Posted by: Godfångst | February 25, 2009

The Highest-Paid Prostitutes in the World

I know that I’d get ten times the hits if I referenced the Octomom or Wife Swap, but how about mentioning Natalie Dylan, the girl who is selling her virginity for bids that have soared into the millions? Is that what we’re doing now? I feel quite sure that this was the purpose for which Tim Berners-Lee and others created the first computerized network.

Diana, Princess of Wales, reportedly said once that she felt like “the highest-paid prostitute in the world.” I don’t know if she really said it; I can’t find a source anywhere, but if so, one has to admire her ability to see things as they were. Are. Even if it’s not true, it should be true.

For what was Diana but a person whose image and person belonged to others and enhanced the wealth of others? The fact that she was able to turn her predicament into something positive was a testament to her humanity. And to me, that is what Diana Spencer represented: how being a human being is infinitely more interesting and valuable than being a princess or a prostitute. Or both.

Being a “normal” person with dignity, with privacy, and with a sense of personal agency unaffected by money, the media, notoriety, the adulation of millions, or the attention of the 12-25 set is a precious gift that no amount of money can buy.

If Natalie Dylan thinks she can “loan” her body, her image, or her personhood to anyone, with the media and all of cyberspace watching and Googling, for any amount of time, and then disappear with her $3.7m and lead a normal life, she is sorely mistaken.

Just ask any actual living celebrity or the very alive Swedish Crown Princess Victoria, who is marrying her longtime partner, Daniel Westling. One can expect a huge royal wedding, hours of TV coverage, and keychains and coffee mugs featuring photographs of the happy couple. If other people feel they own your image or have a right to it, you lose a tiny piece of yourself every time someone wipes the counter with the tea towel that has your face on it. If you are no longer yourself but an amalgamation of every image of yourself that has ever been used to form someone else’s impression of you, you lose ownership of yourself. And that is the only thing that we have.

How can one remain healthy and whole in the midst of all that? Ask Crown Princess Masako of Japan.

And from this comes an even greater question: Why do we care about the comings and goings of celebrities, royal families, or any other persons with whom we are not biologically or personally related? We don’t know them. We never will. Their actions really don’t affect us directly. What are they for, then? Why do we attend to them at all? Are Victoria, Masako, Charles, Natalie, Diana, Angelina, Brad, and Britney stand-ins for us, archetypes who live the lives we can’t live? Or the lives we really don’t want to live?

If we build up archetypes, celebrities, and members of the royal families because we truly think they are better than we are and therefore more worthy of attention, we are little better than slaves. But I don’t think that’s it. They only exist by our consent, and if we refuse to acknowledge them, they are like the clothes on the emperor in the Andersen fairy tale: they will be seen for what they are: air. Nothing.

So we actively will them into being. But why? I personally know five or six people who are infinitely more interesting in terms of sheer shock factor than the very average, tame, and beige Victoria Bernadotte. And the lives and fortunes of a dozen more matter infinitely more to me. I’m sure it’s the same for you.

If we conjure them up simply to bat them down or to have a blank canvas onto which we can project our hatred, desires, wishes, hopes–God help us. Surely there must be better things to do with our lives, better things to think about, more worthy subjects of conversation and debate. If we spent half the time we spend thinking about celebrities on our old, lonely relatives, the world would be a better place. And it wouldn’t necessarily even be more boring–my grandmother has more drama in her life than any member of the Swedish royal family, I realize when I think about it rationally.

We’re perfectly able to ignore political issues, environmental issues, elections, or the concerns of poor, unwashed people whom we have deemed uninteresting. I’ve seen people step over a homeless woman with two kids to get a free London newspaper that contained news about celebrities so they could read it on the train. I might have done the same thing myself. But why?

As a fellow human being, I wish Victoria Bernadotte and Daniel Westling all the best, of course, but it escapes me why it matters particularly that they are getting married, or how, or why. Many people in Sweden claimed on Sveriges Radio that they were excited to have “something good” happening in Sweden. But this piece of news is not theirs; they have made it theirs, perhaps even thinking of it rather than some piece of news that concerns members of their actual family. But why?

No one will read this posting but my dear, loving girlfriend, a few of my friends, and me, so I don’t expect any answers on this issue, but I can’t help but ask.

I am accompanying this posting with not a single celebrity snapshot or other yummy visual distraction. I wish I could publish it in Old German script too. Isn’t it boring?

Why?

Points to Ponder:

  • To criticize the attraction of celebrities, you have to write about celebrities and thereby direct even more attention to them. Incidentally, did you know that in 2007, Britney Spears reportedly made more than $737,000 a month?
  • I do, actually, have a sense of humor.
  • The more you deny my thesis, the more true it is. And the less popular this posting is, the more true it becomes.
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