Being Catty: The Right Reasons

Nobody takes action for no reason. The reason might be awful, but it’s still a reason (“I’m mugging you because I want your money”). Or it might be unconscious (“I can’t explain why I’m yelling!”) but it’s there. So when the reason for a person’s actions aren’t immediately apparent, we take note, and if the behavior is disconnected enough from obvious logic (“uh, you’re sniffing the picture frames?”) we start to back…very…slowly…away.

After last night’s Bachelorette, I’m wondering about motives. What makes a person really, really want to be on TV? What makes a person truly desperate to be known, and followed, and talked about? And yes, I recognize the irony of my question—I’m a writer, and the uncomfortable reality is that I thus depend on an audience. But that’s for my work product, not me. Celebrity allows people to talk about you, personally, as an object, a borderline fictional character. To judge and criticize you and presume to know you. As I’m doing here, because these people put themselves on TV. Who wants that? And yet when so many people crave it, understanding the motive seems like a puzzle worth spending time on.

Enter Lucas. (Sorry the picture is blurry, but he’s in constant motion.)

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Or, as you can see from the byline, the creative force behind “Whaboom.” He argues that the proper spelling is critical. Three a’s, four o’s, or else it just doesn’t come out right. Whaaaboooom.

Lucas is this season’s Bachelorette Fool. He insists his motives are sincere (he’s there “for the right reasons”), but this isn’t my first Bachelor/ette rodeo: Lucas wants to be on TV. Lucas wants to be a celebrity. Lucas wants people to know who he is, and being on the Bachelorette is his best shot because Lucas, you see, lacks any particular talent that would make people stop and take notice of him on his own merits. He does not play an instrument, throw a ball, act, create, motivate, advise, govern, or excel in any way whatsoever. If he did, you can be damn sure he’d say so. No, what he does instead is take a deep breath, close his eyes, tip forward from the mid-back in a vomit-y sort of posture, and yell “Whaaaboooom!” (three a’s, four o’s) while wobbling his head from side to side with his cheek muscles slack so that they facilitate a vibration echo rather like tires on grooved pavement.

Here he is, at the conclusion of a competition he just won, seeking congratulations (attention) from Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis, the actual celebrities hosting the event (you’ll want your volume up; I’m low-tech on my recording): ​

​It looks ridiculous. It’s weird. It’s the sort of thing only somebody at a lampshade-on-your-head level of drunk would do. It should be embarrassing. But no. It’s his Thing. He showed up on opening night wearing a t-shirt with “Whaboom” printed on it. (I didn’t know enough to check the spelling at that point.) He got all intense this week talking about how meaningful it is.

Meaningful FOR WHAT?!? If it’s a product, what does it do? If it’s supposed to be a motivational tag, it motivates how, to do what? Is it a mantra that, properly executed, will elevate one to a previously unachieved level of enlightenment?

Nope, nope, nope. It’s just, in the absence of actual talent, the only tag he could think of to hang on himself so that he could have a brand, so that he could be memorable enough to achieve celebrity. On the Bachelorette, he will have millions of eyes on him every week as he makes himself ridiculous. And that’s not just me being judgy–the guys around him (and the girl) are giving off CLEAR SOCIAL CUES that his behavior is not being well received (see banner image) and he’s doing it anyway.

This is excruciating desperation. And I want to dope-slap the producers for enabling it. For celebrating it, even. The show would be more enjoyable without it. Putting fools on pedestals only normalizes us to the terrible idea that they belong there.

Then this week we also had DeMario, who was confronted by a woman who claimed to be his barely-ex-girlfriend. You know, the one who saw him on live TV being introduced to Rachel as an eligible bachelor two days after he inexplicably stopped returning her calls.

Oops.

So…wait. Dare we guess that he might…WANT TO BE ON TV? I mean, it’s quite clear that the girlfriend wanted to be on TV as well. Rather than just inform producers or Rachel by phone or email, she appeared on the show and went full Maury Povich with her accusations (“Oh yeah? When YOU were just in my BED?!?”), but DeMario did his part and made a priceless fool of himself as he fumbled through the encounter. It started with his double-take when he saw her:

​And then proceeded from “Oooo–who’s this” to “I met her many many times ago—a long time ago” to “we had something” to “when I came to your house” to “we were on again off again” to “I mailed the keys to your apartment to you.”

Yeah, he wanted to be on TV, and wanted it bad enough to just jump in, so delirious over the prospect of being on TV that he didn’t even bother to create a decent cover story to explain the embarrassing maelstrom that would inevitably follow him. I say “inevitably” because he knew this attention-seeking woman, and he knew (or should have known) what kind of red meat this show feeds on, so…duh.

So…WHY? What is this consuming hunger for attention? for notice? for applause and column inches? One thing for damn sure is that it’s about self. The desire for celebrity for its own sake is competitive. It sees attention as a finite resource, and requires that attention-seekers have more attention than anyone else around. If anybody else is getting attention that should be flowing their way, they’re losing. They’re less.

It must be awful, that need. I mean, every minute, every second you’re at risk of somebody stealing your oxygen. And now that I think about it, maybe I can understand the need if I think of it that way—like a need for oxygen. Because if the need is that bad then I can start to see how a person would take terrible risks to get it, and step on the head of anybody who gets in the way. I can see how real human connection and empathy and altruism, with the requirement for shared breathing, would get crushed by the fear that anyone might take oxygen you need.

Sure, attention-seekers can be fun at parties because they’re doing amusing, shocking, pandering things to (duh) attract your attention. But stay away. They’re just not safe to be around. If in doubt, keep in mind how they communicate:

  1. “Whaaaboooom!”
  2. “Oooo—who’s this?”

Yeah, nobody needs that. And the sooner they stop getting attention for it, the better off we’ll all be.

One thought on “Being Catty: The Right Reasons

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