Am I the only one who also feels sorry for Paris Hilton?

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I don’t know Paris Hilton as a person, but I hate her image, I hate how she got famous on a phony sex scandal, I hate that she went to jail and got off easy and hate that she blithered on about God the one time I got stuck in a room where her Larry King interview was playing.

I also hate how the press gives women like her so much attention while giving hardly any to men who pull the same stunts. I hate how the press presents her as both a laughingstock and someone we should want to emulate – which, of course, is not ironic at all. It’s exactly what they mean. The tabloid reading public likes having someone to point and laugh at, to distract themselves from how sad and possibly demeaning their own lives are. They’re too invested in the status quo to dare laugh at heterosexual males doing stupid things, so they require misbehaving women and gay men to fill that need.

But I also hate how everyone blames Paris Hilton, as if she single-handedly created a world in which homemade porn discovered “accidentally on purpose” can launch a woman’s career (bet Rob Lowe is seething, too) and drunk driving is so much sexier when celebrity babes do it than when some ordinary middle class jackass does it.

None of this is why I feel sorry for her, though. I was watching Legally Blond the other day – which has been on cable, like 30 times in the past two weekends, you can’t miss it – and there’s a line from Reese Witherspoon’s character in which she says she doesn’t think her professor took her seriously. She adds as an afterthought, “I don’t even think my own parents take me seriously.”

I wonder if Paris Hilton’s parents ever took her seriously. Do you think they ever suggested to her she had talent or brains, or could perhaps write books or become a lawyer or an activist or a botanist? Do you think she ever heard the phrase “You can do anything you put your mind to – I believe in you”? Or do you think she mostly just got told to stand up straight and not chew her nails?

There’s no question Paris Hilton is privileged: she was born not having to worry about money, almost any mess she makes can be cleaned up by staff (and capitalized upon), and she meets the narrow beauty standard our society holds over women. But in one very important way, I am so much luckier than she is: I was taken seriously by my mom and a handful of teachers and music instructors. I was told I had talent and intelligence. I was told I could do anything I set my mind to. And that gave me the impression I deserved respect, and when people treated me with disrespect it was usually because they envied me my self-respect.

Paris Hilton may have it too easy, make stupid choices, and deserve consequences money and fame rescue her from unfairly. But she also strikes me as someone who has no idea there’s anything for a girl to do but be a starlet (even the word is gendered: marginally talented hot young male celebs don’t get a disparaging label like that). There’s nothing wrong with pursuing fame (except what it usually does to you). But whatever you do in life, it should be with self-respect and an awareness that while no one can literally do everything they put their minds to, you have a mind to put to whatever you want to try, and you can expect things of yourself even if no one else does.

Comments

  1. Alicetheowl says

    I have nothing to add to that but a hearty, “Hear, hear!”

    I’ve been known to go off on Paris Hilton hate rants, but it’s not the woman I hate; it’s what she represents about us, as a culture. And, though I can’t bring myself to call her a “poor little rich girl,” to think of how she must have been raised to behave the way she does saddens me. Every time I hear tabloid remarks about her childhood (she was given free reign of the room service menu and left alone a lot, apparently), it just saddens me, and makes me think, “Well, no wonder.”

  2. MaggieCat says

    I wonder if Paris Hilton’s parents ever took her seriously. Do you think they ever suggested to her she had talent or brains, or could perhaps write books or become a lawyer or an activist or a botanist? Do you think she ever heard the phrase “You can do anything you put your mind to – I believe in you”? Or do you think she mostly just got told to stand up straight and not chew her nails?

    I don’t know about her father, but the chances of her mother doing so are pretty much minuscule. Kathy Hilton has said in interviews that she was raised to marry rich, and she raised her daughters the same way. She doesn’t deny pushing them into the nightclub scene. Money gave Paris the cushion of being treated well no matter how she behaved, so she didn’t need to find something else to do other than be rich and well known.

    So yeah, I do feel a little sorry for her. It tends to wane every time I hear that she’s said something racist again, though. I may actually be inclined to give her less slack than I would some other people (like Lindsey Lohan) since I’m the same age as Paris- which tends to make me bristle and want to point out that at some point you need to grow up and take responsibility for your own actions no matter how badly your family screwed up.

  3. James says

    I don’t feel sorry for her because of she got jailed, but the way the media treated her may be a little out of order.

    Anyway, I guess the spotlight is burning on her because she is a high-profile person. And to be realistic, a woman. A woman doing outrageous things like her is “newsworthy” but a man doing the same is old news. I guess it is because women are still seen as tender and fragile beings.

  4. says

    I have to admit I’m just musing out loud here, but what *are* the male equivalent to starlets called? There are plenty of young, pretty male people-who-are-famous-without-reason, but I think they’re still called “actors”.

    I feel that “starlets” should be made gender neutral. After all, “-lets” just implies young, not necessarily female.

  5. GardenGoblin says

    One of my former co-workers worked nights at a security firm that occasionally provided bodyguards. They worked with Paris on occasion and everyone who did spoke highly of her. One of the first things they mentioned is that she made the effort of learning and remembering peoples’ names and personal details, tipped generously, and always treated them courteously and professionally while never failing to also be friendly.

    Even while I hate the image, knowing that, I can’t bring myself to hate the person. The image is an act and a business, and she does it well.

    • scarlett says

      I watched bits from a few episodes of The Simple Life when it was on, and it struck me that while she had no idea how things worked in the real world – she had no idea what she was supposed to do with a cheque, or how to live off the money from a minimum wage job – but she struck me as being quite thoughtful, albiet sometimes in very inappropriate ways. In one episode her host family’s dog has died, so she gets them a new one – a massive thing that either eats or destroys everything in sight – that she didn’t even pay for so it gets repossessed, so yeah, not the most thought-out plan, but it still seemed a nice gesture that she wanted to get them another dog.

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