The past two years has seen the media landscape undergo significant developments. New technology, such as the Internet, has fuelled the emergence of new media forms and schisms within the media industry. Mario Armando Lavandeira’s Hollywood celebrity gossip website, PerezHilton.com, exploits a new brand of journalism – blogging. There are innumerable media theories which could be used to analyse such a specific example of the media. This essay will explore Mass Culture Critique and its critical relation to PerezHilton.com by investigating mass communication concepts such as hegemony, aesthetic levels, economic motivation, and passive consumers.
Mass society theory emerged in the late nineteenth century when the invention of the printing press threatened political and traditional social institutions. The elitists believed that urban, industrial society created a market of narcotizing, diversional material of the mass media by atomising the individual and leaving “him” physically void (Bauer 1960). Non-traditional, non-elite, mass produced, popular, commercial and homogenised, mass culture was denigrated by the Frankfurt School, a group of scholars who combined Marxist critical theory with hermeneutics (Baran and Davis 2003). The mass media was seen as “inane in content, banal in style, muddy in reasoning, mawkish in sentiment, vulgar, näive, and offensive to men of learning or refinement” (Rosten 1960). Rosten (1960) remarks on the incriminating clichés intellectuals used to characterise mass media:
“The mass media lack originality.” This statement assumes that originality is common in every other human endeavour such as science, philosophy or art. The works of artists, authors and creators are subject to their maker’s cultural experiences, ideology and familiar routines. Traditionally, mass media was restricted by built-in limitations of space/ time, talent, public votes and commitment to unalterable publication. Internet gossip column, PerezHilton.com, is not governed by these requirements. Lavandeira does not have a preset amount of space to fill or deadline to meet, nor does he worry about talent; most of the entries are his own and he does not censor posts from voluntary contributors of the public. Instead of relying on public votes to determine the website’s content, Lavendeira writes about every A-list celebrity, allowing the consumer to choose from a myriad of categories. PerezHilton.com is in constant update 17 to 18 hours a day; whenever a story breaks, Lavandeira is the first to report and endorse his self-proclaimed position as the “Queen of All Media”. Mass Media theorists fail to admit that mass media are at least honest about the lack of originality in content; endless inventiveness and variety are not possible in any field.
“The mass media do not use the best brains or freshest talents.” Elitists assumed that first-rate minds are imaginative and possess good judgement and communication skills by default. Infamous celebrity blogger, Lavandeira acquired popularity through his creative skills and non-standardised competences. “The mass media do not print or broadcast the best material that is submitted to them.” Here, the question arises on how to define the ambiguous term “best”. Every piece of information and material regarding a celebrity submitted to Lavandeira is posted onto his site regardless of its “news worthiness”.
“The mass media cannot afford to step on anyone’s toes.” PerezHilton.com prides itself on its defamatory criticism of celebrities. Lavandeira’s welcome message boastfully recognises this irony: “Welcome to PerezHilton.com - Hollywood's Most-Hated Web Site!” The mordant gossip queen also writes “If you are easily offended, then do not click here!” “The mass media do not give the public enough or adequate information about the serious problems of our time.” As a whole, the media offers the public more news, facts, information, and interpretations than ever before (Rosten 1960 )....
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