Kay Hymowitz takes on Paris Hilton, the slut everyone loves to hate in this fall’s City Journal. What’s interesting about Kay’s take on Paris is that, yes, she’s a vulgar, cheesy, under-educated, exhibitionist, decadent spendthrift who makes the empress Messalina look like Queen Victoria and is famous only because her granddad made it in the hotel business — but you know what? She’s not as dumb as she looks and acts. Kay writes:
“The only thing complicating this picture of dissipation is that Paris Hilton isn’t quite the airhead she plays on TV. She created her persona of Paris the Heiress with an instinct for America’s suspicion of the idle rich. Confession of an Heiress: A Tongue-in-Chic Peek Behind the Pose is the title of her best-selling book. It’s the title of a woman who is in on the joke.
“For example, in The Simple Life, her television series whose fifth season will air in 2007, she knowingly goofs on the immense gap between her life of privilege and the daily grind of ordinary folks. In the series’ first and best season, Paris, playing herself, moves in with a family in Arkansas, along with her similarly trust-funded friend Nicole Richie. The show is one long, self-conscious gag about the sloth and ignorance of the very rich. Paris and Nicole refuse to prepare the slaughtered chickens for dinner, because they don’t pluck anything ‘except eyebrows.’ Told to herd the cows to the barn, Nicole screams, ‘Move, motherf—ers, move!’
“In contrast to Paris and Nicole, the Arkansas folks are hardworking and decent. The couple with whom Paris and Nicole live warns the girls when they are leaving for their new job at a dairy farm that they are representing their own families, too, and their actions will reflect on them all, a hilariously underhanded jibe at Ma and Pa Hilton. Of course, the girls are destined to embarrass themselves and everyone connected to them. ‘I’m not sure exactly what it is that y’all are looking for in life,’ the farmer says later, after firing them for napping on the job, ‘but I hope you find it.’ The Simple Life may be simple, but it is not stupid. And neither is its star.”
So true. As Kay points out, Paris Hilton is a brilliant marketer of a product called Paris Hilton. Do you know that she charges you $100,000 a pop just for showing up for an hour at your nightclub? I say: go for it, Paris! Plus, she really is a vulgar, cheesy, under-educated, exhibitionist, decadent spendthrift — and the fact that we look down on her instead of up to her indicates that we still have some moral standards left. Kay writes:
“Paris Hilton may be a composite of contemporary American sins, but hating Paris Hilton is another thing entirely. It’s a sign of lingering cultural sanity.”