Is Paris Hilton a racist today? The heiress’s relationship with the N-word
This is Paris, the new Alexandra Dean documentary streaming for free on Youtube, has provided a deep dive into the background of pop culture juggernaut Paris Hilton, who rose to fame during the early 2000s, at a time when celebrity gossip was at its most honest and vicious.
The documentary has garnered a considerable amount of interest due in large part to the revelations that Hilton spent part of her teen years at Provo Canyon boarding school in Utah, where she faced a series of abusive situations and trauma.
The details in the documentary are sobering.
Hilton spent 11 months at the center until she turned 18. At one point, she mentioned she was dragged out of bed in the middle of the night and forced to take pills without knowing what was in them. On another occasion, she was forced to take off her clothes and spend a day in solitary confinement.
She also addresses the release of the tape featuring her having sex with ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon that was released without her consent. Hilton described the experience as “being electronically raped” and addressed the media response to the incident, which gleefully made her the butt of each joke.
“If it were today, that wouldn’t be the story at all, but they made me the bad person, like I did something bad.”
Hilton is right; the tape was a clear violation of privacy and bodily autonomy.
Jezebel also was right in noting that while the media response would (hopefully) be more respectful if a similar situation took place, there are a number of other videos that would rightfully receive condemnation.
These videos were also released without her consent; they were archival footage (in addition to celebrity phone numbers, photos, videos, prescriptions, and a fake ID) taken from a storage locker after Hilton let the payment lapse. The stash was posted on ParisExposed.com in January 2007. For a payment plan of $39.99 a month, viewers could see her little black book and other personal materials.
Hilton sued to take the site down, but the Internet is forever and the materials are still floating around on Tumblr and archived New York Post pages.
The videos that deserve attention include Hilton repeatedly saying the n-word.
She also was comfortable saying the f-word.
There were derogatory statements about Latinos, antisemitic remarks, and disparaging comments about Chinese people.
When it was released, the videos were addressed on CNN and The View, but references to the racist rhetoric were left out of the documentary and have not persisted in our memory of Hilton.
At the time, Hilton’s publicist Elliot Mintz commented on the scandal in a statement to Page Six. “I’m not going to make any attempt to spin this. It happened. I’m not going to deny it happened. Each of us has used words we have regretted later. This was six years ago. She was 20 at the time. It was New Year’s Eve. She had been obviously drinking. She sincerely regrets using those words. She is not a racist or an anti-Semite.”
Using racist language is racist. Using ableist or homophobic or sexist language perpetuates those beliefs.
While the documentary attempted to humanize a woman who has been treated as a caricature for almost 20 years. If we are to properly humanize Hilton, we also need to recognize past failings.