Column: Celebrity gossip rules cyberspace – Web Exclusive

Thom Carter | Staff Writer

If you’ve ever been to TMZ.com, and I honestly hope you haven’t, you’re probably accustomed to the constant stream of repetitive celebrity news gossip. Much of it can be boiled down to useless babbling by so-called journalists who rely on tips from outside sources in order to report news that can be called “relevant.” This week, images of Nicolas Cage plaster the website after he was charged with domestic violence and disturbing the peace. The brief report features Cage, one of Hollywood’s most self-destructive actors, and the implications it could have on his new film which, if it surpasses the masterpiece that was “National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets,” should be crowned as the next “Citizen Kane.”

Besides Cage, the number of downward spirals that seem to plague celebrity culture is a startlingly frequent, annoying affair that the public seem to eat up as if it was the last butter     roll at O’Charley’s. Whether that celebrity is a young starlet who dabbled in drugs too often and too early or a weathered veteran actor who simply hit the bottle too much and had          trouble concealing his anti-Semitic tantrums, many people immerse themselves in these meltdowns and only add fuel to a fire that so desperately needs to be smothered.

An easy way to sum up the existence of websites, shows and even entire channels dedicated to celebrity culture would be to label them as public obsessions. Unfortunately, based on the number of socialites who are famous for having a rich daddy, many of us, even if we are unwilling to admit it, turn our attention toward Ryan Seacrest’s whitened teeth on “E! News” on a daily basis. This attitude toward celebrities only becomes amplified when a celebrity goes on a bender, intoxicated by his or her own fame and a bottle of malt liquor, which ends with the person checking into the Betty Ford Center. It’s only when a bronzed, glistening Mario Lopez announces a celebrity’s name to go along with an unflattering mug shot on “Extra” that the story becomes a lackluster headline. Take Charlie Sheen, for example. After coining more phrases in a matter of days than in his entire career, he became the hot ticket for numerous news sources with a story that was on a par with the protests in Northern Africa and the Middle East. It’s safe to say things have gone too far when the event that quashed him was the tragedy in Japan.

As the Sheens and Cages of the world now wallow in short-lived Internet fandom and box office duds, almost systematically a new string of events chronicling a celebrity’s downfall emerges. As some of the public hangs on to each and every tweet, the infatuation with such awful circumstances leaves a nagging question: Is this sad?