Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Idol Gossip

It is a truth generally acknowledged that if you think of something—say, Volkswagen beetles—you will generally see several of them within the day. The minute you know you’re pregnant, the world is populated by women partaking freely of jeans with a stretch panel in the front. I know the conventional wisdom is that they were always there, but your consciousness just got raised, but on the off chance that your very words create the objects, I am now going to say MANATEE. I’ll let you know if anything interesting happens.

What brought this to mind was that after last week’s blog about fortune’s weird sister, fame, I’ve had several chances to meditate on fame. For example, I was drifting through a website where we at Hiphugger were thinking about placing some ads. It is a website dedicated to looking at pictures of celebrities and their babies (although they will, on occasion, publish wedding information on a celebrity, if only to speculate about when this couple might breed). It is, for the most part, harmless: the woman who runs it refuses to publish any nasty comments, so it tends to stay pretty civil (you know, she might be on to something). But I happened to come across an entry about an actress who has apparently said in an article that she has no intention of releasing her infant son’s name. There seemed to be an inordinate amount of comments under that, so I took a look.

The comments were, without exception, along the lines of “Why, that terrible person, depriving me of what I rightly deserve… She must think she’s famous, but she’s not. B-list people don’t get to make a choice like that…He’s such a cute baby, I should know his name!” To be fair, one comment did point out that this woman hadn’t made a statement coming out as a lesbian, or announcing her lover’s pregnancy, or one announcing the birth, so not announcing the baby’s name was not out of character; but even that comment had an aggrieved tone.

Keep in mind, the photograph accompanying the entry was not a staged publicity shot of mother and child; it was clearly taken from a great distance, by someone who hadn’t made his presence known.

Now, clearly, this isn’t a representative sample of the population: these are people who are more than happy to speculate for hours over why Jennifer Lopez wore a sweater over her dress (“I bet she’s pregnant, that’s how my sister’s breasts looked when she was in her first trimester”). But I think the sense of entitlement is pretty par for the course. If a person is out in public, a certain section of the population thinks they are always fair game. If they are with their children, or getting a sick parent to the Doctor’s office, or wrestling a recalcitrant cat into the groomer, that just makes them more interesting. It’s like getting a double-word score. For a celebrity, no matter how minor, to refuse to open the social kimono every second of the day is to be labeled a poor sport.

“That’s what they’re paid for,” I’ve heard and read more times than I can count. Actually, no. An increasingly small group of superstars are paid to get butts into movie seats, where these butts fill up on overpriced Diet Coke. The rest of the acting population makes less each year for fewer jobs. [A good friend got paid $55,000.00 for a ten-week job but didn’t work again for two years. Does that sound like the high life to you? Run the math.] Of course, as the acting world is contracting, the celebrity world is doubling something like every six hours: the flu virus has nothing on the celebrity virus. Anyone with a camera phone and animal cunning can have their own gossip website and devoted followers who can giggle about how the fifth lead on a sitcom that lasted one season in the mid-nineties is now working at the Torrance Gap. It’s meanness for its own sake. It’s also unnecessary, and so high school I could scream.

Which leads me neatly to Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes or as the gossips would have them, TomKat. Or, as I like to call them, IDontCare. These are two people who, before this, I have thought of in total for maybe one hour. Since this whole dating cavalcade has blown up, I have not bought a single magazine (Long story short: while walking a friend’s dog recently, I lost the dog. I promised any gods and saints who might be listening that I would give up stupid magazines if I could find the dog. Found dog, lost magazines until December). I don’t watch any of the entertainment shows. So could someone please explain how, this morning, I suddenly realized that I knew nearly everything about their relationship and nearly nothing about how the G-8 summit turned out? This is wrong. One thing will potentially affect my daughter and any grandchildren I have, and one of them is COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT.

Mr. Cruise and Ms. Holmes are either in a real relationship, or they are not. I am totally indifferent to either reality. She isn’t my sister. He isn’t my ward of the court. I don’t have a single thing invested in this coupling. And yet, I know they first showed themselves to the press (the third part of this duo) in Italy, and that he proposed in Paris. This is the other side of the sense of entitlement some people feel towards celebrities: the sense some stars have that everything they do is inherently more interesting because the star is doing it with a handler and a stylist in tow. Of course, we continue to encourage this kind of idiotic thinking by buying the magazines, speculating on the websites, bidding for their old love letters.

I am not saying this from a point of perfection: I stand waiting at the check-out line and power-read with the best of them. I have ascribed motivations to people I didn’t know at all, simply because I read an article about them. But, I need to change.

Think of it as a bedroom window. If someone doesn’t want you peeking in his or her bedroom window, you owe it to that person not to. If that same person wants you to look in the bedroom window, you owe it to yourself not to.


Blogger Unknown said...

Oh, I do love some incongruity.

11:09 AM  
Blogger Jan said...

Barbara Manatee! She's the one for me!

8:49 PM  
Blogger BULLSEYE said...

I love manatee, they taste like chicken!

9:11 PM  
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Blogger Amie said...

Doubt you'll see this comment, being as it's so many years after the fact, but that was bloody brilliant.

"Think of it as a bedroom window. If someone doesn’t want you peeking in his or her bedroom window, you owe it to that person not to. If that same person wants you to look in the bedroom window, you owe it to yourself not to."

I am officially stealing that line.

I went through something years ago that I posted on my own blog. It was my way of processing some extremely difficult things, it only involved me (it was a health thing) and my blog is read by fewer than 100, I'm sure. Someone who occasionally reads my blog then started a discussion about it on a forum with 60 thousand members - everyone go read this and pray for her and it might be cancer oh, I bet it isn't and let's all fully discuss it.

And I TOTALLY get that what's on the internet is on the internet. So on the one hand, she didn't do anything wrong, moving information from one place to the other. But on the other hand, it's not her information to share, she was contorting and distorting information in the process, and why would you want to share someone else's news like that anyway?

David Hyde Pierce has been quoted as saying [something close to] "my life is an open book but that doesn't mean I want to see it read out loud."

There's a difference between being open with your life, and comfortable with who you are, and allowing yourself to become the property of all consumers out there.

Enjoying your blog as I read through the archives.

6:22 AM  

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