For two weeks Olympic reality has pushed aside TV reality. Instead of debauchery, drunken binges, and aimless lives, we’ve had hard work, uplifting stories, and fierce competition — not to mention an awful lot of very buff bodies. The athletes in London seem far different from the kind of people the media normally celebrate. Yet is the line between the two really that distinct?
Recent years have seen a qualitative change in popular culture. In the past, celebrity was mostly reserved for those who achieved great things. Today, with the help of reality TV, we produce more and more folks who are famous for being famous; the accomplishments of the Paris Hiltons and Kardashians of the world are mediocre, if not inconsequential. Then too, even those who actually do have talent seem better known for the tawdry: Lindsay Lohan and her addictions; Charlie Sheen and his public breakdowns; Rihanna and her complicity in physical abuse.