Shall We Swap Fergies? May 17, 2011, The Guardian UK
I propose a Useless Female Celebrity Exchange. We Americans will keep your Sarah Ferguson if you take our Fergie.
As you may have heard – if you have a Google alert for "world's most non- vital information" like I do – Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, has been busy of late: she got hypnotised by a sorcerer, made a groggy speech about how she wishes she was still married to Prince Andrew (oh, you don't say, unemployed broke lady who tried to sell her family to a tabloid grifter!), and plans to broadcast the entire ordeal on American television with the help of billionaire attention maven Oprah Winfrey. In exchange, Ferguson hopes to receive gobs more attention, lots and lots of Oprah bucks (I firmly believe that Oprah's face will appear on American currency in my lifetime), and not to be made fun of any more. Yes. Good luck with that last thing.
This whole bit of "news" got me thinking about the Ferg. (Does she mind that I don't care whether or not she minds if I call her the Ferg?) I realised that I have been aware of the Ferg for my entire medium-length American life and I have no idea why. She has nothing to do with me, my country, or my culture. She doesn't seem to do much of anything, beyond count Weight Watchers points, give birth to offspring in funny hats, and get yelled at by the Queen. At most, she should have been one of those middle-tier celebrities that no one outside of the UK has ever heard of. (Seriously, what is a "Katie Price"?)
But instead, I know all about her. I knew all about her when I was 10. I even like her – she always seemed like a cheerier, goofier, more relatable counterpart to Diana (plus, prettier hair!). And when she started bumbling into outlandish, farcical mishaps every five minutes, all the better! What use is a useless celebrity if it doesn't even accidentally expose its bosoms once in a while? None. None use. That's what.
But the mystery remains: why now, in 2011 – when she does even less than she used to do, and what she used to do, remember, was nothing – is the Ferg all over my American television screen? The credit, or the blame, can only lie with the Ferg herself. This isn't organically generated interest; it's an aggressive and calculated pay-attention-to-me campaign. Having burned up all of your goodwill over there (honestly, it's a little creepy how much you hate her), she's hopped the pond to feed on what's left of ours. And it makes perfect sense. Here's why.
The Ferg is famous for being famous, because she makes herself famous – and that is an extremely American type of celebrity. (We may not have invented this type of fame, but we have ground it into a fine paste, heated it in a spoon, and injected it directly into our national jugular.)
In America, land of dreams, you don't ever have to have a job as long as you have a broke-down past and a daughter in a funny hat. All you have to do is be willing to go on television and embarrass yourself in front of God and Oprah (if they are indeed separate entities) and your family and the Queen and David Bowie and "Katie Price" and that sorcerer and the nation of Thailand and the entire earth. In exchange, we will pay attention to you and maybe even give you some money that you can use to purchase some cosmetic surgery that we will then immediately mock. (Make sure you film it for your new pilot!)
This dream is what the Pilgrims sought when they landed on Plymouth Rock, why Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, and why the pioneers colonised the lawless West (don't quote me on any of that – our public education system is not so good), so that some day, some British lady with nothing better to do could come to America and pay down her debts by acting bewildered on television for our amusement. If the Ferg doesn't have a drunken paparazzi boob-flash within the year, then the terrorists have truly won.
So, fine. America can absorb one more reality show about the reality of being famous for being on a reality show about being famous (although, reportedly, the Ferg's programme has already been delayed by Oprah's network for being "too boring"). And as long as we're doing a Cross-Cultural Useless Female Celebrity Exchange, can I interest you in a Kardashian or three? No? If you're looking for an older model, I have about 36 varietals of Real Housewives (none of those cut-rate imaginary housewives) in various states of dementia and Botox-palsy. Or – oh! – I hear Jessica Simpson's weight is fluctuating again, and the American tabloid press assures me that this is fascinating. Still no? Hmm.
Well how about this only slightly used American Fergie (I hear the Black Eyed Peas singer is "Fergalicious")? Our domestic American Ferg is semi-house-trained – plus, her "singing" wards off coyotes! We'll take your Ferg if you'll take ours. Because really, I love your sweet old Ferg. What can be said about Sarah, Duchess of York, that hasn't already been said about a half-tranquilised cat that just got home from the vet? It's clumsy, it's confused, it's bad at making plans, it's kind of cute, it has pretty orange fur, and it wants you to pet it. Also it might pee in the wrong place (oh no, wait, that was our Fergie). Seriously. Fergie swap. Think about it. Think about it.
(Originally published here.)