Just in case you don’t recognise that name, here’s another quote from The Guardian’s review of Perez Hilton: Superfan by Lucy Mangan – “Someone who has parlayed a site-full of penis-doodles over celebrity photos into a parasitical career hogging other people’s cameras and periodically outing celebrities he feels are letting down the gay cause with their insistence on a private life“.
Harsh, but fair.
Since starting a blog in 2004 because “it seemed easy“, Perez Hilton spent years building up a career (and a very healthy bank balance) by taking cheap shots at celebrities and their often underage children. On the subject of outing gay celebrities without their consent, he said, “I don’t think it’s a bad thing. If you know something to be a fact, why not report it? Why is that still taboo?”
Thankfully, there were many negative responses from journalists and professionals worried that Hilton’s behaviour would be taken as indicative of the attitude of the gay community.
“If his juvenile behavior is his shtick, I think it makes him a much more pathetic figure, and one the gay and lesbian community should not support…If we support behavior like Hilton’s, we applaud shallowness, arrogance, rage and invasion of privacy and risk becoming what we despise.” – Kim Ficera, contributing writer for AfterEllen.com
In October 2010 the self proclaimed ‘Queen Of All Media’ was interviewed by Ellen DeGeneres. He credited negative press which called out his past website posts as bullying for making him realise his mistakes. Criticism of his work came to a head after a number of teen suicides connected with gay-related bullying hit the headlines and he was condemned for popularising public humiliation of celebrities for their sexual orientation.
“From now on I really want to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
This apparent turn around has split both critics and fans in their opinion of the new and improved Perez Hilton. On the positive side, Hilton has seemingly been adopted by several mainstream celebrities as he distances himself from the humble, bitchy origins of his blog, tries his hand at a TV show and continues to fight for LGBT rights. On the negative side, many claim that he saw a chance to profit from the tragedy of the teen suicides last year to build his own name, garner attention for a website which does nothing more than regurgitate old news and find new or at least potentially objective attention while he desperately clings to the coat-tails of his famous “friends” to bring himself up in the world.
A video published on Hilton’s Youtube channel on 13th October 2010, the same day as the interview with Ellen, is his personal explanation of this change of heart. However, it comes across to many (including me, I’ll be honest) as remarkably self centred. He talks about the widespread teen suicides in relation to how it made him feel and lists the new websites he’s set up as though he’s about to launch into an advert. Toward the end of the video he asks that other “people like me, (who) may have been bullied in the past and may have subconsciously bullied others as a result of that” change their ways. It’s his almost surprised expression at this moment that bothers me most, as though his abused subconscious has been at work all these years without his knowledge or consent and it’s only now he’s realising that calling a 15 year old girl a “disney whore” on his website is potentially damaging.
The comments under the video offer a brutally honest look into the public reception:
- “Way to make the bullying related suicides all about you!”
- “You made MILLIONS of dollars making fun of others and now that you have MONEY you want to change…how about this…you will DONATE ALL THE MONEY you have made in the ALL the years you made fun of others…and DONATE it to a POSITIVE cause.”
- “Are you kidding me? take a look at your website dude. Maybe that’s the reason kids are like this.”
- “I believe in second chances, but it just so happens that superficial fame-whores don’t exactly fall into the category of forgiveness. he’s still mean at heart. he just saw this as an opportunity to make his name.”
- “This (the video) was in October, and now it’s February. You are hypocrate bully, I just went on you’re profile, and you are still the same.”
Dotted through the mostly negative comments, Hilton does appear to have some fans still on his side and routing for his moral transformation:
- “Before I saw this video I thought you were the most obnoxious over-rated celebrity in the world that I wanted to pummel. But I am very proud of your decision to stop being a bully in respect for your anti-bullying movement.”
- “I love your message, and I want to support your change to a better person.”
- “If I could like this video 1 million times I would. I really believe Perez will change, and I am so glad.”
One comment wasn’t initially shown on the site due to too many negative votes by viewers:
- “Perez hilton, shut the fuck up because you know you AWESOME (:”
There are a lot more stories on the internet about Hilton (I really do mean a lot, this post doesn’t even mention his recent foray into children’s literature, his original website branching out into fitness, fashion & coverage of celebrity children, getting punched by a Black Eyed Peas security guard for using a gay slur at will.i.am “to get a reaction”, the disparities in spotlighting the flaws of those he hates and ignoring the errors of those he likes, and the many, many times he’s been sued).
I’ll leave it to your discretion to decide how deep you want to dig and how much you want to believe. Much like Hilton’s earlier journalistic endeavors (and, some would argue, his recent work too) a lot of what has been published uses only a small grain of truth as a starting point. However, it’s been over a year since Hilton’s about turn and his website still uses his ‘5 year old scribbling on the family album’ approach as a distinct calling card in what has now become the big money business of passing opinions on celebrities.
For me, Helen A S Popkin sums it up pretty succinctly in her article OMG Perez Hilton! Won’t You Please Shut Up? for msnbc.com:
“You wouldn’t invite LOL Cats to speak on animal cruelty. So please, stop presenting Perez Hilton as an accredited, universally accepted spokesperson of a generation, rather than the Internet meme that refuses to die.”