Luis M. Luque is still struggling to finish his first novel. He served as a U.S. Navy mass communications specialist for 20 years and now works as a writer-editor at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program. He and his wife, Vera, live in Newnan, Georgia.
WHY DO WE LOVE TRAIN WRECKS? By Luis M. Luque
Amanda Bynes, Lindsay Lohan, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Kristen Stewart, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson, the Olsen twins―these days, the supply of celebrity train wrecks seems endless, and in this era of camera phones, stalkerazzi, and TMZ, poking fun at them has become a cottage industry, one that goes way back (Cher, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor), but is today enjoying something of an unfortunate golden age.
But isn’t it funny that the media have always tended to take far more obsessive interest in the pretty, young, female train wrecks than in the just-as-plentiful male variety (Justin Bieber, Macaulay Culkin, Kanye West) or especially the more plentiful older male variety (Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, David Hasselhoff, Sean Connery, Michael Douglas) who are as likely to be caught saying and doing stupid things on camera?
So, then, why do the media focus so much on the ladies?
Mara Wilson, who as a child starred in Matilda and Mrs. Doubtfire, and has since abandoned acting to become a writer, published an insightful essay at Cracked.com entitled “7 Reasons Child Stars Go Crazy.” In that same vein, I give you five reasons the media obsess about women train wrecks.
1. Sex. Most of these train wrecks tend to be young, single, and pretty. The chance of snapping some high-res gyno-pix as these women hop out of a limo sans underclothes is pretty high, even if they’re not drunk (Anne Hathaway), and they might reveal something even if they’re fully clothed (Emma Watson). A few years ago during her party prime, Paris Hilton might even flash the paparazzi just because, or she might not notice or care when her skimpy top dipped below the equator. You can’t expect the stalkerazzi, who are almost exclusively men, not to fight for the chance to make money while enjoying the show. And some of these women do enjoy putting on a show. Which leads me to …
2. Men. Newspapers, tabloids, magazines, and the icky variety of TV entertainment “news” shows are run mostly by men. While these men probably enjoyed making fun of the likes of Michael Jackson’s legal troubles or a drunken Mel Gibson rant, they’re far more interested in pretty young women. When more women start running tabloids and stalking celebrities with ridiculous lenses, I’m sure we’ll see more drunken sexploits of many a young, male celebrity.
3. Money. Related to the two previous reasons is the fact that because men seem more visually obsessed with women’s bodies than women are with men’s, the vast majority of pornography is made by men for men, starring women. And these publications and websites pay a lot of money for pictures and videos, however sleezily obtained, of these pretty, young train wrecks falling off the rails, for the sake of their male customers. The celebrity sex tape is already a cliché. I expect prices to drop as we see more of them. Perhaps that might put a stop to the trend, but I doubt it.
4. Twitterverse etiquette. For whatever reason, women use Twitter and cell phone cameras far more than men do. They take pictures of their toes fresh from a pedicure, they snap shots of their desserts in fancy restaurants, new purses, haircuts, shoes, earrings, piercings, tattoos, and everything they want to buy and post on Pinterest. They also tend to use these tools in all kinds of nasty ways that men do less often, like “accidentally” posting pictures or videos of themselves in the all together (Brett Favre and Anthony Weiner notwithstanding), sending cell-phone shots of themselves to boyfriends (Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, Vanessa Hudgens), or the truly nasty―exchanging barbed insults with other celebs (Bynes and Rihanna). Perhaps because there is more of a chance of a real, physical fight (let alone a shooting) if a guy tweets an insult of another guy, men tend not to engage in that sort of behavior nearly as often. Meanwhile, the consequences of nasty female train wreck behavior are mostly increased negative publicity. And we know there’s no such thing as negative publicity, especially for a young starlet.
5. Misogynistic double standards. Yes, I’m a man, but I’ll bring up the M-word, because let’s face it, this is the crux. There’s something about our species that loves to insult and make fun of women more than men. And girls and women are just as likely to drink that haterade. Sometimes more likely, as was seen in the Steubenville, Ohio, football players rape case and others like it. How many ways are there to describe the reckless behavior of young, single women who are bored, exploring their sexuality, and have too much money, too much freedom, and too little responsibility? As for double standards, what are the male equivalents for words like “slut,” “skank,” “whore,” “tramp,” “hussy,” “harlot,” “trollop,” “tart,” “floozy,” “tease,” “nympho,” “hooker,” “wench,” “Jezebel,” “fallen woman,” and so many more? Who are the female equivalents of Casanova and Don Juan? Who are the male equivalents of Hester Prynne, Anna Karenina, and Emma Bovary? Why is a man who engages in similar irresponsible behavior celebrated with a pat on the back and a, “Dude, you hit that? Let me buy you a drink!” Why do gangs initiate boys with violence and girls with sex? Why is a female Olympic gymnast’s hair a topic of conversation? Why do we hear of only women being stoned in religious cultures for engaging in irresponsible sex? Why is a daughter’s virginity prized like fine jewelry, but in many cultures fathers take their sons to prostitutes to “make them a man”? Why are women covered from head to toe in some Middle Eastern cultures but men are not?
I don’t have answers to these questions. Misogyny and double standards date back thousands of years, to biblical times and even Bible stories. While most of us no longer see women as property in our culture today, there is still a strong tendency for both sexes to hate women who are less than pure, to make women sex slaves, to denigrate the reputations of young women for being famous and behaving the way so many American twenty-somethings do. It’s time to stop obsessing about female train wrecks, or any train wrecks for that matter. Why do we love to hate people so much? Is it just another way to tell ourselves that our lives are better than they are? Better than those of the celebrities we sometimes wish we were?
(photos: radaronline.com, popdust.com, Believe.com, blogs.suntimes.com; Google Images; author photo courtesy of Luis M. Luque)