Tabloid reality seems ghoulish

By Clyde Davis: CNJ columnist

This column finds its genesis in one which was recently written by Mr. Leonard Pitts, whose syndicated work appears in this newspaper. Mr. Pitts, an African American male, is around my age and writes from the slightly, but not overly, conservative side of the spectrum.

Though I frequently find myself agreeing with Mr. Pitts, I do feel that we should not read only those pieces of writing with which we agree. Growth emerges from encountering, and engaging, different ways of thinking. There, I have made a disclaimer.

The recent column, however, was enough to inspire audible and excited cheers in me, and perhaps in many of you as well. The theme of the article was, simply put, get a life and quit “vampiring” the lives of famous people.

The specifics had to do with public fascination with, and humiliation of, singer Rihanna, following the alleged abuse by boyfriend Chris Brown. Apparently some form of life slightly lower than pond scum managed to find, and publish, pictures of this young lady immediately after the domestic violence. Great, for all of the folks who enjoy seeing pictures of beat up young girls.

The Internet has made possible easy access to that which previously was only acquired in the checkout line of grocery stores. In other words, the voyeurs who want to turn the lives of famous folks into a (to borrow Mr. Pitts’ concept) “reality show,” have only to turn on the computer to find subject matter which would embarrass even the Enquirer or Police Gazette type publications.

To paraphrase National Enquirer’s long standing tag line- “Inquiring minds want to know” — how about, shallow minds want to know? I cannot plead innocent to having never picked up a copy of that magazine, or its kind.

Usually the stories that catch my attention have to do with someone discovering a race of three headed elephants, or the latest alien landing in Plumsted, N.J. I can’t say I’ve ever cared much about the real reason Jewel withdrew from Dancing With the Stars. Jewel fans, don’t get on my case. I just happen to take it at face value that she hurt her leg.

Whether or not there is a race of three headed elephants, there is obviously an entire subgroup in society who follows the lives of the famous,rich, talented, or temporarily in the news, as if they were best friends and next door coffee buddies. Oops- I take that back- nobody rejoices when their next door neighbor has a lifeshattering event like getting beat up in public.

Seemingly, some do rejoice in this, when it occurs to an up and coming young singer, or an aging athlete, or a midlife film star- you get the picture.

When I was around the age of 10, I heard my mother refer to some old lady’s (I forget who) interest in news about a motorcycle accident as “ghoulish.” Since my only context for the word “ghoul” was the Saturday night horror movies hosted on TV by Bill Cardille, I asked her what she meant. Yes, I was picturing dead people with fangs watching motorcycle accidents.

Nonplussed, my mom responded that it was — I quote — an inordinate and macabre interest in someone’s misfortunes.