Paris Hilton’s Culture Porn: “Nothing in this World”

What can be said about a rich heiress’s decadent music video concerning an adolescent boy’s pursuit of his crush? Much: that it is borderline pedophilic, that it encourages predatory sexual behavior, and presents an unrealistic portrayal of masculinity to young men. Moreover, we can add to this list a romanticisation of middle-class life which trivializes the Real in favor of a mythological appendices: that all that exists is the middle class and its morality, while everything else is secondary.

Let’s take a look at the video. Three minutes and fifty seconds long, the premise is that of our young, unnamed protagonist; evidently, this youngster is a ‘loser’ and confronts the audience with all the tropes one can expect of a Hollywood pander—he earns low grades on his schoolwork, he is bullied, and desires a girl which, according to the twisted logic of patriarchy, is far out of ‘his league.’ For the sake of speed, let’s ignore why none of these factors qualify anyone as being a ‘loser’, and instead move on to some signifiers.

Our protagonist lives in a house screaming privilege. Indeed, it is almost as if the creative direction behind this video scammed all the tropes of upper-middle-class life: front lawn, four bedroom abode, Mr. teen, obsessed with a celebrity to the point of covering his wall with pictures of her… check, to everything! During this scene, where our young friend wakes up, he looks at himself in the mirror, the camera centered squarely on him as he makes ‘goo goo ga-ga’ faces in the mirror, both of his hands resting firmly on his thighs; in a moment, Paris Hilton enters the scene, sliding along the teen’s bed in provocative poses while she gently caresses and whispers into the young man’s ears. It is a moment charged with sexual energy: from the boy to the adult, there is a distillation of sexuality left void. Clearly this is a masturbation moment, and yet, the director takes pains to avoid hinting at any such activity: the protagonist’s arms and hands are always in focus and no movement betrays the possibility of a misconstrued motion; because of this, the charged atmosphere of this masturbatory fantasy is drained some, and Paris’s actions as supposed figment take on an unreal aspect, nearly connoting a pedophilic instance. Lyrically, this is backed up by a plethora of evidence: “I can do what she can do, so much better… nothing in this world can stop us tonight… I’m going to make you feel all right.” These lines are the most heavily repeated throughout the song and at different moment connote different concepts: from the pseudo-masturbation moment in the beginning to the later video aspects of the protagonist ‘peeping’ on a woman, justifying such behavior with said woman happily glancing in his direction, clearly absolving him of any blame and signaling to the viewer that such behavior is natural and should be conducted by all such male-identified teens. Graphically, this is backed-up by many signs—the one, in particular, worth noting, though, is the turning point near the half-way point of the video where after the protagonist’s dream woman moves in, and mentions “cute dog,” everything turns around for the protagonist. Indeed, by the end of the music video, our protagonist seems to have switched everything around: the bully becomes the bullied AND our young star ‘gets’ the hot girl (and acquired an expensive car?). How… but more to the point, why?

Hilton’s video is a classic example of cultural porn: like traditional porn, it scapegoats people (youth, in this case, instead of women) while glorifying the non-existent (that imaginary ‘middle-class’ which only exists in the minds of bourgeois apologists). This video dwells in a realm abstracted from the contradictions of contemporary capitalism (though such matters do sneak in, in however limited a form). After the point in the video where the male youth meets his idol, the film’s narrative switches: why? Well, it is because the object which attracts his gaze is a middle-class bourgeois much like the protagonist. One could make connections that she is likely just as much as a “loser” as the male lead (if only the other side was shown). We see that the male lead dresses his animal companion in clothes, perhaps the ultimate in sub-cultural idiocy, only to then immediately realize that his idol does the same—both are two sides of the same coin; hence, to the patriarchal mind, everything from this point becomes justified:  the peeping, the turn-around… all is part of the class and social alphabet which exists inherently within those minds detached from a materialist imagination.

The video is simply offense, it is a walking cliche. ‘Nothing in this World’ is an apt title since very few people in this world have access to the kind of luxury which Hilton is so wantonly depicting. What this video ignores is epidemic in much of the texts from our era, i.e., a conceptualization of deeper drives and impulses to human behavior and sociality. Although Hilton, obviously, partakes in such day-dreaming due to her class position, the reality is unmistakable: it is a false reality, one which can only be experienced by those who have spent a miniature eternity exploiting the labor of others.

Watch the video here

 

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