Monday, April 12, 2010

Paris Hilton, the Brand

Paris Hilton rose through the ranks of Hollywood with seeming ease, being the first celebrity to create and mold her status without any mainstream talents. Miss. Hilton’s unconventional celebutante status was fashioned by manipulating the degraded public image in which the media casted her – an American icon for scandal. For most celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan, Tiger Woods, or Britney Spears, actions similar to Paris’ brought about their downfall, ruining their public image, but more importantly, hindering their careers. These actions, however, only stoked the flames of society’s craving for Paris. Paris’ unorthodox claim to fame embodies everything the public typically loves to hate; however, through exploiting how the media portrays her highly broadcasted lifestyle and understanding the public’s desires, she has made pure gold. Paris crafted a career out of being a public icon – a brand.
Paris Hilton first gained notoriety as the infamous Hilton Hotel Heiress, a member of one of the wealthiest families in the world. As she grew up, however, she began to make a name for herself, giving everyone something to talk about – her. Already atypical, she easily gained notice from the paparazzi. Young and beautiful, Paris was soon type-casted by the media as the typical bad girl due to her sexual freedom and carefree lifestyle. Luckily Paris was able to exploit what the media emphasized about her, realizing she fed the public’s cravings for gossip and scandal by simply being herself.
The Paris Everyone Loves to Hate
The media is deeply rooted in Paris’ celebrity identity, especially in the modern day of blogs, weekly tabloids, and twitter, where anyone from anywhere can immediately access information, whether it is true or fictitious, from their cell-phone. The media is the publics’ only connection with celebrities like Paris, and thus have the capacity to define them. “If we were deprived of magazine profiles and publicity materials and had access only to” unbiased and unprompted Paris, the public would be able to form their own opinions on her; but, unfortunately, we are only introduced to “the identity imposed on her” (Perrotta). Paris of the media, the popular Paris, is degraded and reduced, focusing on her sexuality. The media hardly exposes her as the savvy businesswoman she is with her countless thriving business ventures.
According to South Park, Paris is nothing more than a sexually immoral icon. Chart Created by: Taylor Jones
Furthermore, Paris is type-casted as the blond bimbo, for the public loves the crazy, uninhibited Paris because she plays the role that life has taught us to hate. Morals, which are typically the last thing to come to mind when discussing Paris, are viewed by the public at large as the most basic forms of decency in human behavior. Furthermore, being morally corrupt, like Miss. Hilton is represented as in the media, creates an easy target – someone everyone can, and should, hate. The media uses her as a simple representation of how one should not act by unjustly broadcasting her femininity and sexuality as a negative. What the media fails to do is explain why her actions are so irrevocably wrong, claiming it as an understood. The more pressing problem lies in the fact that the public just inhales the media’s representation of her, as well as the rest of Hollywood, without question.
Google's Correction Screen Shot via, Edited by Taylor Jones
The public has been trained to hate Paris-like figures and the media capitalizes on this. Paris receives no second thoughts because she has been casually written off for her lavish lifestyle. The media, when discussing Paris’ rise to fame, explicitly point out that it was “for the wrong reasons,” leaving no room for differing opinions to form, and hand feeding the public their characterization of her (Potts). She is depicted as an oversexed “juggernaut”; therefore, she simply can’t have any other side (Perrotta). The media’s casting of Paris leaves no room for argument, for they control what the public sees, and they choose to show her in one light. Thus, the public’s characterization of Paris is based off of the media’s one-sided representation of her. The media doesn’t publicize Paris as a Disney-style good girl – that role is currently filled by Miley. They don’t pay respect to her various corporate successes and charitable contributions, but instead, strip Paris down and define her based off one aspect of her life: her sexuality. This generation is experiencing a sexual revolution in its own right, opening doors to homosexual, bisexual, and sexually promiscuous lifestyles not only for men, but women as well. Furthermore, Paris’ “sexual empowerment”, which the media continuously captures, is no different than the sexual lifestyle of many others who aren’t globally publicized (Perrotta). By singling out Paris, the public has an opportunity to rationalize their own immoral behavior, using her as a scale to which they can compare their own behavior.
Constantly being in the spotlight differentiates Paris’ sexual freedom from others who aren’t of her status and still make similar choices. She is further differentiated by her femininity, asking the public: can a woman be as sexually uninhibited as a man? – and the media quickly answering NO! Labeling her as indecent is undeserved, especially on the basis of her gender. Colin Ferrell, Jude Law, and Hugh Hefner, are glorified for their womanizing sexcapades; but a woman of their sexual equal, like Paris, is reduced and degraded. Handbag, an online woman’s magazine, even dedicated the article “Celebrity Bad Boys We Love” to these men, stating, Jonathan Rhys Meyers has had “…numerous stints in rehab… been arrested for being drunk and abusive to a woman… but with his chiseled good looks I’m sure we’d forgive him of anything” (Vieru).

