Does ridiculing celebrities help us or hurt us?

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON THE NING SITE ON FEBRUARY 11, 2010 (I’m moving old posts from that site, which is closing down, to my WordPress blog):

I was stepping into my morning shower when I caught a glimpse of my naked backside in a full length mirror on the door behind me. Shuddering with disgust, I couldn’t help noticing the cellulite and crease of skin that runs from my back to my breastline. I quickly stepped into the water and closed the curtain so I wouldn’t give my inner critic any more material, because it was revved up and ready to go already.

“Jesus, you’re gross,” it said. “Do you really expect Jeff to be attracted to you, looking like that?”

I told it to shut up and explained to it several things:

a) I’m in my forties (and so is Jeff, who looks it, too).

b) Even at my physical best, I cannot look like a centerfold. It just isn’t in my genetic makeup.

c) Realistically, I don’t want to look like a centerfold. I truly dislike being leered at.

d) I have legitimate health issues that block me from rigorous exercise and I do what I can (not that I’m arguing for my limitations, but I have yet to overcome these difficulties).

e) I don’t care enough, most of the time (until I see that view in the mirror or some exquisitely beautiful woman) to give deliberate, intentional focus to creating a buffed and ripped body, so the chances of my actually ever having one are slim and none.

f) I wrote a friggin’ book on this topic and ought to know better than to let my inner frat boy beat me up.

So once I shamed the inner critic into silence … after all, I wasn’t making excuses, I was cutting myself a legitimate break … I was allowed to think and my mind wandered. I recalled, a few days back, surfing the web and looking at pictures of celebrities on one of those gossip websites that prides itself on running unflattering photos of those who we, as a society, have put on pedestals. You know the kind of pics … you see them at the checkout counter on the tabloid covers … pictures of stars in bikinis with cellulite and back fat, or poor Kirstie Alley who NEVER catches a break with these people.

I understand why these pictures are popular … they help to smooth the sharp edge off of the unrealistic demand that we, the unwashed masses, somehow diet, sculpt and exercise our ways into looking like people who make a career out of looking amazing with surgery, personal trainers and rigid diets. In fact, recalling these pictures immediately after seeing my own fat ass, actually did help me to stop bashing myself. After all, if one of the rich, wealthy and worshiped looks like I do naked, then I guess I must look like a fairly normal human specimen and that’s okay.

So, yeah, I can dig it. There is a need for us to see the truth that lies beneath the phony Hollywood veneer. But do they have to be so mean? Do they have to sound like my inner critic?

I would love it if one of these sites were to run the exact same photos, but add kinder captions. I do want to see these pictures, because they shatter the illusion and, therefore, help with self-esteem issues. But instead of headlines that scream “Look at her fat aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaass!” I would prefer they say something like, “Hey, her ass looks just like mine!”

Hey, a girl can dream, can’t she?

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