To some extent, tabloid culture has pretty much always been about schadenfreude -- or at least it has been since around 1974, when the National Enquirer revolutionized the industry by switching from a format of entirely making shit up to a formula of outrageous allegations at least partially based on fact. Since then, we've been reveling in the self-satisfaction of celebrity folly, smugly noting how much better we are than them. It's the implied motivation for pretty much 100 percent of coverage devoted to, say, Lindsay Lohan, and everyone knows it, but the brazen presentation of this headline we came across today was somehow still pretty shocking.
And we're not easily shocked. We've seen Two Girls One Cup, we've seen "goatse" (and it cannot be unseen, so if you're thinking about googling that term, don't. Just don't). And while those things left us vaguely sick to our stomach, this just left us depressed.
First off, let's just acknowledge right now that it's not like MediaTakeOut is a credible news source -- it's pretty much like TMZ except worse, if only because TMZ is occasionally funny. There's also that MediaTakeOut works within the headache-inducing style convention of writing headlines like a really excited 14-year-old girl in a chatroom, capitalizing seemingly whatever words it just gets really excited about as they come along. So that's nothing new, either.
What is new about this is the startling nakedness of the shadenfreude involved here. Where most tabloid headlines just present the sad, sad news and let us come to our own conclusions -- which will inevitably be shadenfreude-based -- this headline actually encourages us to give ourselves a big old pat on the back for this poor guy's misfortune: "Hey! Looka here! This guys used to make a bunch of money and now he doesn't have any money!"
But really, we couldn't possibly satirize that second half of this headline, because it couldn't get any worse. Let's just take a second look: "Check out how broke down he looks now!!" That's just -- Jesus. For multiple reasons, that is just heartbreaking. Then, the MediaTakeOut folks multiply their awfulness by backpedaling with this remark below the headline: "MediaTakeOut.com just received some VERY SAD NEWS. Apparently a top former WWE Star, named The Violator, is now homeless."
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For God's sake. You guys aren't sad about this. You're practically hi-fiving over it.
The weirdest part is, the guy doesn't even look that bad. He's missing a tooth or two, sure, and his hands look like they may actually have cocaine dust on them, but his T-shirt's clean, and his sneakers are looking downright shiny.
And really, that's part of it. Because the actual photos are pretty benign, MediaTakeOut can't allow us to draw our own conclusions in this case, because the conclusion these not-that-terrible photographs might lead us to would not be sufficiently hateful; we need to be guided by MediaTakeOut's creepy, George Michael-like hand toward optimum hatefulness, suggesting that extensive tabloid coverage of Mel Gibson's bizarre, domestic-violence-ridden divorce isn't even close to the nadir of poor taste that we, as a society, are capable of reaching.
Which is pretty terrifying, but hey. At least we won't be lying to ourselves.