Paparazzi and the Stars

Why Does Anybody Care?

So, every few weeks I find  myself in a waiting room for some reason — a doc’s appointment, hair appointment, what have you — and I rummage through the magazines that are usually left out for us “waiters” to read.  I never find a copy of Sky & Telescope or Astronomy Magazine. It’s always something like a gossip rag with the latest breathless reportage about the sex lives of the movie stars/political establishment/megachurch pastor/you name it.

Do I read this stuff? Sure.  I call it “catching up on the literature”.  Mostly I do because I don’t otherwise get much chance to read this stuff.  I figure, if I”m going to talk about astronomy to the public, it helps to know what the public is reading about in other areas of the “information sphere” that we call “news”.  Not that everybody reads gossipy rags (or admits to it).  And, I’m not putting anyb0dy down for reading the stuff. It’s not like you can ignore the screaming headlines as you’re waiting in line at the grocery or drug store, is it?  And, there is this element of watching a disaster unfold that just sucks people in.  But, after a while, it gets kind of old. And, I don’t know about you, but I get uncomfortable having that much insight into somebody else’s marriage/family life/politics/dating partners/etc.

So, the latest “literature” is focused on a movie star and her philandering husband.  Hardly news, is it?  But, people passionately care about this stuff.  I mean, they care to the point of practically salivating over it. The comments about such stories on the news sites like CNN, etc. are a testament to people having WAY too much interest in other people’s private lives. Why?  I can’t think of anything more sad than to read breathless, titillating reporting about someone else’s misfortune, accompanied by pictures of said person snapped by a photographer who you know has been hanging out in his/her trees just waiting for the chance to invade his/her privacy.

As I see these headlines float by on the news sites, magazines, gossip rags, etc., I wonder why people don’t get as passionate about the truly interesting stuff in the universe — like the wonder of star birth?  Or the the discovery of new planets. Or the latest images from Mars or Saturn?  The cosmos has its own paparazzi taking images of it, in methodical ways that don’t invade privacy or raise a stink about whether or not so-and-so is going to sleep with so-and-so and when.  And, to my way of thinking, that stuff is way more interesting than whether or not Britney/Sandra/Jerry/Jim/whoever are getting divorced/overfed/sued/whatever.

Or am I just a hopeless geek?