There seems to be this strange fascination with celebrities that I don’t quite understand. Even during my brief Courtney Stodden phase I was never so much absorbed by her celebrity status (since she hardly had any), but rather her bizarre behavior. Had anyone else done those things I would have wondered about it just the same.
What I am referring to is the actual celebrity. The names and faces we all recognize. There seems to be a lack of disassociation between the people and their careers. For example, I love Julia Roberts as an actress (say what you will, I adore her roles, and think she does a fantastic job with them), but as a person I could not tell you a thing about her. Why? Because when she is done being Erin Brockavich or Vivian Ward for entertainment purposes, she is a woman I have never met and no different than my next door neighbor. Just like I don’t jump out the door to snap pictures of my neighbors for incomprehensible reasons, I have no interest in Julia Roberts as a person. And this is not to say that she is not very nice indeed. She may well be. She might be just as engaging as my best friend is to me, and I might love her dearly if I knew her. But the point is, I don’t. And unless we were actually to meet, the way normal people meet and genuinely like each other enough to become friends, there is no reason for me to lurk outside her mansion to try to figure out what her favorite brand of cereal is. Besides, if we were friends I could just call her and ask, but since we are not, I don’t care. See?
They play parts in movies we enjoy, or sing songs we like to listen to, and somehow based on this we decide whether we like them or not. More so, we fall in love with them because their character on stage spoke to us. To me that just seems borderline delusional. I won’t argue that some of these people are greatly talented because they are, and yes they do things that I personally could not do. Further, because of their talent they have far more money than I will ever see, meaning they have nicer things, bigger houses, etc. Yet at the end of the day they are just people, who happen to have a talent I don’t. Arguably I have talents they don’t possess. Granted my cat herding skills aren’t earning me a six to seven figure pay check, nor is my education ever going to win me national acclaim, but that is besides the point.
I am sure there are people who think I am prettier than Julia, just as there are half a dozen women at any given local coffee shop whose looks rival Gwyneth and Katy. And as much as I love George and Johnny, they are not the last men on Earth, nor have I actually put forth any effort to get to “know” them in tabloids or online celebrity sites. They are no more real for me than a handsome man I spot at a grocery store. In fact I probably know more about the random man at the grocery store seeing as how I saw what brand of cereal he bought whereas I couldn’t even tell you whether George or Johnny eat breakfast at all.
And honestly, I don’t want to know. Why bother and who cares? Except everyone does, and it appears to be totally acceptable. There is this idea that these people are somehow public figures, except I like to disagree. Just like everyone else they go to work, do their job, and go home. It just so happens that their job has a voyeuristic aspect to it, and most fail to differentiate between the character and the actual person. People think they want to meet the person who has brought their favorite character to life, but that too is untrue. The obsession concentrates on discovering the mystical aspects that imbued this person with such talent while simultaneously trying to uncover the charm and make this person “normal ” again. Both parts of this obsession tend to become dehumanizing; whether we are elevating or demoting, it is no longer about the person.
However, the fundamental question to be asked is what makes the celebrity into what they are? A large part of the problem is the way in which they are portrayed outside of their given roles. We dedicate innumerable time and space to them in our lives, from tabloids, to entire shows that focus on the minutia of their existence, to websites, to myriad other venues where the personal and professional coexist (Angelina Jolie went to the grocery store! Oh my God!!). And when they are simply walking down the street doing nothing more than running errands we are disappointed, demanding the extravagant, the over the top, and the sensational. We force them into roles even when they are not working. We don’t want to read an interview where Miley Cyrus tells us how she spent Saturday morning washing dishes. We want to read about her crazy parties and outlandish behavior. Ashton Kutcher broke up with Demi Moore, but unlike all the other women who have suffered heartbreak, she is special and her pain reverberates tenfold, and no one will be satisfied until she slashes her wrists, or remarkably goes on a rampage of men – it has to be one or the other because she can’t just quietly stew like the rest. While everyone waits with baited breath for Demi’s reaction, Ashton and Mila had breakfast together as featured on the front page of every tabloid (and after the three page menu of every morsel of food and kernel of cereal Mila consumed, you can read the blurb of whatever it is that is happening in the Ukraine, or somewhere like that, which is almost just as important).
The celebrity lifestyle does not exist of its own accord, but was created, and is fed, by the masses that demand the show never ends. The TV is the alter where shows are watched ritualistically, but all worship needs a godlike figure, otherwise the emptiness of existence becomes all too apparent. Why is everyone simply wasting their time away on nothingness? These are uncomfortable questions, so instead of admitting we have nothing better to do, we raise the celebrity to a status worthy of worship, finding meaning each time Leo bends down to tie his shoe laces. And the more vain ones love the attention and play along, providing jobs (believed to be careers) for those who want to document every one of their movements, eliding the fact that they are nothing more than glorified professional stalkers.
I personally would hate for there to be men lurking in the bushes trying to take pictures while I unload my car (she drinks whole milk!! are those crackers??), but then again this is not my lifestyle. Like a born princess raised to understand she will be the center of attention with constant vigilance upon her slightest movement, today’s stars are trained to function under surveillance and to discreetly smile for the cameras as they take “candid” shots.
Of course there are those who don’t want to play along and run for cover as soon as the director yells “cut!” as if they had some choice in the matter. The Celebrity has become a separate species, and anyone with as much as fifteen seconds in the limelight will have their lives immediately pillaged because everyone wants to know if and what they had for breakfast that morning. Rumor has it Lucky Charms brightens your complexion for the camera, but Ryan Gosling won’t eat his cereal, and so we have an existentialist crisis.
Then, as if there weren’t enough celebrities around to hound and intrude upon, there is a need to create more, and it is done in an amalgamation to suit everyone’s wants and needs; the everyday meets the extreme, and we get the Reality Stars. Except there is nothing real about them – we have simply perfected the art of fake candid shots just like they have developed impeccable poses, and instead of stills we roll video. If Johnny wants to hide out in France and only make an occasional appearance as Jack Sparrow (I bet he eats croissants!), then we can watch Oliver Bennett have toast in the mornings instead.
What was once idol worship of artistically created characters and those behind the mask, has become a fascination with the mundane. The art is long gone, and Greta Garbo has been replaced with a bowl of cocoa puffs.