[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Image via Wikipedia"][/caption]
If you're one of the 4 or 5 Americans who are not familiar with the postmodern celebrity phenomenon that is Tila Tequila, you're about to be. That's because Tila called 911 on Sunday night to say she had been choked and restrained by San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman.
The police described Tila as visibly intoxicated. Merriman painted his actions as heroic: he was just trying to stop Tila from driving drunk. Tila says she's the victim of domestic abuse and according to some of her recent tweets, Merriman's violent behavior was due to the use of steroids.
Charger: I didn't harm Tila Tequila | Philadelphia Inquirer | 09/08/2009.
Of course, none of this matters. Right? There are wars, and health care proposals and Obama's education speech to think about and Tila Tequila is just another disposable ingenue whose 15 minutes of fame are nearly over.
After all, Tila Tequila is famous for her ability to social network. In fact, it was her large following on AOL and then later My Space that brought her to reality TV stardom and it is her ability to keep more followers (she has 200,000 plus on twitter) that keeps her famous.
But what if Tila Tequila does matter in some deeper way. After all, the whole point of celebrity culture is being famous for being famous. And celebrity culture increasingly shapes all the forms of our life-- not just Hollywood, but Washington (isn't that why, in many ways, Obama had a shot at being President despite his lack of experience) to the halls of academe (in fact, the UK is now considering basing salaries on a professor's presence in the mass media).
And Tequila used her celebrity to do a reality TV show that was, in its own way, a revolution of love. Despite its tackiness, "Shot at Love" and "Shot at Love 2" allowed Ms. Tequila to be attracted and even fall in love with a man or a woman (there were equal numbers of each vying for her affection). It also undermined the "serious" part of these reality TV shows where true love ends in a white wedding. Ms. Tequila is a Vietnamese-American queer woman whose potential lovers were often either queer and or of color. The romantic ideology of true love was undermined by both race and gender multiplicities in the show.
So now we wait and see who is telling the truth, Tila Tequilla or the football player? But truth is unimportant in celebrity culture. What matters is who has the strongest social network, who is the most famous, and who gets the last tweet.