Let me start with a personal confession. I love sports, college and pros. I love almost all kinds of jazz and popular music. I love old movies, and a few modern ones, and while I'm not a fan of most mainstream television, I love series mini-series from BBC and now the "binge" television era in cable land.
So I am a media-savvy guy, in some ways -- but not others. They key: I have absolutely zero understand of "celebrity culture" at the level of entertainment-news shows, the morning talk shows on major networks, the grocery store tabloids, etc. In other words, I don't know anything about anyone whose last name is or has ever been "Kardashian."
You get the picture?
So with that in mind, let me ask the following question -- which is directly linked to this week's "Crossroads" podcast about recent media storms, large and medium-sized in this case, about the Duggars and Tim Tebow. Click here to tune that in.
My question: In terms of actual talent and importance in American culture at this moment in time, name the hottest, the most significant, "celebrity" powerhouse brand out of the following three options (hyperlinks are to recent GetReligion posts):
(2) Tim Tebow.
(3) Stephen Curry.
Ah, you say, but Curry is not a "Christian" celebrity. Curry is the hottest basketball player on the planet. He is a real superstar, not an infamous "celebrity" -- a media-driven joke, even -- because of some element of this Christian faith and belief, as portrayed in the mass media.
In Curry's case, major media can still write about his life and ignore his faith altogether. See this recent ESPN, Grantland.com piece for a perfect example. Note the sweeping nature of the headline:
The Rise and Rise (and Rise) of Stephen Curry:
The Wildly Miraculous and Quietly Inevitable Success of Golden State’s Point Guard
Search this piece for the word "Christian," and you get references to the schools he attended. Search it for "faith" and you get a reference to faith linked to sports itself. Do we even need to discuss searches for "Jesus" or "God"?
Needless to say, things are a bit different in this Baptist press piece.
When I was covering religion full-time in Charlotte and Denver, I talked to other religion reporters about a phenomenon that is similar to this -- which is the story that, even if it is soaked in religious content, is simply too big, too hot, to important to be a religion-beat story. It had to be covered by "real" reporters. The facts didn't matter. You see this when religion overlaps with politics, all the time.
Well, Curry is too important, too excellent, to be a "Christian" celebrity. He is the real deal. He prays, quotes scriptures, writes biblical hooks on his shoes and this is not "Currying" to the degree that Tebow kneeling is "Tebowing." Unless something happens -- perhaps a Curry statement on an issue linked to sexuality -- he is the real deal. He is not a joke.
Now, the Duggars were a joke, except when their non-mainstream -- even for evangelicals, which is significant -- family life and beliefs were easily portrayed as threatening to the mainstream. Now, there is legitimate news linked to moral issues and their family. In this podcast discussion, I actually ask for more coverage -- not less -- of some very real and serious issues linked to the Duggars case. What I don't understand is the celebrity news approach to their story.
I do suspect that this story would not be receiving the same level of attention, especially of the acidic kind, if they were not figures on the far Christian right. That gets you the following (after the inevitable Sarah Palin intervention linked to Lena Dunham):
Actress Lena Dunham has openly admitted to experimenting sexually with her little sister, who was a toddler at the time.
Lena Dunham has appeared in commercials for Democrat candidates. Some of the same folks who want Josh Duggar left alone are claiming that Lena Dunham was given “a pass” by the Left, while Josh Duggar is being tarred and feathered, with his whole family in tow.
Others are calling bulls**t on that argument.
Montel Williams came out firing against Josh Duggar. Some accused him of a double standard regarding Lena Dunham. He responded with this logic.
“was Lena preaching hate toward a class of people? What she did is wrong -- not a hypocrite tho”
In other words, the Duggars are "Christian" celebrities -- or perhaps red-zip code, flyover country, niche cable celebrities -- as opposed to mainstream celebrities. A veteran religion-beat journalist offered this take to me via email, concerning the Dunham coverage or lack thereof, in comparison to Duggars:
(1) Her parents were soldiers in the Sexual Revolution
(2) Her sister is a lesbian and has expressed no regrets about what Lena did to her
(3) Her sister was awake
(4) The family lived on the Upper East Side
(5) She has her own series on HBO
(6) She appears nude in her own series on HBO
(7) She has written for The New Yorker
(8) Her work has been defended by David Remnick as editor of The New Yorker
(9) Because of Items 5-8, she is a public intellectual
(10) She is a Democrat
(11) She is fiercely pro-choice
(12) She records Public Service Announcements urging her fans to vote for pro-choice Democrats
(13) Because of Items 10-12, she is neither a redneck nor a Republican
Because the Duggars are perceived as both redneck and Republican, the left would hold them in contempt even if they had reported their son’s behavior within minutes after learning of it. Republicans, as Theocrats, believe only in non-pleasurable sex, solely for the purposes of impregnation and the oppression of women (cf. The Handmaid’s Tale)
So there. Then again, I have never watched a minute of Dunham on HBO. I have never watched an episode of the Duggars. I will admit that I have cheered for Tebow, in college and the pros. I think he is a remarkably graceful young man, including his ESPN work. His throwing motion? I think that is a work in progress that might evolve faster without 100 reporters and camera crews on the sideline, even in minor practices.
In other words, can someone explain what happens to "news" when the "celebrity" card comes into play? I mean, other than that (1) need for higher rates, (2) need to sell newspapers and (c) need to get people to click their mouses and send stuff into social media. I get that part.