Red carpet feeds desire to know all

Like all Hollywood events, The Golden Globes resulted in “Best and Worst Dressed” lists.

I admittedly have more fun seeing the red carpet than the awards, and I’m clearly not alone. When typing in “Golden Globes 2013 Best,” Google fills in “Best Dressed” before “Best Picture,” “Best Actor” and “Best Supporting Actor.”

There is a vicarious thrill in seeing such opulence pooled together. Our evaluating statements are a way of personally interacting with an experience distant from the everyday.

Of course, another component is mocking such opulence with the inevitable comments about “Hollywood fat cats” getting together to applaud themselves.

For every dress, there’s a flurry of commentary, ranging from discussion of color, cut and designer to what the wardrobe selection indicates about the wearer.

In short, it’s all pop culture politics. We’re so far removed from public figures that it becomes easier to break them down into base components to find meaning.

And it’s not just reserved for the likes of hyperbolic fashionistas like Lady Gaga.

Kristen Stewart’s first appearances post-scandal were dissected to find clues about her mental state. The Hollywood Reporter even described her first red carpet ensemble as, “No hiding behind her hair anymore” and “Guess she probably figures if she’s branded as a loose woman, she might as well embrace it.”

Perhaps the best example is that I awoke on Inauguration Day and the first Tweet in my Twitter feed discussed Michelle Obama’s fashion choices.

More than vanity, public appearances have become a reflection of public figures’ character.

In the 2011 film “The Adjustment Bureau,” Matt Damon portrays a politician who gives a speech discussing how carefully his tie color was selected, how his shoes can’t be too shiny or too scuffed.

Meant to expose the ridiculousness of politics, the scene also highlights our own tendency to read into the smallest details about our public figures in a thirst for information.

It’s the same mental process leading to stereotyping and assumptions; our brains need to break down and categorize what we see in order to understand and relate to it.

But to take it further, our endless commentary relating outward to inward sounds a bit like “Answer Syndrome.”

Meant to describe the “the hyper-educated, the detail-oriented, the obsessive and the internet-saturated,” those suffering from “Answer Syndrome” have read just enough about a topic to assume they know everything.

We learn a few anecdotes and suddenly we’re Sherlock Holmes, definitively evaluating everything in a few seconds and a few words.

Responding to information overload, we break it down into sound bites, easily digestible pieces of commentary on Michelle Obama’s shoe choice and the underlying meaning of Kristen Stewart’s hairstyle.

While certainly a form of visual rhetoric on the part of the wearer meant to communicate taste, ideas and financial status, our own analysis of celebrity fashion is an attempt to have all the answers about people we know very little about.

And while many of us have seen “What Not to Wear” and realize the importance of sartorial communication, how many of us comprehend that our quick evaluation of others stems from a widespread fixation on knowing?

We so desire to understand people, whether they’re politicians or pop culture icons. We’re doing it all wrong.

For understanding anything — a person, an idea, an event — takes time, patience, and most importantly a grasp, not of the individual pieces but how those pieces go together.

Instead of breaking things down, let’s start putting things together.

 

Reach the columnist at esther.drown@asu.edu or follow her at @EMDrown

 

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