The Three Fates are almost done spinning the American narrative, Atropos readying her scissors to deliver one final snip. When the story is done the great heralding beacon of the end of days will burn brightly, in the form of a Britney Spears sex tape. Yes indeed the misbegotten pop star apparently filmed herself in flagrante delicto with her old creepy paparazzo boyfriend Adnan Ghalib, and now he's waving it around threatening to release it. How did we get to this point? Well, after the jump we'll take a look at three other celebrity sex tapes that, had our foresight only been as 20/20 as our hindsight, we could have recognized as the end of everything.
Part 1: How Pamela Anderson Ruined Sex You may remember, especially you craven young men, that in 1998 Playboy posette and Baywatch star Pamela Anderson was filmed by her new husband, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, while they did the nasty on some sort of houseboat. Her iconic status at the time, combined with the sheer amazement over Lee's substantial manhood, created what was really the first modern sex tape craze. Perpetuated by the newly discovered internet, the tape became an international phenomenon. It's not just that everyone heard of it, everyone saw it, too. Both Anderson and Lee still enjoy some strange mutation of fame, though they've long since separated and gotten back together and separated again and gotten back together again, etc. What this tape really did, aside from aid these two people, was ruin sex by finally and viscerally commodifying it. Sure there has always been pornography, but this was something different. Famous people who were not hardcore porn actors, but regular (albeit frequently nude on Pam's part) celebrities. Famous people, however (un)intentionally, caught while engaging in the most basic and carnal animal harmony. And now, without the nuisance of seeming like a hooker or a porn star who entered into the act with the intention of making money, one's lovemaking could at some point turn a profit. And the public was both more interested in and more perilously desensitized to the whole idea. Some fourth wall cracked and crumbled that day, opening a hole through which slithered a whole different dimension's worth neo-celebrities.
Part 2: How Paris Hilton Ruined Celebrity Encouraged no doubt by the crazy zeitgest of the Anderson/Lee tape, budding socialite and headline-grabber Paris Hilton recorded her sex-making with famous dater-of-trashy-celebrities Rick Salomon. It was first leaked, in 2004, onto the internet by (public opinion seems to hold) Mr. Salomon and Hilton initially tried to block it from being released. But, you know, then she saw that it was popular and said 'fuck it' and agreed to its release and now makes money off of the tape, which was eventually titled One Night in Paris. And that, really, was that. Hilton was, yes, already sorta famous, but this sent her into an entirely new strata of celebrity. Suddenly she was the infamous darling of late night jokesters and burgeoning gossip bloggers. Her name was even co-opted by Mario Lavandeira, who assumed the identity Perez Hilton to start his odious gossip rag in 2005. And that's where the already-rickety wheels of the celebrity-industrial complex began to spin off and clatter down the mine shaft ahead of us. An entirely new set of rules about how famous people are made and what keeps people famous and Why We Care was beginning to form, all because Hilton seemed to be becoming one of the most famous people in America simply because she wore pink clothes and let some grody guy from Neptune, New Jersey fuck her with the nightvision on. She possessed no discernible talent other than the uncanny ability to make people, against their better judgment, pay attention. She rewrote the manual, and many other people would follow.
Part 3: How Kim Kardashian Ruined America And then came Kim Kardashian, whose mother is married to athlete Bruce Jenner or something. She had a large butt and was dating Ray J, the little brother of former celebrity Brandy. She and Ray J boffed in like 2007, I think, and the tape was released. And oh my god. Kim was so freaking mad that she sued the company, Vivid Entertainment, that released the tape. Eventually she dropped the lawsuit and settled for a measly ol' five million dollars. And then. And then she became famous. She was on red carpets and people talked about her and she embarrassed herself on The View (just like a real celebrity!) and she got her own reality show and somehow helped make her even less interesting sisters sort-of-famous, too. Where Paris Hilton developed a coy relationship with magazine creations of this bleak new millennium like Us Weekly and InTouch, teasing things at them to keep everyone interested, Kardashian just barnstorms through things, ass-bellowing and demanding attention for the stupidest of events and occurrences, flaunting the fact that, to paraphrase Soup host and possible savior of pop culture Joel McHale, she is famous simply for having a big butt and a sex tape. So how does this large-caboosed blip on the radar get blamed for the ruination of these United States? Well, maybe she and her sex tape didn't necessarily ruin it themselves, but they do represent everything that is wrong and broken and bankrupt and ill of this "uh oh, everyone put your goggles on!" experiment. Kardashian's success proves that Hilton's new rules do, in fact, work in some inexplicable way. And, more importantly, the whole boondoggle suggests that many of us care (even if we're doing it ironically, we're still paying attention) as much, if not more, about the frivolous self-exploitation of a stranger's body as we do about fractious and dangerous political landscapes, about holes we've torn in the very fabric of the sky, about people dying from all imaginable kinds of neglect. Nah, we're too busy watching Access Hollywood scream at us that Kardashian cut her toe in a New York City hotel room (this was an actual top story) to pay attention to the fact that the rug, upon which they (and we) are fucking for the camera, is being pulled out from under our sweaty, writhing, desperate selves. So let this Britney tape—the Holy of Holies, the culmination of all things—sing us sweet tidings of eternal rapture. Or damnation. Or whatever. I just can't watch any more promos for Dancing With the Sex Tape Stars.