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Preoccupation with Celebrity Is Pathetic

Column by Stacey E. Blau
Opinion Editor

When the Clinton family took off for Martha's Vineyard last week, the local paper there produced two supplements about the First Family's impending three-week visit. On the family's first morning in Martha's Vineyard, radio and news wire reports quickly circulated about Bill Clinton's first few activities on the island. Word had it that the president was drinking his coffee and eating a pastry. Frequent updates followed.

There have since been articles in The New York Times and The Boston Globe describing the President's leisure pursuits on the island, his favorite haunts for ice cream and the like, and a swirl of rumors about parties among the island's chichi social bunch where one might find the president a guest. Indeed, yesterday's issue of The Tech featured a World & Nation short about a Clinton's vacation.

The obsession with every last detail of Clinton's trip to the Vineyard seems to make little sense. You'd expect a few articles here and there, a couple of features. It is August, the slowest news month of the year. But where does the preoccupation end? Why doesn't it end?

The hoopla the trip reminds me of a strange and fierce group of girls I went to high school with. Unlike most American high schools, my high school's social situation could be described as pretty non-hierarchal. There was a fairly small group of kids, a kind of odd residue of junior high school, who fulfilled what in some sense one might call a popular crowd. But they were by no means the exalted self-appointed clique of kids that half the school population looks up to and longs to be like that you may find in a typical American high school.

The strange and fierce girls, however, seemed to think differently. They were more than happy to fulfill the role of girls who blindly admire and try their best to imitate the clique of the exalted. They seemed to insist on consignment to a lower social rung when absolutely no one was making an effort to put them there.

Frighteningly enough, it seems like the same mentality is at work with the Clinton trip obsession. I asked some friends about it to see if they had any theories. They mostly shrugged. Everyone is curious about what the president's up to, they said. He's an important guy.

Point taken. But at some level, don't people get tired of obsessing over the same stuff? To know and care so much about the every last detail of a person's life is practically to live vicariously through them. It's as pathetic and demeaning as the situation with the girls in my high school.

It's no secret that America has a general fascination with celebrities. Bill Clinton is not the only focus of attention. People can't wait to know about Princess Di's new swain. Their hopes are raised and dashed along with the ups and downs of the lives of their favorite soap opera characters. They follow indiscriminately even the worst celebrity trends - case in point, those layered Friends haircuts (some examples of that awful hairdo still remain around campus to this day).

People must simply be bored with themselves or think so little of their own lives that they're willing to make a cult out of the lives of people who are more exciting and celebrated than they. One can only hope that this affliction doesn't spread into MIT; there are only so many dean-worshipping feebs this campus can take.