First, I could not, under pain of death, pick Katie Holmes out of a lineup or name one movie she graces, if any. Death would actually be preferable given the choice. I think I know she was on some teevee teen epic. The last teens I watched on teevee were on Dance Party USA, and that was mostly to laugh at the, uh, unusual camera angles. At least while my wife was in the room.
Like most Americans I could pick Tom Cruise out of a lineup, like I'd pick link off a sweater, and like most Americans I think that's where he belongs. In a lineup, I mean, not on my sweater. My knowledge of Mr. Cruise comes entirely against my will and without having ever spent a red cent on anything remotely connected with him. I watched Risky Business on teevee once, where, now that I think of it, he gave a convincing performance as a piece of lint, and I saw a few minutes of Mission Impossible, only because I happened to tune in during the thrilling train sequence, and by "thrilling", of course, I mean "the most offensive insult to the laws of physics and the intelligence of the average nine-year-old ever."
Anyway, Pepper brought up America's Favorite Train Wreck du Jour (that's two segues in a month!), and after I got over the remarkable resemblance to the public love fest of Lou Dobbs and Judy Miller (same denial of reality approaching the cosmic, same front-page fascination with people who'd be dropped down a mine shaft if we got to vote on it) I got to wondering if there was some deeper meaning in this. For one thing, doesn't this seem like some Bizarro World version of the Missing Blonde White Girl? We've had a near permanent vigil going on for the past two years or more, and now it's happening right before our eyes and yet there apparently are enough Americans playing along to rate the happy couple a front-page blurb on my morning paper. And now some form of impregnation has reportedly taken place, without the benefit of clergy as they used to say before that acquired a very different meaning. Arnuld wants to prevent same-sex partners from marrying, and he wants to lock up the self-same paparazzi he'd be preening in front of if he needed 50 bucks worth of publicity, but this young woman, this celebrity, fer chrissakes, gets treated like an Arkansas teenager abducted by aliens, and nobody does a flippin' thing about it.
We've had it, is all. And any time I think about that I think about Ronald Reagan. I think about the way Tom Lehrer sings, "Ronald Reagan??????" in the intro to his song about George Murphy, where you actually do hear the six question marks in his voice. I think about the joke that went around in '67 when he was running for Governor: "Jimmy Stewart for Governor. Ronald Reagan for his Best Friend." I think about the late-70s Steve Martin special that ran one summer in the Saturday Night Live slot, where a black screen came up, and then the words "President Ronald Reagan." Comic pause, and then the words, in subscript, "Think about it."
There was an opportunity. It was known to the headline writers as "Iran Contra". That was the time the narrator was supposed to come in and say, "All right, America. Lights up. Show's over. Hope you enjoyed your little fantasy." But it didn't happen. We went on ignoring anything unpleasant, and the Right was able to go on pretending a perpetual crusade to repeal the Sixties equalled progress, and the religious nuts got to go on pretending that they believed their own crapola in an effort to force everyone else to pretend to believe it too. And instead of real news we got celebrity news, on the grounds it was "safe" and wouldn't rile anybody up too much. And look at what celebrity news is now. Worse than the bad news we were avoiding in the first place.