Entertainment news, in the US particularly, tries too hard to be entertaining. It almost entirely relies on gossip and name-dragging and, now with useful technology at our fingertips, screen-grabs of celebrities’ faces so we can read made-up stories about things they surely were thinking while attending an awards ceremony. It would be funny if it wasn’t what passed for actual news.
More and more it seems, vindictiveness is playing into this too. With the Internet as a tool, tweets or mistakes or gushes are blown up and out of proportion to levels meant to elicit some kind of rage or outrage or scandalous response. Never mind that it’s a thing of the past to actually read a tweet or link before commenting or re-tweeting. It’s all a race to get involved, and add to what’s “trending.”
Last week, a friend of mine who interviews movie-stars for an Australian TV show had a snippet of his interview with Cate Blanchett go viral. It was a fun and silly interview, no doubt in line with the format of the show that he works for. But snippets were taken totally out of context – it was an interview he was doing with Cate for the very serious business of talking about Cinderella, and she seemed to be going along with his light-hearted approach for most of the time. He was strung up for all to see on the worldwideweb, while “news” stories played into the narrative that likes to get pushed out about how uptight Cate can be, but in this instance it was warranted. I don’t have to defend his questions or approach to still feel uncomfortable by these attacks.
It’s like the Internet has become an open field to throw eggs at someone as they pass by. In a column for the Washington Post, Caitlin Dewey quotes Jon Ronson, who’s written a book about online shaming, and talks about how we’re trying “to define each other by the worst tweet we ever wrote.” It’s not just tweets though. It extends to anything that can be screenshot, grabbed or GIF’ed it seems.
It all happened to get closer to home this week, with South African Trevor Noah becoming the target. It was to be expected, though, with a job the size of the one he landed, and even he pre-empted the scrutiny, telling the NY Times, “we live in a world where some still say Beyonce can’t sing, so why should I be exempt?”
A few Conservative Americans dug through his 8000 tweets to find the most offensive ones, some in 2010 and 2011, to label him anti-Semitic and sexist. Again, you don’t have to make excuses for his stupid jokes to be fed up with this up-and-down-and-up-and-down hamster wheel of what constitutes a news cycle now. But the level to which the response, mostly in tweets, stooped didn’t need to be put on a public platform, hashed over and over again.
It feeds into this greater cycle where there seems to be a constant need to all day, every day, find the next viral video, and then all the news outlets must talk about it for fear of being left out. There is so much music, so many great films – short films, long films – artwork, theatre and stage shows, TV series, all these incredible things being created all the time. Are they not enough? These are the things that should constitute entertainment news. These are the things we could be talking about, carving out snippets of time to take them in.
I know we’re pushed for time, all the time, but surely bite-sized content doesn’t have to mean consuming repeated and hacked-up bits and peaces of stuff that isn’t really entertainment news. Or even news, really. If you want all that, you know where to go. Me, I’ll be over here, carrying on with the business of finding out just what Jay Z’s new streaming service actually means for the way we consume music nowadays, and which movies I should catch up on now that British actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje has been added to the Suicide Squad cast.
Oh, and the statement from Comedy Central, who finally gave in and responded to the Trevor criticism:
“Like many comedians, Trevor Noah pushes boundaries; he is provocative and spares no one, himself included. To judge him or his comedy based on a handful of jokes is unfair. Trevor is a talented comedian with a bright future at Comedy Central.”
[Pic: Comedy Central]