The Peep Diaries: Chapter 1
Now I don't want to give the impression that Peep culture is in any way confined to reality TV. In fact, I want to give the opposite impression: there are three specialty channels and hundreds of shows devoted to reality because Peep is so completely mainstream that it can, like golf, weather, and food, easily support dedicated twenty-four-hour streams of infotainment. I'm starting with reality TV because it's the one example of Peep we can all instantly recognize. The names and formats of the shows may come and go, but the concept—ordinary people watch ordinary people in settings from the domestic to the exotic—stays the same.
Reality TV is the most obvious incarnation of Peep culture, but the predominance of celebrity "news" runs a strong second. Celebrity gossip site PerezHilton.com alone gets 4.5 million hits a day. TMZ.com (founded by Harvey Levin—who made his name reporting on the O. J. Simpson trial—and now run in partnership with AOL) is widely credited for being the first to bring us such media events as the mug-shot photo and details of Mel Gibson's drunk-driving arrest and subsequent anti-Semitic rant; Seinfeld star Michael Richard's racist harangue at a comedy club; photographs of the interior of Anna Nicole Smith's "death fridge" stocked with methadone and SlimFast; and, last but not least, the complete audio of the raving answering-machine message that Alec Baldwin left for his eleven-year-old daughter, in which he calls her "a thoughtless little pig." (TMZ poll: Should the judge terminate Baldwin's visitation rights? Yes: 59 percent, no: 41 percent, total votes: 432,818.)