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Famous? You’re meat.

August 17, 2013

It’s come to my attention that the public are unfair. Not to each other (though we are) but to celebrities.

Oh no! Won’t someone please think of the celebrities…? The poor little celebrities are victims with their mansions and sports cars!

… Well, yeah. They are. There’s no rule in this place saying you can’t suffer misfortune just because your misfortune is less than that of people halfway across the world. Misery is universal, fortune is relative and you are entitled to your feelings regardless of whether or not some other fucker thinks they are justified or appropriate.

Not to say that the rich (as much as the famous) are not sometimes a bit precious about it; I’ve talked about how music artists who bang on about copyright rub me up the wrong way. Yet, that criticism is not targeted at specific individuals, so that at the end of the day, I am making no presumptions.

It is up to the reader, if they are an artist, to decide if they fall under that category and if they are defensive it is not because I attacked them personally (which makes everyone defensive) but because they recognise that they are of that group, and thus that there is something wrong with their behaviour. I so not get personal, not only because it achieves nothing, but because it is quite simply rude; it would be rude face-to-face and it is nothing but complete lack of engagement that makes people think it is not rude from a distance.

As we all know, you are more likely to be unfair to a friend than a casual acquaintance because your familiarity creates frustrations and gives you weapons against them you instinctively use when you’re having a bad day. Your  guard drops in the comfort in their presence, as does whatever façade you may put on for the sake of exchanging pleasantries.

The problem is that we respond to celebrities in this way as well, but without any of the positivity. They don’t know us but we “know” them, which gives the illusion of intimacy. Furthermore, the non-mutual nature of our relationship with a celebrity feels like unrequited love. And doesn’t that just make us so mad? Oh, yes it does.

There is no issue in admiration until it becomes either uncritical hero-worship or overly critical brooding – and the first is negative only because it leads to the second, which can be nasty and sometimes downright dangerous. It’s a mystery to me how we allow ourselves to fall into the trap of thinking that liking and respecting someone involves denying them their humanity. This is what we do when we refuse to let them make mistakes, when they “disappoint” us.

Friends can disappoint you personally when they let you down, but celebrities should not because they cannot be expected to measure their behaviour and be mindful of you, since they do not know who you are. Adapting their behaviour to suit everyone would make them a personality-less drone, since there is literally nothing you could do that wouldn’t upset somebody. Presumably, as their fans we do not desire them to be personality-less drones.

When you know someone well and like them, you quickly forgive them for behaving in ways you find irksome. When you do not know someone and therefore cannot properly like them, your inability to reach them personally and have a good relationship with them makes you resentful of them.

This, unchecked, leads to unpleasantness and even hatred. The likelihood is that if you met them personally you would not find them so irritating. How many people do you know in real life whom you hate? Perhaps I speak only for myself, but I’d say no one.

Even people who annoy me do not do so every day; people vary, they have mood changes and opinion changes everyday, as do you. I give them second chances because I must in order to live life and I am fair to them because I can see they are a real person, and am aware that they may find me equality irritating. This is no fault of theirs or mine, but rather a lack of compatibility based largely on a difference in life experience. If the worst comes to the worst, I do the sensible thing and cease associating with them.

For many, needing to let go of annoyances in order to live life is apparently specific to personal situations. With celebrities, we are actively encouraged to foster hatred and disrespect. We oblige because it is easy, it is from a safe distance and it is fashionable; whatever is fashionable feels right even when it is not. You have to be in a certain frame of mind before you start to question those behaviours which you were taught to embrace as normal; I find that being born mentally incapable of acting normally during your formative years gives you a good head start on this.

Gang culture allows us to hide in anonymity as part of the masses, blame other people, blame the media and blame systems for the way things are. As much as I agree with blaming systems and not individuals since I know how easy it is to get caught up in cultural claptrap, that is not to say one should shirk all responsibility for one’s actions. You have to look at your own behaviour, all the time. People who do not think are usually the main problem, far more than people who think “too much”, since the under-thinkers make up the mindless majority we call “society”. “Thinking too much” is a concept invented by people who find thinking uncomfortable, because it challenges institutional ideas they have come to enjoy.

We labour under the delusion that out way of responding to celebrities is victimless. Somewhere at the back of our minds we know these people are human, but we are convinced that they are so great and mighty, they will never fall low enough in the world to make contact with our opinion, and that therefore it will never harm them and we can say what we like, since it’s fun to mock and emotionally splurge. We tell ourselves that only the narcissist that Googles his own name will find unpleasant comments about himself and he will deserve it – as if curiosity and bad judgement feature only in the mind of the famous.

In this information age, it takes one tweet. It takes one friend of the celebrity in question to mistakenly think she would like to read some dreadful article about herself, because her friend found it funny and didn’t take it seriously.

