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Daily Buzzkills: The new rules of attention whoring (or how we learned to stop caring about Mischa Barton)

During those halcyon days of 2007 or so, when photos of Lindsay Lohan brazenly snoring at gas stations and videos of a bald Britney Spears engaging in fencing matches with SUVs flowed from the Internet teat like honeyed milk, celebrity meltdowns were the manna that sustained us as we trudged across this arid news desert. We grew fat and bloated on every upskirt flash of starlet vagina; we gurgled contentedly on the salty tears of every actress who couldn’t even get arrested with cocaine in her pants without everybody making a federal case out of it. Yes, those were salad days—insane salad days, filled with, like, crazy cucumbers and ill-advised-soundbite-sprouts. Or something. The point is, the easiest way for a female star to get ridiculously, irritatingly famous—short of actually doing something worthwhile, that is—was to fuck up, enormously and repeatedly. It was a good system, and it worked.

But somewhere along the way—blame it on fatigue, blame it on Michael Jackson, blame it on the great creative strides made of late by both Lohan and Spears, whose temporary setbacks can now be excused, not unlike Van Gogh or Paul Verlaine, as the necessary madness of the artist—that magical system broke down. These days, breathlessly rehashing the “celebrity meltdown” has fallen so far out of favor, Mischa Barton can’t even land one stinking magazine cover that backhandedly worries aloud about her going nuts. Oh, sure: The blogs and lesser tabloids have been all too happy to fill the margins with the story of Barton’s being placed under involuntary psychiatric hold, but where is the love from the celebrity weeklies? Where is the “Mischa’s Darkest Days” cover story in People? Where is the “Inside Mischa Barton’s Private Hell” profile in US Weekly?

Weep for Mischa Barton, and apparently you weep alone: Today’s Page Six quotes a “high-level magazine editor” as saying that her desperate publicists have been rattling the dinner bell for a full-on feeding frenzy for weeks now, but still nobody’s bellying up to the celebrity scandal chuckwagon. Now Barton’s representatives are reportedly getting flustered that no one seems to care enough that their client—who has a new show coming out and everything! On The CW! It’s a network!—is going through this deeply personal time, and what’s worse, no one seems anxious to write a bunch of exploitative shit about it. Seriously, what do her publicists have to do to ensure that she gets all the unwanted negative attention that’s coming to her? Would it help if she tried hanging herself with one of her own custom designer headbands? Is there some way she could die by choking on Megan Fox? Would that be good enough for you lousy stinking vultures to come get a piece already?

Perhaps Team Barton should take a lesson from the new generation of attention whores: In 2009, it’s not enough to be a pretty, pretty princess who does self-destructive things; after all, the suburbs are full of upper-class girls ramming their fingers down their throat and making shallow cuts in their forearms all the way to Daddy’s love bank. The tortured look is so out, you know—what we’re really into now is rewarding people who fall ass-backwards into fame, and then spend most of their time wondering how they ever got so unlucky.

Take, for example, the book deal recently handed on a silver platter to lingerie model turned disgraced Miss California turned babbling, indignant mouthpiece for “opposite marriage,” Carrie Prejean. Jesus’ personal semi-nude warrior just signed a contract with “ultraconservative” publishing house Regnery to write the forthcoming Still Standing—because after enduring the constant scrutiny she herself invited by haughtily broadcasting her every waking move to the press, not to mention deliberately casting herself as an eager participant in one of the most controversial debates of the 21st century—despite the fact that she had nothing whatsoever to add to the argument—and after subsequently taking much-deserved flack for trying to be a voice of moral authority even though her only background is as a 22-year-old ex-lingerie model, she is still standing, y’all! Yes, these times have been awfully trying, but somehow she’s managed to survive with only her beauty queen marketability, quick-cash endorsement deals, endless speaking engagements, and the backing of the nation’s predominant religion to steady her. It’s a miracle.

But don’t worry; despite what you think you know about Carrie Prejean, Still Standing will not be some potboiling, quickie cash-in:

"It's not a book about gay marriage," Regnery president and publisher Marji Ross [said]. "It's not a book about traditional marriage...She wanted to write a book about freedom of speech and the double standard that seems to exist when someone speaks their mind and doesn't happen to be politically correct or consistent with what a crazy Hollywood celebrity thinks is the right answer."

Finally, someone with the gumption to stand up and defend the right to free speech for the side they agree with, and point out that awful “double standard” that always results in those enemies of free speech doing awful, vindictive things like disagreeing with you—or worse, questioning your credentials to be such a visible part of a debate which you have no stake in or relevant aptitude for. Taste the poison pen of Prejean, ye doubting swine! And how brave, too, to come out against our nation’s all-too-common practice of using “crazy Hollywood celebrities” as the bellwethers of public opinion, the evidence of which you can see all around you—from people driving Ed Begley Jr. signature electric cars to the ruins of the pharmaceutical industry, which collapsed as soon as Tom Cruise pointed out that prescription pills are just food pellets for the dead space aliens that live inside your body. Yes, we certainly can’t wait to read this modern-day Common Sense as soon as it begins burning a hole through this itchy wool over our eyes!

But our obvious excitement about finally hearing Prejean’s side of the story aside, perhaps this is why no one cares about poor, nutty Mischa Barton right now. It’s because we’ve already moved on to a whole new breed of attention whore, one that’s no longer famous for doing nothing, but who’s famous for doing nothing and then indignantly pretending like you’re the asshole for even caring. To use an old but still sadly relevant example, look at the unquenchable tire fire that is Sarah Palin, who managed to turn becoming a national joke into a PR triumph, to the point where CNN is declaring today that her rightfully lampooned resignation somehow means “she’s only at the beginning of her career as a celebrity.” And indeed that’s because, like Prejean, Palin is the new, improved kind of attention whore—the one who does her business, picks up her money from the dresser, and then calls you a sick fuck on her way back out to hustle up some more. Perhaps Mischa Barton needs to follow Palin and Prejean’s example, and call a press conference in which she comes right out and blames all of her current personal troubles on the media; self-absorbed, nipple-tweaking masochists that we are, we’d probably be all too happy to show her how much we care.

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