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers Photo via
Paris isn’t demeaned for her sexual decisions, she is judged this way because, unlike the rest of Americans making similar choices, her private life is globally broadcasted as an example of female immorality. Paris shouldn’t be viewed or defined as an icon of immoral sexual promiscuity, but instead by her person as a whole, including the aspects that the media consistently fails to recognize. The media influences the lives and careers of all celebrities, and essentially has the power to define them however they please (or whichever way sells). While Paris was able to capitalize on the media’s depiction of her, it was highly subjective.
Blonde Ambition Knows No Bounds
For most celebrities, such as Kim Kardashian, Pamela Anderson, and allegedly (according to Speidi) Lauren Conrad, sex tape scandals negatively bring female stars to the center of public attention, and even more detrimental, these scandals tarnish the careers and scar the statuses of those involved. However, the men, who are equally involved in the production, hardly experience any backlash resulting from the release of their intimate experience. Through the release of her sex tape Paris gained a name for herself; however, the name she received was degrading. Paris’ first claim to fame and run in with the press would be continuously used against her as evidence that she was depraved. The fact that this event, in particular, was her pivotal moment, allowing her to rise to fame, criticizes the reliability of the media. Paris first entered the spotlight as a media target, not a star; they wanted to use her and establish the societal limitations of female sexuality. Most wouldn’t even be able to recall Paris’ male counterpart in her video, 1 Night in Paris, for he didn’t receive any of the same demeaning media attention that the heiress did. The media, and therefore the public, seemed to ignore, or easily dismiss, the fact that Paris was “humiliated, embarrassed, and in shock that it happened” (Potts). Although Paris made a mistake, the media didn’t characterize her as a victim, but instead exploited her as “an allegorical statement about sex, sin, and power” (Perrotta). Paris, however, thought her “whole life was over,” she was devastated, she “couldn’t believe that someone [she] loved could do that” to her (Scaggs). She had trusted Rick Soloman, her boyfriend at the time, and, like many girls, she allowed herself to be sexually filmed, thinking the tape would never be released or become a global spectacle. Due to her mistake of trusting Solomon, Paris became a victim of her never-ending relationship with the media.

A Teary Paris Hilton Edited by Perez Hilton via
Post-Jail Paris: A Change We Can Believe In?
September 7, 2006 Paris was pulled over and arrested for driving under the influence. Considering the public’s fascination with Paris as a figure of immorality, the media jumped on this incident to insure that Paris was still their beacon of depravity. However, after Paris was caught again for driving on a suspended license, the heiress was facing some serious jail time. While her star was again on the rise, the media capitalizing on every second of the Paris train-wreck, Paris was publicized being “just like everyone else” (King). She was stripped of her fantasy lifestyle and given an orange jumpsuit.
Upon her release, the press bombarded Paris, begging to hear how horrific her experience behind bars – and away from the prying eyes of the media – was. Complying with their request – and, of course, cashing in on it as well – Paris appeared on Larry King Liveto set the record straight. Throughout the interview King pressed for juicy details, but to his disappointment, and probably surprise, Paris had nothing to regale him with. She focused on the “trauma” of the experience and how being “treated just like everyone else” allowed her to “figure out who [she] is” and “focus on [herself]“ (King). Paris claimed “this really changed [her] life forever” and that she has “a new outlook on life” (King). The interview showed the side of Paris the media had always failed to; she didn’t play the role the media casted her as, but instead showed how she was a normal adult.

