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Idol Chatter

One of the most interesting–albeit meaningless–awards of the year comes from CNN Headline News’ “Showbiz Tonight,” which names its “Most Controversial Celebrity” of the year. For 2006, Britney Spears won out over the likes of Mel Gibson, Michael Richards, Tom Cruise, Anna Nicole Smith, Naomi Campbell, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Madonna, and Star Jones.

I say it’s interesting because it says something about how truly un-interesting celebrity news has become these days. I think someone should have to accomplish something truly amazing to even be considered as a “star,” and then have to do something really controversial to be considered for such a list. Given that, I’d eliminate Britney, as well as almost everyone else on the list. What has Paris Hilton actually done to make her a “star.” For that matter, what about Lindsay Lohan or Anna Nicole Smith? Sometimes the whole Hollywood thing reminds me of a junior high, full of a few people who trying to be popular, a few others who get them to believe it, a few who are envious, and the largest part of the crowd hiding in the safety of anonymity with something to talk about.

Of course, this prestigious award is not merely selected at random. CNN employs four primary criteria:

1) Does the mention of their very name spark a visceral reaction?

2) Which celebrity provoked the most continuous shock and outrage from their antics over the course of the entire year?

3) Which celebrity generated the most continued interest through the year?

4) Did their actions leave any lasting impact?

I think the real stars are people who step up and step forward. The real controversial ones are those who assume leadership roles, and do it in ways that others either don’t agree with, don’t respect, or don’t even notice.

Mel Gibson made a wonderful impact upon the world with his depiction of Christ’s passion, and the comments he made during an arrest were as disrespectful as they were embarrassing and career-threatening. After that, the list falls apart, in my book. These stars’ names don’t spark a visceral reaction–despite what you’d think from watching or reading the media that tries to make stories out of who they are and what they do, just for the purpose of, well, having something to talk about in the gobs of TV time and printed column space given over to celebrity “news.”

For all the time young people buy magazines, read papers, watch shows, listen to podcasts, read blogs, etc., I wish someone could succeed at engaging them in something truly controversial and relevant–like how to feed the under-resourced people of our world, starting in our own communities. Or how about how to use technological advances to contribute to the future rather than just watching it, listening to it, or reading about it? Or how about how to pick part of the world that is not us (any nation in Africa or Asia or Latin America) and engage young minds and hearts with the question of how best to help?

Whether they succeeded or failed, those who tried would make two of my lists: not only the Most Controversial, but the Most Inspirational as well.

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