That friend, like other members of the non-famous majority, had no reason to do so. She is not bombarded every day with insulting images of herself and offensive remarks. She does not have to wonder daily why she is being given such a hard time on a daily basis simply for existing. Anyone faced with this would find it hard to rise above it and be level headed.

It aggravates me to witness because I know how easy it is to become depressed. You don’t have to be in poverty or come from a bad background to feel like the whole world is against you. When I thought this about myself, I was mistaken; those feelings were entirely chemical. When a celebrity feels it, tragically they are not mistaken. There really are literally thousands of people who bear them ill-will, for no good reason other than that they can. I would not wish that knowledge on my theoretical worst enemy – of course, I do not have a worst enemy because no reasonable person does.

No one in life is worth your hatred. If you hate someone, you don’t know them – one curiosity of life is that even the most hateful, abusive, apparently evil people have good sides. People are fond of citing Hitler as an example of this. Even the irredeemable have redeeming characteristics, and yet we concede to this more for Hitler than we do for Justin Bieber.

Why? Maybe only because Hitler is dead and gone and Bieber is live and kicking. It’s proof of a culture of hate that we feel perfectly comfortable mercilessly dumping on a child. What does he know? Why do we care what he thinks at this point in his life? I knew jack shit when I was his age and I am still a work in progress. Rather than subjection to jeering and sneering, all Bieber would have needed to change some of his more unwelcome points of view is time and education.

Now he will never get it. He has arrested development because of us and our obsession. He may never grow to be a person whose opinion is worthy of respect and even if he does, it is doubtful anyone will ever let him forget the blithe comments he may one day regret uttering. He cannot win and thus has no reason to grow up; he is hated and loved regardless of whether or not he is deserving. He’s been robbed of his grounding in reality and his childhood.

He will lose a substantial proportion of his adulthood as a result and he will receive no pity for it. The potential problems he experiences will be considered entirely his own, because it would make the public too guilty to acknowledge that perhaps their unwarranted bombardment could actually have caused someone significant stress. Instead, we will hear the usual comments of “they were just jokes”, that people always use to justify bullying and prejudice.

Which brings me neatly onto child stars. Do they make an informed choice to be these people who we admire and detest? Of course not. Even when they make a choice, it is not an informed one. You cannot explain to a child that, if they become big stars, their life will never again be theirs. The fact that they happily run around naked tells you that their sense of privacy is not yet developed to align with that of society. They have no concept of what it means to have people aggressively invade your life.

Yet, when they become adults, we treat them like they do. We hate them, simply for growing up. They cease to be “cute” in the childish sense and if they do not become attractive they are ridiculed. If they cease to make the transition into famous adults they are considered to be unworthy of their fame and are heavily sidelined and constantly judged. Their time out of the spotlight may have been a considerable adjustment and they, like many adults in the business, could look for substances to make things bearable – particularly if they have no support and no chance for healthy development.

When that happens, it’s considered proof that they’re irresponsible and lazy. Look at these people, taking drugs and setting a bad example for the children! Let me go fetch my camera and take a picture, so I can put it in a newspaper or on Facebook for the whole world to see, including the children I am trying to protect.

Pardon me for being more concerned about what the tabloids themselves teach children; that the instant someone becomes successful in some sense, even the most shallow sense, their entire life is open for scrutiny as if they are a fictional character. What’s the matter, aren’t there enough fictional characters in the world for us to be enamoured by? I hear that Edward Cullen fellow lives for a long time, perhaps we should try him.

The strange dichotomy is that we are living in an age where a great number of children want to be “famous” when they grow up – that’s it. Non-specific fame for no particular talent is what they desire, because to be famous is to be noticed and to be glamorous. What child doesn’t desire attention, and popularity (and indeed, do we ever grow out of it)?

The ability to make the connection between someone being poorly portrayed in the media and the concept that if we were that person, we could be poorly portrayed is sadly absent in even fully grown individuals. It is a bit like those people over in ‘murica who don’t seem to realise that if they can have a gun, the people they are buying themselves a gun to protect themselves against can also have a gun.

As paparazzi pop up and take pictures of people going about their business and rummage through bins like crazed possums, few people ever question where this information comes from in the first place. We consider tabloids and gossip shows / magazines as our own eyes, as opposed to a pair of binoculars we use as an aid to vision that can vary in quality. After invading people’s lives by indulging in this voyeurism, we then have the gall to ask perfect strangers to behave while we are peering in at them through their bathroom windows.