An Angelic Paris with Larry King, Courtesy of Perez Hilton via
Paris was stern in her claims that “everyone makes mistakes” and that she’s “definitely matured from the experience” (King). She continuously characterized herself as “normal” and “changed,” showing her human side, stepping away from the fantasy that formerly surrounded her (King). She “was in complete shock” – just like anyone else would have been. She “was terrified” – just like anyone else would’ve been. She was “humiliated” – just like anyone else would’ve been. Paris firmly established that she was just like everyone else, and that “we’re going to see a new Paris Hilton” – the real Paris (King). Paris showed strong signs that she was ditching the depraved role the media had established for her, and that she wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, defined by the media’s opinion of her choices.
David Letterman focuses on Paris' jail time and ignores her business appeals via
While there was a new Paris Hilton to be seen, we sure didn’t see much of her. Without her life drowning in scandal, she seemed of little interest to the media. Though she is still a prominent business titan, she’s no longer publicized nearly as much as she was when her career was simply “living her life” (King). Paris’ fame revolved around her behaviors and their association with immorality. The public doesn’t worship normal Paris, for she gives them nothing to talk about and nothing to hate. Our “favorite dysfunctional love-hate relationship” had come to an end (Wilson). Paris fell bellow the radar once it was publicized that she was just like everyone else; she lost the immoral zeal the media created.
That’s Hot
Paris is no longer a hot media topic, and this fact begs the question: why? Paris fell under the radar slowly after her release from jail, and since then has managed to uphold her various booming businesses, but her star has fallen. Considering Paris’ career was fashioned from nothing more than living her life (and the media subsequently condemning her for it), there is no present reason why she shouldn’t be receiving the same amount of attention as she used to. However, this directly implicates the media for misrepresenting Paris’ life as an exemplar of feminine immorality, for up until she spoke out and showed a differing side of herself, the public only saw the Paris the media portrayed. The media should not be able to exploit stars in order to increase revenue. Since the media is treated with such respect, they hold the responsibility of remaining unbiased, and this was clearly not the case with Paris. While these misrepresentations sparked Paris’ career they can equally as easily bring about a star’s downfall. Today, young stars, like Miley Cyrus, who has been type casted as the Disney goody-two-shoes, cannot step outside the bounds of the character that the media has created for them or else they are professionally punished for doing so. For instance, when Cyrus appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair wearing nothing but a white sheet she had breached the moral standings of Disney virtue. While everything important was covered, the media jumped on the incident, claiming Cyrus’ image was “inappropriate” and “disappointing” (Aswad). Taylor Lautner, the love-struck werewolf, Jacob, in the Twilight Saga repeatedly appears scantily clad on posters, magazine covers, and throughout the films, themselves. The difference between the young stars is Lautner is praised and receives positive press for showing off his body, while Cyrus is forced to apologize for her artistic attempts.
Taylor Lautner (via vs. Miley Cyrus (via, Edited by Taylor Jones
The media’s unequal interpretation of sexuality between male and female stars creates an impossible, Victorian-esque paradigm for female stars to uphold. For women the polarized “virgin-or-whore stereotypes” eliminate the “elastic definition” of sexuality that stars like Paris employ (Perrotta). By denying the “circumventing [of] the virgin/whore dichotomy,” the media is declaring there simply is no in-between (Perrotta). Furthermore, the media’s tendency to unevenly define stars strictly based off their sexuality is discreditable, especially considering their power over stars’ careers. While a star’s sexual life is going to be highly publicized, this gossip shouldn’t affect their professional life unless it directly interferes with it. The line between one’s private and professional life is too often blurred, and the media only catalyzes this by repeatedly exploiting stars’ private lives as if it is pressing public business. Paris Hilton is an example of the media’s affect over stars’ lives and how they appear to the public. Paris was cruelly demoralized and idolized by the media’s harassment of her personal sexual freedom simply because she didn’t fit the outdated standard.

Screen Shots of Paris' Campaign Video via, Edited by Taylor Jones
Works Cited
Aswad, Jem. “Miley Cyrus Apologizes for ‘Racy’ Photos.” MTV News. MTV, 28 Apr. 2008. Web. 28 Mar. 2010. .
Hilton, Paris. “Paris Hilton Calls Sex Tape Scandal ‘Painful.’” Interview by Tony Potts. Access Hollywood. MSNBC, 28 July 2009. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. .
- -. “Paris Hilton on ‘Larry King Live.’” Interview by Larry King. Larry King Live. CNN, 28 June 2007. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. .
Perrotta, Tom. “The Cosmic Significance of Britney Spears.” Seeing & Writing 3. By Donald McQuade and Christine McQuade. Ed. Alanya Harter. Boston: Bedford/‌St. Martin’s, 2006. 568-573. Print.
Scaggs, Austin. “People of the Year 2004: Paris Hilton.” Rolling Stone 15 Dec. 2004: n. pag. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. .
Wilson, Cintra. “We’ll Always Hate Paris.” Salon 8 June 2007: n. pag. Web. 8 Mar. 2010. .
Vieru, Aliana. “Celebrity Bad Boys We Love.” Handbag 2 Jan. 2008: n. pag. Web. 28 Mar. 2010. .

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