Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Something’s Always Wrong: Apologies, Paris Hilton

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on October 8, 2008

House of Wax: Still terrible

Tonight, as many of you may well know, begins the Jewish holiday known as Yom Kippur. As we all spend the day looking back on the year that was and atoning for the sins we have commited over the last 12 months, I figure that now is as good a time as any to make amends for one of the cheap shots this blog has taken over that time period–namely, at socialite/actress/rebel without a pause Paris Hilton. In an article I wrote last August about the five celebrity deaths that I believe would devestate the country, I included Ms. Hilton in the tally, because

she is the one celebrity for which just about anyone in America can feel like a more productive member of society by comparison. If you put stamps and return addresses on your mail today, and put the little mailbox flag up for the postman, you can already feel like you’ve done more than Miss Hilton will do all day. She’s also generous enough not to confuse people (well, most people) by making it seem like she’s trying particularly hard with any of her movies, TV cameos or albums, leaving America to feel as smug and superior as it likes upon the sight of the vacant-eyed starlet. Without her, who do we evaluate ourselves against?

Admittedly, Paris’s inclusion was a bit of a scramble on my part to round out an even five on the list. Nonetheless, it seems fairly unlikely that I ever could have predicted her involvement in anything like the two Paris for Fake President ads that have surfaced in the months since. In case you’ve missed them, the first one was created in response to a John McCain ad portraying Barack Obama as more of a celebrity in the vein of, say, Paris Hilton, than as a deserving presidential candidate. Ms. Hilton, whose family was a contributor to McCain’s campaign, took umbrage at the aspersion, and with help from director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Talladega Nights), created an ad of her own. In it, she pretended to take McCain’s (“that wrinkly, white-haired guy”) use of her image in his ads as a personal endorsement for her own presidential campaign, using the opportunity to discuss her own platforms for the position.

The video received the predictable net buzz, a less-predictable amount of response from non-fake politicians (Nancy Pelosi on McCain’s involvement in the brouhaha: “Of course they want to talk about Paris Hilton. Would they want to talk about why they have the worst record of job creation in America?”), and now even a sequel video. Paris’s second campaign ad features President Bartlet himself, Martin Sheen, as an advisor to Paris in the art of fake presidency. Now I’m just sort of hoping that Paris doesn’t string a couple more of these together until she gets enough fake-buzz to launch an actual meta-presidential campaign–I registered as a democrat earlier this week, but if the Internet or Pop Culture parties actually put forth Ms. Hilton as an official candidate, it’d be hard not to be true to my roots.

In any event, I can’t help but be fairly impressed by the inroads Paris has made here towards making herself a useful member of our society. For one thing, these videos are actually pretty fucking funny–the first one especially, as it turns out that Paris actually has a pretty decent knack for political satire. It probably shouldn’t be too surprising, since Paris has spent so much of her time in the public eye seeming to perfect the art of expressing as little emotion as possible (unless boredom counts, I suppose), which tends to hurt her performances in dramatic fare such as The Hottie and the Nottie, but is without a doubt a boon when the key to your performance is your ability to keep a straight face. Still, I thought the temptation to mug for the camera, or the inability to convincingly speak long sentences of thought, would be too great for Paris. My mistake.

Perhaps even more impressive, though, is that Paris has actually managed to sneak a couple legitimate stances on relevant current events in there. In the first, she posits that a compromise between Obama and McCain’s positions on energy (the former wanting to develop new technologies and the latter wanting to drill off-shore) would be the most logical, and in the second, she theorizes that banks might be better served lowering inflated interest rates for economically hurt home owners. Well, “legitimate” might be a stretch–I’m certainly not qualified to probably grade the merits of her arguments, and she isn’t extremely forthcoming with the details of her plans anyway–but they sound surprisingly logical and even somewhat insightful for videos that should be all about yuks and frivolity. Plus, perhaps they’ll have the same galvanizing effect on the Hills-obsessed girls of today that Rage Against the Machine (was supposed to have) had on angsty teen dudes during the Clinton administration.

So, Paris, for my underestimation of your contributions to society, be they comedic or political, I ask for your forgiveness. I’ll dedicate an Al Chet to you tomorrow in services.

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