Saturday, May 19, 2012

Celebrity's Peculiar Platform

“Celebrity is as celebrity does,” says Ken Branagh’s Gildreoy Lockhart in the film version of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Well, maybe so. The statement is so tautologically nonsensical its meaning, if any, remains obscure.

Yet it does point to our cultural preoccupation with fleeting fame, narcissistic navel-gazing, and tabloid-driven news.

A case in point: The Detroit News reported last week on the drunken driving sentencing hearing for former Miss USA Rima Fakih. The 26-year-old Michigan native was caught last December with a half-empty champagne bottle in her car as she wove in and out of traffic. Her blood-alcohol content was over twice the legal limit.

Fakih was worried she might have to serve jail time. But a judge in Detroit sentenced her to six months of probation and 20 hours of community service. She must also pay a $300 fine and $300 in court costs, as well as other fees.

Fakih’s community service will include speaking to students about the dangers of drunken driving. Perhaps her celebrity status as the first Arab-American to become Miss USA really will gain a wide audience for her cautionary message about drinking and driving.

Indeed, for Fakih, it seems like a win-win. She not only avoids jail; she also gets to keep her flickering flame of fame alive. At least until she makes her scheduled appearance on a celebrity-dating reality-TV show later this year.

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