Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Is Paris Hilton A Supervillain?

Danny Bonaduce thinks so: “She's like Typhoid Mary. She carries the infection, but it doesn't affect her. Everybody she befriends ends up in rehab. Not her!

Judged against yesterday’s seven characteristics of supervillains Paris Hilton’s public image certainly measures up to some of the requirements. As an heiress to the generations-old global Hilton business empire Paris has access to vast wealth and power. And anyone who reads newspapers or watches TV or surfs the web knows Paris’s desire for publicity and fame is unbounded.

But what about the mentality of a supervillain? The sense of victimhood. The “wound” from which there is no recovery. At first glance the public image of Paris Hilton is remarkably free of shadows and real or imagined pathos. But it is possible to look more closely. A closer look reveals some intriguing inconsistencies and contradictions within Paris’s public image.

I’m going to put up a few quotes from Paris Hilton’s book, “Confessions Of An Heiress,” written with Merle Ginsberg. Of course, it’s impossible to say how much of this book Paris wrote and how much is the work of her co-author. But I looked for little things—attitudes and expressions of character—rather than specific facts or specific opinions. These in-passing glimpses strike me as the kind of insertions Paris herself may have contributed to the book. And they strike me as quite revealing.

  • For instance, on page 103, Paris discusses how much she enjoys having fun. “I like to have fun in almost any form. That is truly what being an heiress is all about. After all, hasn’t it been said that having fun is the best revenge?

    Having fun as “revenge” is an interesting justification. It’s all the more interesting because Paris never elaborates on who she is getting revenge on, or what she is getting revenge for. Righteous revenge is simply implicit to Paris’s thinking. Is that an expression of a “wound” from which she’ll never recover?

  • On page 5, Paris discusses sin and something worse. “There is no sin worse in life than being boring—and nothing worse than letting other people tell you what to do.

    First, Paris doesn’t say the worst sin is being “bored,” she says the worst sin is being “boring.” But she doesn’t say what group or type of person she is afraid of appearing boring to, or why their opinion not only drives her but shapes her very being. Second, Paris says that even worse than that—worse than the worst sin—is letting people tell you what to do. But here, as throughout the book, Paris provides no examples of anyone even trying to tell her what to do. What could have happened to her, and when, to have shaped her character this way, defined her by fear of ever taking direction from others coupled to the imperative to always appear “not boring” to others?

  • On page 24, Paris discusses her childhood with her younger sister Nicky. “When we were little, we’d fight over silly stuff—like if I would swear, she’d tell my mom. That made me so mad. I had to teach her not to tell. I would pull her aside and explain that it was us against them, that we two girls were a team.

    I note that Paris says “my mom” and not “our mom,” but what really strikes me here is that even as a child Paris was thinking of her life as “us against them.” Not her and Nicky against their mother. Paris uses the plural, “us against them.” And, like her desire for undefined revenge or the undefined “others” she wants to appease without obeying, Paris never tells us who the “them” refers to.

Contradictions reveal that people are either lying to us or to themselves. Or both. And blunt, bald-faced lying reveals a lot about a person’s charcter.

  • On page 20, Paris begins her discussion of her sister Nicky. “I was never jealous of Nicky after she was born. I was happy to have someone close.” But then, on page 29, Paris recounts, “Nicky’s godfather, Parviz, was my dad’s best friend. He would always give her a hundred dollars on her birthday. (Where was my hundred dollars?) I soon realized that if I got a toy Nicky wanted, I could sell it to her for the hundred dollars! She was sooo young and looked up to me, so she went along with it. Then I’d buy another toy for myself and keep her money.

    Paris wasn’t jealous of Nicky, except when she was. And they were “a team” except when Paris wanted Nicky’s money.

  • On page 137, Paris discusses the ethics of lying to men. “Try to be as honest as you can because you’ll always end up getting caught if you lie. They can tell when you’re lying. It’s been said that women have a sixth sense, but men have excellent intuition when it comes to girls lying to them. (I’ve learned my lesson the hard way on that one.) If they think you’ve lied, chances are they won’t trust you again.” But then, on page 140, Paris writes, “Always have a list of good backup guys in your head, and when you spot one of them—even if you’re with your boyfriend—smile at him with the look of “Who knows? You could be next.” He’ll get it. Just don’t get caught. And if you do, deny it. Heiresses are very good liars when they have to be.

    First, Paris recommends not lying not because it’s wrong but simply because “you’ll always end up getting caught.” Second, she recommends lying anyway.

But possibly the most interesting contradiction in “Confessions Of An Heiress” turns a spotlight directly on Danny Bonaduce’s issue with the people around Paris wrecking their lives.

  • On page 87, Paris discusses partying. “When I see people in embarrassing situations, I never laugh at them, because I always feel really bad for them. I know how they feel.” But on page 86, Paris had just written, “At parties, everyone always thinks I’m drinking—but actually I rarely drink. I live on energy drinks, basically. I LOVE Vitamin Water. I have cases in my house. I drink energy drinks and Vitamin Water all night. That’s how I manage to stay up late and never smudge my makeup or mess up my hair. ... But it doesn’t bother me when my friends drink. I think it’s fun to watch people who are wasted. It’s weird, to watch it all. You really read people a lot better. It’s funny to watch people and realize how dumb they look.

    Paris doesn’t “laugh at” people wrecking their lives. But she has “weird” “fun” “reading” people as they wreck their lives.


The purpose of these excerpts isn’t to prove Paris Hilton is a supervillain. Rather they are indications of a depth to her psyche, shadows not normally seen in her public image. And they are consistent with the mental characteristics of a supervillain, the mentality of victimhood along with the solipsistic selfishness of the supervillain against the world.


Tomorrow I will look at an altogether more complicated question. Having considered the supervillain role, I will consider the opposite. Tomorrow I will discuss, Is Paris Hilton A Superhero?

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