Paris in the Springtime

Changes: This post has been tinkered with since I first put it up this morning.

I’m not about to get going on a long rant about Paris Hilton (in retrospect, this appears to have been a lie), but I just wanted to say that I agree with Christopher Hitchens that there is a most distasteful flavor of vengefulness in the way her recent travails have been covered by the press and discussed by the public. [FN 1] It is apparently perfectly ordinary for the L.A. County sheriff to change the terms of a prisoner’s confinement, whether for the good of the correctional facility or of the individual prisoner, meaning that Paris might currently be getting less justice than the average citizen is eligible for (and, indeed, news reports do suggest that the average citizen guilty of Paris’s “crime” serves less time behind bars than she already has).

So what are we all so mad about here? Maybe we’re just tired of hearing about the silly little thing, but it’s not Paris’s fault that the press has taken her up on her offer to make every one of her warts visible to us all, and it’s not Paris’s fault that news about her sells papers and moves click-throughs on web sites. Yes, she is a completely inconsequential person – “well known for being well known” – but it’s her right to be one, and, if you don’t like her, then stop paying attention to her.

But if, instead of stopping paying attention, you’re rubbing your hands together with glee at her tear-stained visage behind the tinted window of the SUV carting her back to jail (and, given how utterly poorly served this woman-child has been by, apparently, every single person alive with a duty to care for, educate and shape her, isn’t this sort of like throwing things at the village idiot?), ask yourself what it is you really hope to see her punished for. As Phil Nugent wonders, might it just be for “society’s oldest crime, being a sexually active woman”? He continues:

“…[P]eople didn’t seem to spend that much time talking about what she could be seen to represent in a culture where people who are born rich are rewarded for not amounting to much, not even in the simple terms of being stable adults who don’t stupidly, recklessly break the law and then boast about their presumption of being above it. There were a few feints in that direction, but mostly, the jokes were about how she’s such a slut. Lots of knee slappers about lube trucks and loofahs and experimental uses for hot dogs and long cylindrical vegetables. And aside from the fact that Paris sets a pretty sleazy level all by herself and it would be nice to see people rising above it, it’s just too easy, in too ugly a way.”

It all reminds me of the glee that used to attend every new piece of “evidence” of what a poor mother Britney Spears supposedly is – glee that evaporated into embarassed silence, at least for people with the slightest shred of decency left, when it recently became clear just how troubled and confused and alone the 26-year-old and essentially single mother really is. [FN 2] Never having been a mother myself, I can’t say this with certainty, but I suspect that those of you who have been or are might be pretty grateful, if you stop to think about it, that there wasn’t a camera there to record every decision you made as you learned the ins and outs of that job.

If you really think that what you’re applauding, in Paris’s case, is justice finally being served, you might want to look the word up in a dictionary. I just did, and I can’t contort any of the definitions into meaning something like “punishing someone for non-illegal activities accruing semi-naturally to being born into an essentially abusive or at least negligent family as well as being given too much money too young.”

Yes, I know: “poor little rich girl.”

But tell me, are you so sure you would have turned out differently under the same circumstances? And, on the flip side, does making the poor little rich girl sit in a room for the remaining three dozen or so days of her sentence really do anything to correct the very real injustices perpetrated every day by this country’s legal system? (Remember, her sentence seems to be approximately 1,000 percent longer than the average one for this offense.)

Late update: The two young African-American women checking out magazine covers in the checkout line at Safeway just now did not seem disposed to feel charitable toward Paris. “Man, those white chicks be partying like rock stars,” said one, in a statement that is interesting in a quite unintended way. “Please, ‘Paris is devastated,'” read the other one out loud from a tabloid headline. “She’s devastated because she’s in jail like the rest of the common folks.”

I did not pipe in and try to convince them of the viewpoint I expressed above. Soon enough, they moved on to a discussion of a local hairdresser whose bona fides they seemed to doubt. “Please, if he so great, why isn’t he up in Pennsylvania or down in Georgia, where the hair shows are? If he so great, what’s he still doing in this town?”

The other one picked up a magazine with Rihanna on the cover.

“She’s so pretty,” she said. “That’s what my baby’s going to look like.”



FN 1: As a useless aside, let me just say that I also could have called this post “We’ll Always Have Paris,” of course – because we will, won’t we? Wonder which generic, hackneyed song reference is getting more use for posts like this in the blogosphere.

FN 2: Although let me just point out that I’m not going on record here as believing that shaving one’s head should be considered prima facie evidence of madness, unless you want to send some good pharmaceuticals over, in which case, OK, I’m bat**** insane, too.