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Someone is Wrong on the Internet: Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams

January 26, 2010

Ed. Note: In this column, we put aside our deep reservations against becoming argumentative blogging blowhards and answer the deep moral obligation to call shenanigans when some other blogging blowhard is spouting substantial amounts of BS.

When thinking about pop culture in the last few days, I’ve had considerable trouble getting Heidi Montag, and what she has come to represent, out of my mind. And I’m obviously not the only one. After Montag’s plastic surgery revelations last week, there’s been a metric ass-ton of articles and TV spots about her multiple “enhancements.” My highly scientific method of doing a “heidi montag plastic surgery” Google News search yields more than 1,000 results, including the Plastic Surgery Channel’s article, which was no doubt written by an alarmingly photogenic reporter.

One common theme I’ve noticed in quite a bit of coverage is the elevation of Miss Montag beyond individual status to become a sort of avatar for basically everything that’s wrong with American culture. OK, fair enough. Hell, we’ve done some of that here at TBTS, with one significant difference being that our jokes are funny.

But there’s something else going on in a number of accounts—something more nefariously elitist and hypocritical. I’d sum up this common thread as, “Sure, Heidi Montag is vapid and talentless, but all you idiots who demonstrate interest in her story are sad, lonely, maladjusted rubes who sneer at her because you hate yourselves.”

Just as Heidi Montag has been made into a symbol because she’s arguably the worst offender among her shallow ilk, I’m going to highlight one article and one writer as possibly the best/worst example of this nasty tone: last Friday’s article by Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams.

Between Heidi and all consumers of information about her, I’m not sure for whom Williams expresses the most disdain. The writer pays lip service to the idea that Montag is a monster that “we” (meaning herself included) have created because “we” need a shamelessly stupid celebrity “other” to view as beneath us. But then Williams reveals her true feelings about who’s to blame, first when she addresses “humanity” in the second person and then when she unleashes this little nugget:

Because as long as there are people who measure their own self-regard in relation to their disdain for others, Heidi Montag will never be out of work.  And there’s something awful enough about watching an enviably pretty young woman surgically transform into a matronly Barbie doll without piling on. That’s why I can’t be bothered hating her.

See what Williams did there? She’s just spent hundreds of words saying that “we” have made Heidi famous based on some collective, deep-seated need to assuage personal insecurities at the expense of a dehumanized, far-removed object. But then she says that she can’t be bothered with all that hatin,’ which takes her right out of that supposedly all-inclusive circle of shame she has just drawn. “Hate on, you ugly haters, but I’m better than all that.”

Hypocritically, this rather repulsive trick immediately follows long, flowing streams of (well-constructed) prose in which Williams puts even the snarkiest of Montag’s critics to shame. Check out this harangue about Montag’s Good Morning America appearance:

In a grand gesture of stating the obvious, she confessed that the reason she put herself through enough work to look like she’d gone through a car window was that she’s “beyond obsessed” with self-improvement. Then, just in case that didn’t get our attention, the sculpted,  pneumatically hootered blonde appeared on “Good Morning America” to tell us, in her Tin-Man-before-the oil-can-stiff-faced way, that “My main message is that ‘beauty is really within.'”

Zing!! Williams will later say that Heidi’s an unfair target, but for now…zing!

So, let’s be clear about Williams’ essential message: Heidi Montag sucks because, well, she’s Heidi Montag. The “celebrity cottage industry” sucks because it is Montag’s enabler in her addiction to the plastic surgery needle and the fame-age done (apologies to Neil Young).

[Side note: I’m now lobbying for Heidi to open for Neil Young on his next tour. Neil can dedicate “Keep On Suckin’ in the Free World” to Spencer Pratt every night.]

But most of all, Mary Elizabeth Williams is saying that YOU suck. Because your understanding of the machinations of culture purveyors is not as nuanced as hers. Because your sense of self is not as independently robust as hers. Because your life is desolate compared to hers.

After she wrote her insulting piece, Mary Elizabeth Williams probably went off to read a complicated book for pleasure or something similarly refined. But you wouldn’t know anything about that. Go get your remote, dullard—you’ve got emptiness to fill.

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3 Comments
  1. June 18, 2014 7:42 pm

    Lol, I found this post because I had the unpleasant experience of seeing MEW’s idiotic piece today about how the media should stop mentioning kendall’s hipbones, hipbones. Same hypocrisy as in this column, only made infinitely more upleasant by MEW’s inept effort to disguise it as -GAG- light and humorous. Summary: MEW is very, very enthralled with Kendall’s hipbones, hipbones, and also, shame on the media for noticing Kendall’s hipbones, hipbones! Also, miley’s clavicle and footbones and Kate’s spinebone. MEW is QUITE preoccupied with these ladies’ bodies- er, “body image”, y’know. Cuz she’s “fighting TO THE DEATH for feminism”, according to her idiotic bio. Oxford must be so ashamed.

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