Has the anti-bullying momentum grown loud enough to move the dial on something as ubiquitous as gossip-mongering? Perhaps.
Today on Ellen, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton announced that he was going to stop bullying people on his famously mean-spirited gossip blog. Ellen has been a champion for LGBT rights and visibility for a long time, as well as stepping out into the forefront regarding the recent teen-bullying tragedies. Like many Americans, I feel she has a lot of credibility on this issue. Therefore, it was interesting to me to not only see Hilton on the show but to hear his announcement.
He said he was going to go about business on his website differently because he wants “to be the change I want to see.” Cliché yes. But more importantly, is he sincere? After all, he’s certainly done a lot to hurt people over the years, including outing celebs, using sexist jokes and crude drawings and just generally being an ass. He said that people told him he was a hypocrite for coming out against bullying. I can’t argue with him there.
But Hilton is also a self-proclaimed “media whore.” So is this all a publicity stunt? Is Ellen, and by proxy all of us, being duped by Hilton’s latest bid to be the “queen of all media”?
For the sake of all the LGBTQ teens, no, all youth out there, I hope not. Maybe something as ephemeral and transient as pop-culture dish isn’t as important as say, algebra, but it is a barometer of society. In fact, I’d argue that the gossip websites, “entertainment news” shows, tabloids and such do a fairly thorough job of showing the worst part of our society — just how mean we are. America, you’re a bully. We feed on the downward spirals of so many Britneys, Paris’ and Lindseys. We magnify cellulite. We celebrate the unrealistic beauty standards in the “too skinny,” “too fat” parade (and it doesn’t take a feminist to notice that). We mock the nonconformists. And we throw people away or under the bus or at each other like we’re watching a cock fight.
And as a young person looking at all this — and it’s in so many more media portals now than when I was a young Riot Grrrl Gen Xer — how can you not compare yourself? Vilify your own faults? Cast your uniqueness as unacceptable? And on top of all that, you see these beautiful, rich, talented (mostly), sometimes-powerful adults being mocked and ridiculed like they’re kids in the cafeteria. If these unattainable famous people are the object of cruelty and scorn, what chance do I have? What chance do the normal, everyday people among us have?
Enough’s enough! I hope Perez sticks to his word. And I know it will be hard. Not only has he become famous for being nasty, but he’s encouraged by the media, money and continued fame. While I am not famous, I can relate that the world of nasty is sometimes enticing. It’s partly why I had to get out of journalism. I didn’t like who I was becoming — not only cynical but definitely nasty, at times. And it was absolutely encouraged. It’s why the tone of this blog has changed over the years. But when you get a chance to have the attention of the public, be it in large or small venues, you have a responsibility. We have to use our voices for positive change, like in the videos on the It Gets Better Project youtube channel.
It is the ultimate cliché, but it couldn’t be more true in this case. This time we really do need to do it for the children.