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Has celebrity gossip jumped the shark?

Has celebrity gossip jumped the shark? (photo)

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The tragic death of Amy Winehouse coming fast upon the sudden disintegration of the News of the World begs the question: Has celebrity gossip jumped the shark? The brief life of Amy Winehouse was — and this is why I bring this up — near the end, a moveable feast for the tabloids. The fact that her private demons were aired in public for all the world to gawk at probably didn’t help her addiction. And when she died, like she lived, the tabloids were there to chronicle the final seedy detail: the removal of the body bag. Charmed, I’m sure.

There is something vaguely seedy about the whole enterprise of celebrity gossip, of paparazzi and of private investigators and their intrusive camera lenses. Do the rich have better sex than war do? And yet there is such a felt need for its welcome distraction, of knowing what and who the stars — “reality” and movie varieties — do behind closed doors, between the high thread count sheets.

And what of us, its consumers – aren’t we all somewhat addicted to this sordid thing? TMZ, Gawker, PerezHilton — before he went “nice” — take your pick. A little bit of gossip is not unlike a sorbet, a light palette cleanser to one’s daily information diet. It has little nutritive value, but in small amounts is quite harmless, even psychologically refreshing. After following the debt crisis and our foreign wars to exhaustion, something light and sweet is necessary for continued sanity. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who among us isn’t fascinated by the creepy behind-the-scenes goings on at the Playboy mansion? Just so long as we get back, at some point, to the important stuff, like paying our country’s bills.

The sordid truth however is that gossip in our society is a lot more than a palette cleanser. It is rapidly becoming the whole damn meal. And it is a meal wholly lacking intellectual vitamins and minerals. It is without moderation a meal that leads to a morbid obesity. Do we really need, for example, to see pictures of Michael Jackson’s corpse? Los Angeles Deputy Coroner Ed Winter’s office was actually offered $2 million for a peek. That is, ironically, one million dollars more than Jackson’s own offer to purchase the elephant man’s remains. Man in the mirror, indeed.

As media organizations cut back on foreign bureaus at a time when international news is most important – think: Arab Spring – celebrity gossip is a $3 billion a year industry and rising. Further, what can only be construed as the greasy methods are being used to get the scoops that fuel the industry. That grease is at present all over Piers Morgan.

Those greasy methodologies on parade at the News of the World parliamentary inquiry recently are not just isolated incidents from across the pond. “In the past few years, a federal Department of Justice team in Los Angeles has conducted a wide-ranging investigation into illegal leaks of celebrity health records and other confidential files, according to officials involved,” wrote Jim Rutenberg in the New York Times in May. And ABC recently admitted to paying more than $200,000 to the family of murder suspect Casey Anthony for home videos and pictures, a source of shame for many in the news division. The felt need for gossip is a powerful financial incentive; the actual association with celebrity gossip is expensive to one’s integrity.

A greasy feast, gossip. It just may or may not have reached a cultural saturation point, may or may not have jumped the shark. But as they say about Lay’s greasy potato chips: no one can eat just one.

What are your own thoughts on celebrity gossip? Do you still love a juicy story? Let us know below or on Twitter or Facebook.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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