Sunday, June 10, 2007

(Completely) Off-topic: The Paris "Problem"

Boy, the nice thing about writing something about Paris Hilton is that you don't have to rehash anything: whether you want to know or not, you've been exposed to it. I certainly have, but then again my wife is a fan of the Hilton/Anna Nicole Smith/US Magazine set, and I catch it in passing. So, don't get the feeling I care a terrible amount about Paris Hilton, but her re-arrest Friday got me thinking.

Particularly, because too many people seemed to be taking too much joy in it. And not a "see, you can't buy your way out of trouble" laugh of the just; more like a "spoiled white bitch is gonna get what's coming to her" cruelty. (Incidentally, despite the Reverend Sharpton elbowing his way onto the air with this issue, I don't think this is a race issue, it's a cash issue. A simple distinction.) And anyone laughing at Paris crying in the back of a cop car after being released and then told, nope, sorry, get back in there: speaking as someone who has spent a night or two under um, police supervision; getting out feels great, but going right back would feel even worse than going in the first time.

So, now her jail time could go either way: if she had gotten out now, it would have given the impression (whether it was or wasn't) of preferential treatment. If Paris serves her 45 days in their entirety, well, most people in that situation would have served 10 or so, since the prisons need the room for violent offenders, and she gets punished for being Paris Hilton. (Many probably agree with that, but really, isn't being Paris it's own punishment?)

What I don't see, is why the police or the courts--and forgive me for not knowing off the top of my head who the ultimate responsibility for Paris--treat her like a problem, and not as an asset.

Despite whatever you may think of Paris Hilton, she gets attention. And has money. I know the safe bet is to treat her like any other lawbreaker and throw her in a cell. Which is not only disruptive in terms of protecting her (if anything happens to Paris in prison, I suspect you might as well change the name of the town to Los Hilton, because her family will fricking own the joint.) and paparazzi and news crews and so forth; it's also a waste.

So, put Paris, and her symbiotic media entourage, to work for you. The city of Los Angeles has problems, and put Paris on a work release program at these problems. Show Paris, and by extension America, the worst neighborhoods, the understaffed hospitals and programs, the trash-covered highways. (Please note that I don't live anywhere near L.A. and have no idea specifically what urban problems need fixing there. Pretty sure it's not a short list, though.) Put her in a troublespot, have her put in her community service time in fixing it, and see it on Entertainment Tonight that evening, along with a plea for more aid from the viewers. Use Paris to show everyone where the city needs help. Hell, do a good enough job with it, and she might even help out financially herself or through her family.

Of course, like all my grandiose ideas, there's probably a few problems with this: it might be financially prohibitive just moving Paris around. If the camera crews, reporters, and hangers-on were disruptive outside the jail, how bad are they going to be at a hospital or road crew? By showing the problems, L.A. and the city government would as much as admit the city isn't perfect, which could be hard for them, even though it obviously isn't. And then, some judge or other authority is going to have to have the stones to put such a project in motion in the first place. Considering they would have their neck on the line for a gamble that might not pay off right away, that's the most unlikely outcome of all.

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