On The Record: Creepy Old Man Or 21st-Century Journalist?
For a solid hour on Tuesday afternoon, I basically should’ve gotten fired from my job. This is not because I was drinking in the office again or harassing my (sorta) co-worker Heidi Montag or even stealing boxes from the supply closet to complete my awesome fort (that was Monday).
No, it was because I was furiously Googling photos of Miley Cyrus in her bra.
OK, now before Human Resources contacts me (or my wife leaves me), please know that I was doing said Googling for a story I was working on — a follow-up to a 300-word blurb we ran on Monday that was read by 71,000 people (!) in less than 24 hours. (By comparison, last week’s Bigger Than the Sound is currently sitting at just more than 2,400 clicks.) Please know that I am not some sort of crazy pervert and that — to borrow perhaps the most overused excuse of all time — I was just doing my job (honest).
I’m not exactly sure what the rest of you were doing, though. Because for most of Tuesday, “Miley Cyrus Bra” was the most-searched term on Google, ahead of “Pennsylvania Exit Polls,” “Kijana Carter” and “Earth Day.” Phrases like “Racy Miley Cyrus Photos” and “Miley Cyrus Underwear Pictures” also logged time in Google Trends’ Top 100, as did pretty much any possible combination of the words “leaked,” “pics” and “Net” you could think of (also, nice to see “Vanessa Hudgens Pics” making a comeback).
Basically, for an entire day, people were more interested in seeking out semi-nude — and possibly fake? — photos of a 15-year-old pop star than they were in reading about the death of soul singer Al Wilson (which is sad), potential Jeep Liberty recalls (which is terrifying) and “Alligator in Kitchen” (which is puzzling). And while all of that should probably make me want to curl up and die — or at least weep for the state of humanity — it doesn’t. Because this has basically become my entire life.
More specifically, it’s become my 9-to-5 life. For better or (much) worse, my job as a “reporter” now requires that I constantly monitor which tween celeb is sending her boyfriend nude Sidekick pics, which pop tart is pregnant and which rocker is currently popping up (literally) in some sex tape (or taking photos of his junk). Over the past year — starting with the watershed “Vanessa Hudgens Incident” of September ’07 — my Google cachet has started to rival Roman Polanski’s in terms of overall creepiness. And I’m not really sure whose fault this is. Mine? Yours? Both of ours?
Look, I’m not going out on a limb and suggesting that we’re all going to hell (even though, well, we pretty much are), nor am I sounding the death knell for “real journalism” (even though, well, I pretty much am). Basically, I’m just trying to say that things have gotten really bizarre as of late. We’ve reached a place where we know pretty much everything about every celebrity in the world. We’ve seen them intoxicated, angry and, well, naked. We’re witness to their most intimate moments and their most public meltdowns. We know more about Lindsay Lohan or Pete Wentz than we do about our own cousins or co-workers, which is pretty sad and more than a little bizarre.
And even sadder (and, uh, bizarre-er) is the growing sense of entitlement that this openness has bred. We — both fans and the media — now expect to know everything. And if we don’t — or, in the case of Ashlee Simpson , if a celebrity refuses to divulge every detail about his or her personal life — well, then we feel somehow offended. It has somehow become our right to know who’s sleeping with who or how big (or small) someone’s penis might be, which sort of makes me want to quit this job and move to Montana or something.
And I’m not the only one who seems to be feeling this way.
Last week, in the midst of the whole “Is Ashlee Simpson Pregnant?/ Why Is Pete Wentz Lying About Her Not Being Pregnant?” fiasco , Maura Johnston, who edits the excellent Idolator.com, sent me the following e-mail, which I think sums up everything I’ve been trying to say rather nicely (and, in keeping with the Idolator way, does it much snappier and in about 900 fewer words).
From: Maura Johnston, XXX@XXX.com
Sent: Monday, April 14, 2008 4:03 PM
To: Montgomery, James
Subject: BUMPWATCH 08
“Seriously, is there anything creepier than the hour-by-hour descriptions of famous women looking pregnant? Yuck.”
Of course, I couldn’t write back, because I was in the middle of filing my 15th story about the Wentzlee situation, but I read what she wrote, slowly nodded, wiped a tear from my eye and put my nose back on to the grindstone (and by grindstone, I mean “The Google Search Bar”). I’m not sure where this is going to end, but I’m pretty certain that it’s only gonna get worse. Zoey 101 is pregnant . Hannah Montana is (almost) naked on the Internet. Will the aptly named Naked Brothers be far behind? How long until I’m writing a story about iCarly’s sordid webcam vids or Zack & Cody’s debauched Vegas weekend?
The whole thing makes me feel like a gigantic, leering creep, but what am I supposed to do? It’s clear which way the machine is headed, and I’m just another cog in it — a really ashamed, pretty sad cog. Being a music journalist now means I am in competition with the Perez Hiltons of the world, and I’m pretty sure that’s a bad thing. Actually, I know it is. It’s one of the only things I do know these days. Well, that and how to employ Boolean logic to seek out blurry, handheld pics of Disney celebs.
And, wow … I think my soul just died.
Slightly Less Than A Half-Dozen Of My Favorite Things On The Internet This Week, So Named For A Post-Rock Group That No One Probably Remembers
1. Stephen Malkmus’ Fantasy Baseball Preview: The former Pavement frontman loves the Brew Crew and hates fantasy leagues where “blown saves” count (hey, me too!). And just in case you needed even more proof that he’s awesome, check out his dark-horse pick for 2008: “The Diamondbacks are solid. … Conor Jackson is a good sleeper guy to pick. … They have an offensive park, so a lot of stats come out of that place.” (FYI, Jackson is currently hitting .368 with three home runs and 17 RBI.)
2. Rich Woodall’s Marvel Masterpiece II Trading Cards: The creator and illustrator of “Johnny Raygun” is turned loose on the Marvel Universe. Proof that sometimes even massive, evil, multinational corporations can get it so, so right.
3. Le Galaxie’s “We Bleed The Blood Of Androids” Video: Swooning, gorgeous atmospherics in the vein of Explosions in the Sky and an endearing, low-budget clip in the vein of Sum 41’s All Killer, No Filler. This is 22nd-century madness from a band that claims to reside in a lunar bunker (but are really from Dublin). In the future, everything is possible.
4. The Silver Jews’ “Suffering Jukebox”: RIYL tears in yr beers, Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, hyper-literate-yet-blue-collar C&W. A standout track from the Jews’ upcoming Lookout Mountain Lookout Sea album, which I’ve already listened to about 76 times this week.
5. Marv Albert Does “Crank That”: The TNT graphics department gets inspired. The NBA Playoffs get awesome. Your nightmares for the next 10-14 days get more terrifying than you ever thought possible. Enjoy!
Questions? Concerns? Sordid, possibly illegal Sidekick pics? Send ‘em to BTTS@MTVStaff.com.