I miss the old tabloid headlines.
If you're a younger reader, you don't really recall this era in tabloid journalism, which pretty much faded out during the 1980s. Those were the years when you could go to the grocery store, and hanging right at eye-level, between the Snickers bars and the Archie Double Digests, you could see "ALIENS SAVED HITLER'S KIDNEYS!"
Or "CHER REVEALED TO BE KILLER ROBOT!"
Or "ELVIS RUBS ELBOWS WITH ELVES - SEE THE EVIDENCE!"
The mixture of celebrity, sensationalism, and outright fabrication was pioneered by papers like the National Enquirer. It spun off the even-more-insane Weekly World News, which introduced the world to the Bat Boy and aliens romancing Hilary Clinton.
But the Weekly World News stopped printing in 2007. The Enquirer left behind surrealism and switched to wall-to-wall coverage of celebrities. Now there's nary a Loch Ness Monster or demonic possession to be seen.
There are now a dozen or so tabloids and celebrity magazines, all with basically the same style of coverage, but slightly different levels of sleaziness.
But who do they cover? In many cases, allegedly famous people I've never heard of.
It took me six months of reading about the Kardashians before I went and looked up just what, exactly, a Kardashian is. I thought they were some kind of band for a while, then I thought it was possibly a cult dedicated to appearing in the tabloids to achieve salvation.
Actually, that theory might still be true. Reality show "stars" in general are baffling to me. Teen moms are now covered obsessively, as though they had done something to earn their fame other than A) skipping sex ed and B) being troubled and kind of whiny. Most of these stars people seem to come not from big network shows like Survivor or American Idol, but from offbeat shows that I've never heard of. I have basic cable, people. I've never seen Jon and Kate Plus Eight, but I've sure read a lot of screaming headlines about the couple's marriage.
Another big chunk of front cover gossip mag real estate is occupied by teen idols, the kind of insta-pop stars who are cloned in a hidden factory under Disneyland. The formula for one of these is Kids Show+Recording Contract=2.74 years of moderate fame.
Finally, there are still stories about real celebrities, stars of big action movies and comedies, singers who sell millions of albums.
Trust the tabloids to tell you when Jennifer Aniston might be pregnant! (2,297 times since 1997 by my count.) You can also learn every detail of Tom Cruise's marriage, or what Oprah's angsting about.
What you won't find is any information about what makes any of these people famous to begin with. It's an odd omission, this lack of data about, say, Tom Cruise's next film. Or his last film. Or any film he's ever made. If you went by the tabloids, you'd never know what he does for a living.
Celebrity magazines strip away the key element of what makes people famous in the first place, which is probably why they love reality show stars so much. Take away movie stars, and they'd still have plenty of fodder. Take away music, and they'd still have TV. Take that away, too, and things might get interesting.
I like to imagine such a world, in which the tabloids have resorted to creating dioramas using G.I. Joes and Barbie dolls, or sock puppets, and writing stories about their sudden pregnancies, cheating ways, and money troubles. Most people would never notice the difference.
Matthew Claxton is a reporter with the Langley Advance.