A Massive Swelling
Celebrity Re-Examined As A Grotesque Crippling Disease
By Cintra Wilson, popular culture (2000)
Penguin, $13.00, ISBN 0-14-100195-X


Cintra Wilson made a name for herself writing acerbic, cutting, but often dead-on commentaries on the hypocrasy of self-important Hollywood, the standards of beauty, and everything else about fame, fortune, and celebrity. This book is a collection of essays from her that aren't published before on Salon or anywhere else she writes for. While she isn't really saying anything new, it's how she says it that make this book a pure comedy gold of a satirical gem for me. I'll just let Ms Wilson herself explain why this book works so well with me.

From Cock Rock for Twelve-and-Under: Little Girls and the Unhealthy Way They Love, all about the stupid things teenaged girls do in the name of teenybopper love:

Preteen girls want two things: a crazed amount of unwarranted, worshipful attention, and something ridiculously exciting and magical to happen to them suddenly, which would enable them to turn sneering and tall towards their ignorant parents and various preteen enemies and have them shudder with the recognition that they were critically, mortally wrong in underestimating the preteen girl, and that they will Pay.

This chapter also includes excerpts of real fan-mail to New Kids on the Block, with Ms Wilson accurately pointing out the patheric tragedy that is an adult mother who writes to Jordan Knight telling him how disappointed she is when he turns out to be far from the Sainted Republican Asexual God that she imagines him to be and begging him to change back to her ideals so that she can be at peace with herself again (this in-between telling Jordan about her divorce, her children's sexual abuse at the hands of her ex, and how she is now living only because she loves Jordan and she has to see Jordan one day so that they can talk and be friends, et she needs a shrink badly cetera). On the other hand, the adult woman propositioning Donnie Wahlberg for a one-night stand is considered sane and I can certainly understand that - at least this woman isn't deluding herself into believing that she can be more to Donnie!

In Las Vegas - The Death Star of Entertainment, Ms Wilson tries to figure out why Las Vegas is so notorious for its bad taste and ridiculous worship of relics and has-beens, once more accurately pointing out the amusing dichotomy of many homophobic, gun-owning, and intolerant religious bigots that live and make Vegas a success blindingly idolizing the likes of Siegfried & Roy, Liberace, and David Copperfield long after the rest of the world recognize them for the gay campy caricatures that they are. Her description of a typical Vegas denizen is cutting, even cruel:

As a white girl, I feel a special fear when I see a certain breed of my white sisters. These are the girls with something a little too damp around the mouth, the eyes of a soul who is looking for the wrong kind of action, and babyfat that is no longer cute. There's an ignorant danger about these women-children, sucking cigarettes, smacking their jellied lips, fumbling keychains bearing miniature shoes and bottle openers and roach clips and acrylic trolls. They have mousy hair in the waning, damaged contortions of an old permanent and extremely pale skin, makeup in unnatural shades of pink and brown, huge breasts, and oversized T-shirts, generally bearing some cartoon, something in the I WET MYSELF ON THE BIG DICK WATERSLIDE or JUST GIVE ME ALL THE CHOCOLATE AND NOBODY GETS HURT! ilk. They speak the loud ranting patois of the confessional-talk-show addict, filled with aggresive slangs, trumpeting out shameful viewpoints as a badge of raw individualism. Often there are unfortunate tattoos involved - greenish-black smears across the ankles and shoulder blades of A Flower or A Design, not reflective of any conscious personal choice. Often, you see them with their mothers, who look exactly the same but older, with worse perm-scotch on their short hair and maybe more gold-dipped jewelry.

She wonders why Michael Jackson doesn't fare well in Vegas when he fits the profile of a Vegas icon perfectly:

On a quest to determine what went sour for Michael in the land of Nudes on Ice, I interviewed a Vegas cabdriver, while being transported between the Mirage and the Luxor, and got what was probably the truest answer to date: "They don't want his black ass here." It seems that unlike Sammy Davis Jr., Jackson doesn't have the right kind of friends. Chimps, llamas, and Little Leaguers aren't the kind of miscreants welcomed in casinos. They threaten the values nearest and dearest to Vegas' bigoted, swinish, and cholesterol-enlarged Christian heart, which are keeping The Man in power, the niggers down, and the cash pouring in from the Right Kinds of Folks. Deep in Nevada, just like everyone else, the face of Big Brother is that of Ronald McDonald, saluting in front of a taut vinyl American flag.

She goes on and on about beauty, females in OIympics sports (gymnastics!), actors who think they can sing, pretentious Ethan Hawke types, and more. It's all very bitchy, cruel, and hilarious unless you're the kind who don't go for this kind of humor. There can be a valid point made about the author contradicting herself when she criticizes the excesses of famous people even as she slammed the sanitized boyband scene and nostalgically praise the likes of Rolling Stones and GG Allin. But I seriously doubt anyone reading this book will take it for more than what it is: a few hours of pure bitchy diva-like 'tude stand-up comedy that has the bonus of making me nod my head and laugh along from start to finish.

Rating: 88


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