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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Popularity of Pop

Editorial by Mark Mayhey reporting from London, UK

BB9's Stuart
UK BB9's Stuart: The man with the Tarkan-eyes
I barely had time to grab my first coffee of the morning, when a female friend from the celebrity news desk came running towards me with a print-out in her hand. "The new guy brought into BB9 has Tarkan-eyes," she squealed.

For the uninitiated out there (if that's possible), BB9 is the ninth series of a reality TV programme called Big Brother, being aired in the UK on Channel 4. After one contestant was thrown out for misbehaviour, a stand-by was brought in, and a press picture of the new guy was doing the rounds. The guy Stuart - who will probably be known affectionately as Stu during his own "15 minutes" of call to fame - did indeed have what seemed like heavily mascara-lined eyes, and has already been causing a stir in the house with the ladies.

It got me to thinking of the Turkish pop star and pop culture stories in general, in both blogs and traditional media, which are skyrocketing as readership of traditional news and newspapers is on the decline.

Even though there's no shortage of "serious stories" about real, crucial issues right now, there's no denying the attraction that the Greek drama of celebrity life brings. Tarkan's private life, for instance, is always given more news space than his music, his sexual preferences have been the subject of much discussion in Turkey and Germany.

With the media seemingly more and more covering entertainment instead of what they "should" be (i.e. politics, the economy and international affairs), celebrity news is becoming a big business. And asking whether the media are creating demand or merely supplying it is like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. But why do we really read pop culture stories - celebrity ones in particular?

No Easy Answer

I've yet to find a solid answer that convinces me about pop culture's worth in regard to it being "news", but then I realised that we can sometimes relate to larger, more serious issues through the lives - and the hypocrisy - of celebrities.

Hollywood actor John Travolta recently said "everyone can do their bit" when it comes to global warming, but travels in his 150-passenger jet (think carbon emissions) - alone. Madonna headlined Al Gore's Live Earth concert in London but has $2 million invested in mining and oil exploration companies. Brad Pitt spearheads a green reconstruction project in the Hurricane Katrina-stricken Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans - but flies in his private jet to and from meetings there.

With Tarkan, it's the reverse, and we often get to see the hypocrisy of a celebrity media whose current methods of gathering celeb news - like America's - borders on the criminal. Following the Turkish pop star's struggle with his nation's media has shone a light on the celebrity-frenzied paparazzi and the huge amount of celebrity stories with unnamed sources being distributed as "fact".

As readers we are getting more educated as to what type of celebrity news we should put our faith in - with the hope that public awareness will bring a higher code of ethics in where to draw the line.

Furthermore, talking about patterns in pop culture is at least useful as a vehicle for social criticism, for it will usually carry crucial questions of life and society, told with interesting characters and a constantly updating, suspenseful storyline.

At the very least, with voyeuristic TV like Big Brother, we get to see how humans react to each other locked up in a house for a set time.

Is that a bad or a good thing? You be the judge.

The views in this article are those of the author alone.
Read more Mark Mayhey articles on Tarkan >>

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