrate their resurrection.

As a celebutante, Paris has from the very beginning endured waves of criticism, attack, and targeted vitriol. Her incarceration is perhaps seen by many as the capstone to a profoundly reckless "personal" life -- one spent sun-bathing in the ego-feeding limelight of the public's mass-mediated attention. And yet Frei makes the point that Hollywood jail-time has the potential to redeem a fallen star's cachet: "It is the preparation of a new role and the script is predictable: the contrition, the return journey to honesty, the charity work, the book deal, the vegetarian recipes, the jailhouse fashion line, the cult of self-improvement lapped up by the attendant media, a stint squirming on Oprah's couch." When it comes to stars, we seem to take (perverse) pleasure in seeing them fall, repent, and eventually rise again.

Scooter's case is more complicated, owing to his being on the side of an unpopular administration and the figurehead of a disastrous, win-at-all-costs, war-mongering ideology. He is a minor figurehead, yes -- a bobblehead, if you will. But Scooter is a necessary figure; his crime is a discrete, punishable component of what is in fact a mind-boggling galaxy of Bush/Republican foreign policy foibles.

Will Scooter have the same chance at redemption that Paris surely will? It depends. He could fade into obscurity after he finishes serving his sentence, electing to quit this media/political business once and for all. (A Paris Hilton sans fame and/or infamy is quite unthinkable, on the other hand.) Scooter could also remain indefinitely infamous should Bush grant him a presidential pardon. Or he could go the way of so many former criminals and victims: becoming a Hollywood writer/producer. Scooter has already made clear his hope that his soft-core pornographic novel The Apprentice will one day be made into a movie.

If Scooter does get to make his movie at some point in the not-too-distant future, perhaps his path will cross Paris's once again and she'll get to play the leading lady (or mistress). Now that would be a Hollywood coup worth Netflixing.

No comments: