Saturday, March 10, 2007

Social Prostitution

Social Prostitution is the name I've coined for the sociological phenomena in which people sell themselves by doing whatever they are encouraged in exchange for money, fame, or attention. The most obvious culprits are professional athletes and celebrities but chances are there are some relatively well-evolved social prostitutes right in your own neighborhood-think office politics, the parents who promote their child's disability for sympathy and respect, and the gal down the street who is happy to help in an emergency--as long as everyone in town knows about it and praises her for it.

Celebrities don't just act dysfunctional, we actually encourage them to be dysfunctional and we reward them duly. The most obvious and tragic recent media example is Anna Nicole Smith, whom we have rewarded handsomely for the entertainment her life has become.

She is reinforced not for fulfilling societies values, or encouraging us to better ourselves, but for being a prime entertainment source. In the end, she lost everything, her volition was lost to drugs and addictions, the life of her son, and eventually her own life as well. Her family and friends mourn while the media and legal system debate over her estate and the parentage of her daughter. We as a society are the ones who continue to be entertained by her personal tragedy; the fame and money we award her certainly leave her empty and used, even in death.

What will bother people about this viewpoint is the idea that as a society we encourage people to create and then publicize their dysfunction. The fact is, we do, and what does that say about us? We put a premium on dysfunction and there are plenty of people willing to step up to the plate. How much of Anna Nicole's life outcome was chosen and how much did we create for her? For a person who doesn't sing, dance, act, or compete in sports, there is a premium on popularity. If your name isn't being googled and you aren't in the tabloids you may fail to exist. Without your fame, you may lose your money, and you will lose your prestige and your stream of attractive and possibly powerful suitors. Keep yourself attractive to the media and you will be compensated for as long as people enjoy watching you. The game becomes a question of how to keep the attention on yourself. Certainly the tabloids won't go away when they serve such a vital purpose to those they exploit; tabloids may very well be resented by celebrities for the fact that what they expose is the social prostitution itself.

When society pays your paycheck, and there is a premium on deviance you have choices-you can step up to the plate, you can get a new job, or you can just wait and see which auditions come your way when you aren't in the top 20 internet searches. Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Kobe Bryant all caught on very quickly and jumped on board.

We reward celebrities and athletes who lie, steal, molest children, rape, and even murder with more attention and legal excuses instead of consequences. We even compensate those who lose or gain a few pounds. We punish those who refuse to play by concocting false accusations and suspicions-"she's not above the game, she's actually a closet lesbian, her marriage is in trouble and she's addicted to painkillers..."

Being an entertainer is more than a job, its a life and even when you aren't on the court or the silver screen you will entertain us. Don't worry, you will be rewarded for your hollow and coarse life with a seat on the A-list and better chances for the next multi-million dollar contract.


MommyK said...

I've felt this way for a good decade. The Menendez brothers murder their parents and get a TV movie made about them! Paris Hilton behaves in lewd, immature and inappropriate ways, but teens are more likely to know who she is than who won the Nobel Peace Prize or who the speaker of the house is, and why she's historic.

As a mother to a baby girl, it greatly disturbs me how the media constantly sends poisonous messages to our children. Girls learn that if your old, unattractive and male, you can be famous and married to a beautiful young woman if you're rich (Donald Trump). If you're female and unattractive, it doesn't matter what you've accomplished or who you're married to, you're the butt of Late Night TV jokes (Camilla Parker Bowles). If you're confident, assertive, accomplished and smart, you're labeled a bitch, but if you show your crotch in public, party like it's 1999 and drink and drive, you get automatic publicity and fame.

Honestly, it makes me sick.

Just for the record, I love your term of "social prostition." It's simlar to what my mom's been saying about things like Fear Factor.

mumple said...

Huh. Wish I'd thunk of that.

Anonimous said...

I think a bit different! In my opinion prostitution involves sex and I consider a social prostitute someone who engages with a partner for social status! I think all social prostitutes are somewhat psychopaths, there is no normal human who would sleep or tolerate someone who he/she really doesn't love for social status!!!!