Whenever a shocking celebrity event happens there are a slew of people who will care deeply, and then another subset that will be horrified by the superficial interest in such base level gossip. If I look at my Facebook feed, I have my friends who are posting and pontificating about the Brangelina divorce, and then there are my friends who are deeply outraged – wondering why everyone is talking about a celebrity couple rather than uprising over the blatant murder of Terence Crutcher by police. Then there are those in the middle, which seem like the vast majority, who care a little about both stories – but mostly just keep living their lives.
We feel there is a fundamental difference between gossip about celebrities and hardcore news, yet in reality they are both the same side of the coin – just a different spectrum. It’s all just information about other people. The difference between reporting about Brad fucking a French actress and police shooting innocent men is the brevity of the consequences. But the “news” is all a form is gossip about others –we just tend to be more interested in the shallow because it’s easier to swallow.
A famous couple breaking up is a story that every adult can relate to. We’ve all broken hearts, or had our hearts broken. It’s a human-interest story because we can identify with it. Did they break up because he cheated? Well of course he cheated because he cheated on Jen to get with Angelina. Or was it the weed he smoked? Or perhaps the hookers that he may or may not have done coke off their tits? Or perhaps it was because she wants to be a humanitarian and he’s more interested in Hollywood? Did they never have sex because all their kids obliterated their passion and parental privacy? What happened??? I have to know!!
The crazy thing isn’t that we care about Brangelina – of course we care. It’s a story we can easily wrap our simple brains around. The real crazy thing is that we are SHOCKED by the break up of Brangelina but not really that surprised by yet ANOTHER killing of an innocent person. Oh yeah… that happens. Cops kill black men all the time. BUT OH MY GOD BRAD PITT GOT BORED SCREWING THE HOTEST WOMAN ON THE PLANET???!!!
Even in the time I was writing this YET ANOTHER unarmed black man was killed – Keith Lamont – who was not only disabled, but READING IN HIS CAR! I know a literate black man is a danger to society and all, but COME ON!
I think this has to do with the fact that most of us can’t truly grasp a large percentage of the atrocities of the world. Our minds are too limited. It’s like dark matter. We know it’s out there, we don’t deny its existence, but we don’t understand it at all. I can easily understand the concept of infidelity in a relationship. We all can. Shut up yes you can… you have either been cheated on, or been the cheater, so get over yourself. But I can’t even sort of fathom the mindset of shooting an unarmed man in the goddamn heart. In no way can I even put myself in the headspace of what it would be like to fire a gun at another person looking me in the eyes. That story almost feels like fiction to me, where Brad’s alleged affair feels like an undeniable truth.
Humans are innately empathetic, but most of us need a frame of reference in order to elicit compassion. We require a scaffold to build our comprehension of an event around. So when I hear about Syrian refugees I know that it’s terrible, and I want the horrors against them to stop – but my capacity of really understanding what is going on is drastically limited. Never in my life would I treat a person like these refugees are being treated, so all the stories or videos in the world can’t make me identify with what they are going through. It’s beyond me because I have had zero personal exposure to these events.
Most people are essentially decent people. Not great mind you… but fine. They maybe lie about small things, cheat at board games, masturbate to your best friend while sleeping with you… We all commit minor infractions against each other daily. But most of us don’t murder, rape, or torture innocent civilians – and that’s why these concepts are essentially so foreign.
The people who seem to be most impacted by the news are those that feel personally effected by it. People that have had some intimate experience, or have direct subjective fears around these stories. That is why it is so goddamn crucial for humans to exist outside their comfort zone and exhibit curiosity about the experience of other humans on the planet.
You can’t relate to an abused woman or why she stays with her abuser? Then volunteer at a shelter and talk to one. You don’t understand the impact of a war torn country, then get a passport and visit one. You don’t comprehend why all these black people are questioning if their lives matter, then find the mother of a son who was killed by a cop and ask her.
We will never understand the suffering of the world from behind our computers or TV screens. It’s too confusing to receive content about world events on the same medium we watch entertainment on. Yeah the news tells me innocent kids are being bombed, but that same box on the wall tells me spaceships fly around in Star Wars. Sure my computer can blatantly show me a man with his hands up getting killed, but that very same device shows me silly videos of a bear snuggling a parakeet while wearing a birthday hat. Fine that newspaper has a picture of yet another oil spill, but it also has this really pretty picture of Jennifer Lawrence.
We have to live life to understand it. We have to expose ourselves truly to how fucked up the world is to believe it. You don’t feel the impact of environmental catastrophe until a hurricane rips your house out from under you. Global warming is just an idea, a concept, until you run out of water and are drinking your own pee.
We Americans have a long history of allowing trivial stories to seduce away from the genuine atrocities of thew world – but it’s not because we don’t care. It’s because we are too damn sheltered!!! Talking about this shit on Facebook and posting stories isn’t enough. We have to do things outside of our homes, stretch ourselves beyond our normal routine and sacrifice our time – that precious time that we spend liking and poking each other.
But who knows, maybe while you’re out there in the world trying to actually see it with your own eyes you meet a person who you can gossip about Brangelina with?
Who wants to look at the yucky oil spill in Alabama when Jennifer Lawrence is sooooooo pretty!!