By Stacy Jenel Smith
What was the biggest celebrity trend of 2006? Behaving badly, it would seem - with some new twists.
Sure, last year we had Ashlee Simpson caught on video whilst carrying on at a McDonald's, and before that we had Paris Hilton's sex video. Nevertheless, 2006 will have to go down as the year when YouTube and TMZ video of famous folk Captured in Wanton Moments became pervasive.
Think Michael Richards' racist rant. Think Paris Hilton and Travis Barker smooching in a New York nightclub. Think Britney on the town. It works both ways. Things start off on the internet and find their way to broadcast TV, like Richards self-destructing at the Laugh Factory. Or they start off on TV and wind up on the internet to replay and replay, like Danny DeVito, drunk on "The View." It's not a fad that will go away, it's a new way of celebrity life. Video killed the indiscreet star. Like the song says, we can't rewind, we've gone too far.
The same is true for the proliferation of celebrity MySpace pages.
While stars such as Angelina Jolie and Hilary Swank continue to follow the path of wisdom and restraint - spilling their guts to People, Vanity Fair or Vogue ONLY when they can exploit their personal lives to help sell a movie or other project - mindless bottom-troller celebs like Shanna Moakler and Travis Barker continuously tell the world how they really feel on MySpace. And what do they get out of it? A TMZ.com highlight mention. Maybe.
In November, for example, it was Barker lamenting his ex's Divorce Party, celebrating the end of their union in Las Vegas, adding that "this is the same wife that emailed me to tell me she would be sleeping with her new boyfriend in my bed the day of our anniversary." Moakler answered, "I am NOT the one running around the world with the town drug obsessed clown" - a shot reportedly aimed at the omnipresent Hilton.
Speaking of Herself, to be seen out on a nightclub sortie in the company of Paris in 2006 is to declare that you are not only rich and connected, but shameless, debauched, corrupted.
Especially if one does it sans underpants. Mother of two young boys Britney Spears' micro-skirted, pantyless exit from a limo was just the most notorious among the rash of flashing in 2006. Lindsay Lohan and Paris did it as well. The nip-slip became old news this year. Now the shock-it-to-me crowd shows their nether regions. Is it a deliberate, in-your-face action to declare that they will remain bravely unbowed by the relentless attention they draw to themselves? Or it is a way to air out those notoriously sweaty places so as to keep from getting pesky rashes and such?
Seriously, it's troubling how much attention has gone toward down-spiraling young celebrity beauties this year - a year that's closing with Nicole Richie's hair-raising wrong-way freeway exploit and DUI arrest, the furor over Tara Conner's hardly-wholesome behavior as Miss USA, and "American Pie" actress Natasha Lyonne, accused of threatening to sexually molest a dog, turning herself in at a New York court.
One would hope it isn't - but it probably is - reflective of the troubled state of the world in general that 2006 has had more than its share of stories about celebrities losing their cool in minor and major ways. It happened to Denise Richards, who'd had it with being hounded by paparazzi in November when she threw a photographer's laptop computer off a hotel balcony in Canada.
It happened to the aforementioned Michael Richards, when he responded to hecklers with outrageous racial slurs. It happened to Isaiah Washington, when he threw out demeaning gay bashing lines in an on-set outburst. And then there was Mel Gibson, last summer, with his anti-Semitic diatribe post drunk driving arrest. With his chilling remarks and sick penchant for bloodlust in his movies, most recently "Apocalypto," Gibson is scary.
Speaking of scary...
"Were bad guys good in 2006"? A headline in TV Guide posed the question, followed by Rochelle Thomas' observation that this year has brought us several lead characters with whom we probably normally would not sympathize. The list has to be topped by Michael C. Hall's "Dexter," a forensics investigator who does his own serial killing on the side, and keeps a live victim in a secret place, taking him apart piece by piece.
Fortunately, there were healthier trends to look at this year.
The dance craze continued - and intensified - with new dance-related shows including the WE channel's "Dirty Dancing" reality series joining the party. Teen musicals are back - as proven with the success of "High School Musical."
Taking comedic characters out of the studio and unleashing them as real people into the great wide world in a way that snapped the public to attention made Stephen Colbert and Sacha Baron Cohen two of the more powerful entertainment figures this year.
And yet, overall, it was a tough year in the celebrity realm.
As we shake the dust of '06 off our feet and head toward the New Year, we can't help but hope that there will be more celebs caught doing good on internet video, uplifting rather than down spiraling. It would be a great change of pace.