Letter to the editor

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

As an advocate for all things gossip, I was offended by Amanda Cole’s March 3 article “Britney Spears isn’t real news” — not because I think that Spears’ lapses and recoveries should be splattered across the front page of the news, but because the article was an attack on popular culture and on our society’s habits of news consumption.

“People should expect to see real news, not pop culture news,” Cole writes. This statement implies that popular culture isn’t real news or worthy of printing. Writing that article was a testament to the realness of popular culture as news, as Cole felt the need to respond to the fact that Spears is making headlines. If popular culture wasn’t important, why would Cole write a whole article defaming it in a campus newspaper? And who is Cole to say that Angelina Jolie — a pop culture icon, by the way — is worthy of real news because of her charitable efforts? “A celebrity’s work is only important and worth reporting on if it relates to another important issue,” Cole says. Are divorce, alcoholism, and mental instability not important issues? Maybe people want to read about Spears’ and Lindsay Lohan’s life fumbles because it humanizes these celebrities. Their mistakes make them more like us, and so we don’t feel so bad about our lives when we know that other people are going through the same things.

Not everyone can afford to adopt bunches of babies from different countries and give out lots of money; Jolie gets paid $10 million for a movie, and I get paid $9 an hour for a graveyard shift at the Morewood desk. And has Cole forgotten the days of Jolie being splattered across gossip magazines with Jennifer Aniston? Was she so newsworthy when magazine covers claimed that she unjustly stole Brad Pitt from Aniston?

We are popular culture. Anti-popular culture movements are a part of popular culture. Cole’s article is now ingrained forever on the Internet — which is a means of exposing popular culture. If people want to know what happened when Lohan went to Les Deux last night, relapsing on the promises she made in Alcoholics Anonymous mere hours before, so be it. If someone wants a side of the latest Spears news with their daily presidential race update, so be it. Should popular culture be on the front cover of The New York Times? No. But is that news important? Yes; because popular culture is important, and denying the significance or seriousness of popular culture is shameful. Centuries from now, people will study the popular culture of our time and its significance on the generations that followed. So does Cole mean to demean something that is and will be so integral to so many lives?

Just because an article isn’t about politics or war or international tragedy doesn’t mean it’s not serious. I’ve written plenty of Forum articles criticizing popular culture and bizarre examples that pop icons set for society — and I mean the things I say. I take popular culture seriously and I want Cole to as well. Maybe she didn’t mean to harshly criticize the effects of popular culture on what she refers to as “real” news sources, but she did. And as Pillbox Editor, she must realize that some articles in her own section of the paper — like those on fashion and music — are serious and thoughtful reflections of popular culture. And sometimes, they’re featured on the cover page. Popular culture isn’t something to be shuffled into a back corner.

Rachael Clemmons
H&SS 2009