. . . Wednesday June 22, 2005

What Kind of Tabloid Reader are You?

There are a few ways to keep up with tabloid, celebrity journalism.

You can just plain be into it and read it all you can. Even though you feel an occasional twinge of humiliation, you think of these stories as something harmless and fun that takes your mind off more pressing and personal issues (like the fact that you’re very likely a friggin idiot who is a banana or two away from being mistaken for a bonobo).

I consider this to be the highest form of tabloid perusing. But it’s certainly not the only one.

You could be the type who avoids any mention of the currently hot tabloid topics in a conscious and aggressive effort to place yourself above it all. You need to feel that you’re different from your pathetic fellow wanderers. Avoiding BenLo makes you believe that you’re not just another mindless, first-world, super-power bug crawling from home to work to the store and back home (news bulletin: You are, sorry). You hate all pop culture. You think the voices (and I’m convinced it’s one person playing multiple roles) on NPR are really exciting and you don’t know why everyone else on the radio is screaming. Shock jocks actually shock you. Passing gas doesn’t seem funny. You brag that you’ve never seen a single episode of Star Wars. Laugh at us all you want. The force is not with you.

You might be the type of person who will glance at this stuff while in line at the supermarket and you know just enough to humor your friends and colleagues around the water cooler or at a dinner party. You go about as deep as the nicknames. For example, you know what TomKat means. But you don’t absolutely have to know whether or not Tom first met Katie at a Scientology line-up or whether Cruise is actually just hiring a series of women to help him hide his true and supposedly unleading man like preferences. When people ask you how long you think their marriage will last, you generally pause. On one hand you want to fit it. On the other hand, you sort of want to punch the person who asked you the question.

Or perhaps you think of yourself as an advanced tabloid reader (this self-perception generally extends to the way you envision your relationship to all mass media). Yes, you read the same slop as everyone else, but you digest and regurgitate it as an Ivy League rhetoric professor would do with a complex passage from James Joyce. While the mere earthlings who peruse these magazines for entertainment purposes are really interested in Tom and Katie, you intake the data with an insider’s perspective. “Hah,” you think to yourself, “Don’t you people realize that this is a move (planned months ago by a collective of PR companies) to make us go to see Batman and War or the Worlds? It’s free marketing and they’re playing the rest of you like chumps.” You know that you aren’t getting played. Having said that, you enjoyed the new Batman and you can’t wait to see War of the Worlds the day it comes out. But you’re seeing these movies for all the right reasons. The marketing doesn’t work on you. You just swallow everything that is being spoonfed to you so you can keep tabs on how the Hollywood marketing machine is trying to manipulate your loved ones. Knowledge is power (and buttery popcorn ain’t bad).

Some of you live dual lives. You rip into your friends whenever they refer to a celebrity news update (or protest against the display of the Ten Commandments in federal courthouses), but when you are far up that river in your heart of darkness (the horror, the horror), you and your demons are not alone. They are joined by a three foot stack of US Weekly Magazines. In your private and frustrated world, the only question left unanswered is who hates you more: Yourself or those who know you.

Or maybe you find yourself drowning in the most behaviorally predictable of the various cesspools of demographic sludge (otherwise known as dudes between the ages of 11 and 101). What attracts you to these magazines is the same thing that attracts you all unassigned reading and viewing material: Your endless search for anything that can satisfy your insatiable need for visuals to trigger your obsessively, addictive masturbation habit. Tom and Katie? You can take it or leave it. Angelina wearing a vial of blood or Jessica Simpson breaking out the bikini for a new video or a Destiny’s Child reunion tour, well, that seems like it’s worth keeping up on in between alternating episodes of Sportscenter and Hardball with Chris Matthews. Don’t be ashamed. This is probably the least perverted of the behavioral categories described here and you’re likely not the only one who can’t wait to see if there’ll be an especially cute character on this season’s edition of Real World.

Or maybe you’re the sickest of all tabloid consumers. You never read the publications themselves. Instead you just get on your computer to read what some know-it-all blogger is spewing about all of these trends because he hasn’t got the guts to come up with something more original or meaningful after all these years of short attention span, mindless blurbs masquerading as educated opinions (in between alternating episodes of Sportscenter and Hardball with Chris Matthews …).

If that’s you, then thanks for the readership.

Concentration is important!