{01/05/2012}   Gossip and staring

Other people’s lives usually seem so much more interesting than our own.  Yesterday afternoon while in a very civilised members’ club garden, a friend and I kept being distracted by a large group of transvestites, the most noticeable of whom’s short black dress had ridden up to reveal his, erm, crotch.  I felt very conscious of the fact I was staring and it kind of bothered me that I found them so interesting.  At that moment in time, my own life felt somewhat ordinary and unexciting.

So is that why Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s alleged bickering, weight and beard issues, etc, are so “interesting”?  Their lives, even the mundane aspects of their lives, such as the length of Brad’s beard, seem interesting.  They are not like us, or so we think, which automatically makes them fascinating.  But deep down, even though I rifle through the pages of weekly gossip magazines while waiting at train stations (a bit of a guilty pleasure!), I know the odds are that it’s not true.  These magazines feed on our interest in, in this case, celebrity and the often rather cruel pursuit of revelling in the “news” of celeb weight loss/weight gain/non-make-up days/incarceration into rehab/devastation over relationship break ups, etc.  This aspect of gossip is probably popular because it makes the reader feel better about not being like them.  It’s the “well, ha, they may be famous/rich/married to gorgeous X but, hurrah, they look really rough in that photo, ha”.  Bit cruel and unsatisfying really.

As for gossip, that’s something we all do, usually about people we know.  But the weekly gossip trash enables us to extend our sphere of gossip to the murky world of celebrity so now everyone is fair game.  I know I gossip about people sometimes and receive gossip with interest.  It does make me feel slightly uncomfortable but I’m afraid I do do it.  Is it to put our own lives into perspective, maybe to make ourselves feel better that we aren’t having as dreadful a time as someone else?  Sometimes it’s a way of sharing news, though I think the definition always has at the very least a slightly negative slant.

As my friend and I did yesterday, staring at a group of unconventional people (compared to our worlds), we weren’t being nasty or making rude comments about them, it was just a kind of fascination, a bit like how my cat is when she’s watching a feather … though I don’t think we were preparing to pounce.  Though our “pounce” was more the nugget of, “Ooo, did you see that”.  The optimist in me says that such staring and absorption of something out of our sphere of knowledge is to gain awareness, perspective and to broad our sense of normal.  The pessimist in me says it’s gawping rudely!

I surprise myself by saying this but I think there is value in a little gossip and staring, just so long as it doesn’t turn nasty, which it so easily can.  That is why gossip magazines disturb me (and I’m not denying I do read them, albeit flicking through the pages in a shop).  Because the people within the pages, most of whom haven’t invited the write-up or photo, are seen as fair play; it’s ok to bitch about them because they’re famous and have put themselves in the limelight.  Well, the poor sods can’t escape it because we buy the magazines and the paparazzi supply our demand and wherever a celebrity goes a photographer or journalist will find them if there’s demand.  It really is horrible and while I do have the odd dig at celebrities (Kerry Katona got quite a blasting from me for a while, which really was cruel as I have never met her and never will, it was all based on what I’d read, poor girl), I would really rather focus my gossip and staring at people I encounter, first hand knowledge.  But not nastiness or bitching.  I think we have all become a little more prone to that in these days of technology and increased communication sources.


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