Tabloids: A juicy pleasure

It is a big stretch to draw parallels between porn and tabloids, but hear me out.

I have a love-hate relationship with tabloids, celebrity news and TMZ.com. A part of me loves that stuff because it’s fun to read, shockingly snarky and always entertaining. The other part of me loathes tabloids because they’re demeaning and come at the expense of others. As I am reading the latest dish on Britney Spears on TMZ.com, a part of me feels like I could have better spent that time advocating better nurse-patient ratios or improving the health-care system in the United States.

Tabloids are caustic, promote hostile and catty thinking and are hugely intrusive in the lives of others. Why, then, indulge in this toxic pleasure? For the same reasons that others dig porn – it’s delicious.

It is one heck of a stretch to draw parallels between porn and tabloids, but hear me out. In both forms of media, people are treated like objects and their naughtiness is played out to a maximum to titillate fans. Raw, juicy bits get top dollar and the most attention from consumers, so producers of porn/tabloids do their best to deliver the most shocking stuff we’ve ever seen.

The difference between porn and tabloids is that porn stars get paid for their appearances, whereas celebrities do not get any royalties for their frequent appearances in tabloids.

We often hear arguments against porn – that it victimizes and degrades women. Counter-arguments include the fact that porn stars consent to and get paid for their work. The same arguments can be used for and against tabloids – that celebrities are victimized and dehumanized for the slightest flaws, but what do they expect when they become a celeb? They get paid with media attention; good enough payment, right?

The positive side of porn is that it helps people get in touch with and express their sexuality. What then, is the positive side of tabloids? To get in touch with one’s inner-snark? Some might say that tabloids put celebrities in their place and remind them that they ultimately answer to the fans, but I think our choice at the box office or TV remote makes more of a statement.

I’ve only started reading celebrity news recently, but have noticed its subtle effects on how I see myself. When I look in the mirror and note stretch marks and the hint of cellulite, my mind starts pouring tabloidic verse: “Shocking cellulite! Gasp, is that bloat or is it pregger belly?!” I wonder if guys who watch porn feel that sense of insecurity, or if they ever compare themselves to porn stars.

Recently, TMZ.com posted a page titled, “Name that butt” with a picture of a woman in a black bikini and a rather normal butt. Whose butt was it? Jennifer Love Hewitt’s. The accompanying text read, “We know what you ate this summer, Love – everything!”

In response, Jennifer Love Hewitt blogged, “A size 2 is not fat! Nor will it ever be. And being a size 0 doesn’t make you beautiful Ö To all girls with butts, boobs, hips and a waist, put on a bikini – put it on and stay strong.” After reading her blog post, I am reminded of the other important things in life and that celeb news isn’t worth my time.

A part of me is now wondering what tabloid producers, photographers, publishers and writers look like. Do they look better than the stars they shred? If not, what room do they have to speak?

I would pay top dollar to read a spoof tabloid that dished dirt on tabloid makers themselves. It borders on defamation but I really want to see what these mudslingers look like.

Quynh Nguyen welcomes comments at [email protected]