Yesterday, upon hearing that Mary-Kate Olsen and Nicolas Sarkozy were engaged, I dove headfirst into US Magazine’s website and got stuck in a swirl of news that was significantly unimportant yet highly alluring. I’m not above the gossip rag browse every now and then, and each time I revisit them, I’m amused by the sheer ridiculousness of it all. I sometimes wonder if it’s just a really well crafted joke being played on the public that challenges us to believe and value useless information, the majority of which is pulled out of someone’s very dramatic asshole.
All of these sites harbor a wonderful ability to make mountains out of molehills, but some do so more subtly than others. US, for their part, is on the less-subtle end of the spectrum. To wit: this post boldly claims that Katy Perry stepped out “looking somber” post-split with John Mayer. A celebrity (that being a perfect, inhuman creature) sad over a break up? Ah, the schadenfreude potential was too hard to pass up. But the results didn’t exactly deliver. Katy looks positively neutral, as most people do when they’re simply walking down the street. And yet, US took it upon themselves to color her somber, knowing that sadness makes for many more clicks than “nah, I’m really okay.” Added to this was the beautiful hew of creative linguistics employed by the writer, with notable lines like, “Katy Perry is done being hot n’ cold” (ka-ching!) and the assertion that Perry was “drowning her sorrows with pals.” The evidence of that is well, not evident, but surely US wouldn’t lead us astray.
You’d think that this twisted take on truth-telling and the ease at which the bullshit of it all can be unearthed would lead me to argue that gossip magazines should disappear, but I don’t feel that way. They are fun and indulgent, like drinking too much on a weeknight or eating that second slice of cake. Perhaps some people feel dirty after reading them, but I don’t. To me they’re a watered-down form of pop art, as well as a repository for human anxieties. I especially like them in airports, where I usually only spend time after weeks of stress and too-real reality, seeking escape in whatever form comes easiest. It’s nice to pretend, if only for a few minutes, that the world’s axis revolves around who wore a Cynthia Rowley sheath better, or the natural birth preferences of whichever faux-hippie baby mama is most popular now. As someone prone to taking life way too seriously—a malady that surely affects more than just me, myself, and I—magazines like US and People offer a bit of breathing room, allowing for a moment of mindlessness amidst the usual existential dread, depressing world realities, et al.