Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Paris Hilton: Android or Remote Being?

In reading both Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” it is apparent that both of the authors have an opinion on the public’s obsession with celebrity. Additionally, both authors (in one way or another) accurately predict the degree to which our society is fixated on the rich and famous.

In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep we see figures like Buster Friendly and Amanda Werner who are the only celebrities in existence. Werner, who is an actress that has never done any movies, is one of the few guests who appears on Friendly’s his daily TV and radio shows. Although neither has done any professional work, people worship the ersatz idols. During the radio show the qualities of Buster and Amanda’s interactions are described; “Their remarks, always witty, always new, weren’t rehearsed. Amanda’s hair glowed, her eyes glinted, her teeth shone; she never ran down, never became tired, never found herself at a loss as to a clever retort to Buster’s bang-bang string of quips, jokes, and sharp observations” (65). Despite the fact that they simultaneously produce a radio and a television show for twenty-three hours a day each, the pair never appears to wear out. They are flawless beings, able to go on day after day. In a similar fashion, this is how one could speak of someone such as Paris Hilton, a public figure who is constantly on the go. Much like Amanda Werner, Hilton’s hair glows, her eyes glint, and her teeth shine; she is a symbol of perfect. Because of this, we obsess over her. Little girls idolize her, men fantasize over her. Additionally, similarly to Werner, Hilton is a celebrity for the sole fact that she is beautiful and has money (she could be called an actress or a ‘pop-star’, but her movie and singing careers came years after she rolled on to the nightlife scene). Friendly, Werner and Hilton alike all uphold an image of persistence and charisma without ever showing any signs of fatigue. They are idolized because people need someone to look up to. We don’t want to idolize any regular, boring person; we need something more. In fact, as it seems, Buster and Amanda are androids, which somewhat explains the fact that they never get run down.

Somewhat similarly, in “The Girl Who Was Plugged In,” celebrities are idolized as gods. From the first page we see the degree to which people obsess over celebrities; P. Burke is on the street when her idols walk by and this description follows, “Her gods are coming out of a store called Body East. Three youngbloods, larking along loverly. Dressed like simple street-people but… smashing. . . The crowd moans. Love. The whole boiling megacity, this whole fun future world loves its gods” (1-2). In this passage it is clearly laid out that the people of the future idolize the celebrities. Although they look at them as something to worship, there is an actual purpose to these characters. Marketing companies utilize power in order to advertise for products in a time when advertising is illegal. It may seem ridiculous, but it somewhat mirrors the society of today. Many companies use promotion from celebrities in order to push their products ahead in the market. Again, Paris Hilton can be used for this example. The heiress has promoted products for various designers (including Dior, Hilfiger, and Guess) and Carl's Junior (a west coast fast food chain). Additionally, she is seen as automatic publicity whenever she appears at any nightclub (including her own club, Club Paris). Companies know that if certain celebrities are associated with their products, it will only help their popularity. Because of this, they will go to great lengths to have celebrities endorse their products. This appeal of celebrities is shown in “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” when P. Burke (now known as Delphi) is given her popularity for the sole purpose of endorsing whatever product a company wants.

Although I applied the ideas from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and “The Girl Who Was Plugged In” to Paris Hilton, the truth is that they are applicable to almost any celebrity. Philip K. Dick and James Tiptree Jr. both saw a trend in the obsession with celebrity. In turn, they took it a step further, saying “What if?” As a result, we find these two texts which somewhat eerily predict what is currently happening with celebrities in our society.

PS- If you haven't seen the Paris Hilton commercial for Carl's Junior, I highly suggest you click the link here. It is... entertaining. I'm not quite sure many people want a burger after watching it.

1 comment:

Adam Johns said...

Here's my complaint. Of all your blog entries, to choose not to mention Palahniuk (sp.) in this one is a strange, strange choice - the man, as I recall, has plenty of great things to say about celebrity culture.

But anyway, what I see here is mostly a more articulate and developed version of what we talked about in class, with the addition of that nightmarish Paris Hilton ad at the end.

Here's my question. Why didn't you start with the ad, briefly explain how that relates to both Tiptree & Dick, and then pursue it a little farther.

To what extent have their visions of our condition become literally true, and how do you (especially as a Palahniuk fan) respond to that?

You're ending, in other words, just where you've found a genuinely interesting beginning.