Apart from the fact that it occurred on a show designed to be watched and not in a private home, the Sachsgate saga is a perfect recent example of public entitlement over the behaviour of celebrities. Like with Tiger Woods and his affair, the public howled for blood as if they themselves had been wronged, presumably because they preferred Andrew Sachs to Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. Which is fine, but not when it manifests itself in such a livid, hypocritical witch hunt.

I’m all for personal apologies to people you’ve wronged, but that’s between Andrew Sachs (and his family), Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross. The both of them have pretty much built their careers teetering dangerously on the line between cheeky and a-bit-too-far. Thus, they both fuck up sometimes. I empathise. As the public, we can (and do) act like idiots all the time in much greater ways and no one gives us a hard time because there are no paparazzi following us. That’s the only difference.

It was worth pointing out back when it first happened; it was inappropriate for public display and it is definitely necessary to recognise when television allows questionable practices on its airtime in order to improve regulation, but nonetheless the whole incident should have blown over long ago. Yet still we read letters from self-righteous, sticks-up-their-arse members of the public, even in neutral, not-at-all socially important TV magazines (Radio Times, I’m looking at you).

It’s the badly masked opinion of the publication staff, who are as prone to prejudice as anyone else, and make money from helping it along since celeb hating gives endless fuel to all media types. It’s so easy, it’s almost easier than just saying nothing. I mean, please… There’s nothing original about bagging on people for their mistakes; if they had really wanted to be interesting, they could have selected a diplomatic letter on the subject.

I don’t blame Brand for not apologising publicly (every five seconds until the day he dies) and we shouldn’t be surprised that he won’t; surely the reason we enjoy watching people like him in the first place is because he says “fuck you” (mostly in the figurative sense) when people are unreasonable and try to tell him what to do. We’ve made a whole culture out of this enjoyment of blunt not-giving-a-fuck-itude, from The Apprentice to Britain’s Got Talent.

Then we wonder why people of this ilk don’t drop to their knees in sobs of remorse when they are taken up on their behaviour, as if we would be satisfied if they did – no doubt instead we would accuse them of being pathetic, or fake or some other barely related thing. However, the more the public whine, the less these people care and that’s the way it should be. I don’t want to live in a world entirely populated by gibbering wrecks who cave because they feel like they have no choice.

And what’s the point of apologising,anyway? Nothing is being said. There is no guarantee that it will never happen again. It’s childish to ask people to say “I pwomise to be good” as if it makes any fucking difference what their intentions are at the time of speaking. There must only be some perverse satisfaction to be had out of observing and contributing to the humiliation of people who we think consider themselves better than us.

This is classic projection – we think they are better than us and we dislike it. If we were more comfortable in ourselves, if we were allowed to think of ourselves as being good enough in the jobs we do and the way we look, even if we are not noticed and adulated every day, we would be less inclined to insult those who seem to have done “better”. I have noticed this of people who are very insecure about, say, weight; they will sometimes mercilessly insult people who are also (but not necessarily more) heavy-set, perhaps hoping to deflect criticism from themselves.

The problem is, they are contributing to the problem. Making people feel worse about themselves to make ourselves feel better makes us all wary, defensive and misanthropic. This crosses the borders between celebrities and the public easily and, since we think they have nothing to complain about, makes them seem like whining pissants, when actually they are justified in their concerns even if they are expressed in an unoriginal yet emphatic manner.

How many times have we heard artists complain about the paparazzi, or write songs on the highs and lows of fame? There are only so many ways to reiterate a point. If it is still being made, might we consider the possibility that it is a genuine problem?

The best thing to do is to stop buying the gossip and fashion magazines – that means stop buying them. Stop reading them in dentists waiting rooms, stop flicking through them on the shelves of newsagents. No buying them “out of curiosity” or “just for the sport” or “only every once in a while, for a treat”. No even thinking of them as a treat.

No writing for them as an aspiring journalist in the hopes of getting a platform into something better. No bitch blogs. No gutter tweets. No “victimless” memes that accidentally get passed around by everybody, no throwaway Youtube comments that accidentally become top comments and read by everyone. You can find other humour, that’s inoffensive and funnier with only a slight effort.

You can find better media (often free) by just shopping around slightly. Anything with the headline JORDON’S SECRET X or LINDSEY’S DIET TRICK is a fair bet to avoid. There are no good versions of those articles. The effort in avoiding these things comes from going against the grain, and first you have to know that the grain is destructive.

We’ve gotten into habits that are bad for our body image, for our perception of other people and bad for our perception of what’s important, what’s acceptable, What’s OK to think and say, what’s ethical and what’s normal. It’s not easy to be constantly critical; what’s easy is going cold turkey on obviously fucked up practises. If you think about it, there’s nothing positive about these things. You’d be missing nothing, but you would be helping to destroy a purposefully damaging industry. What else can it be? Having you think badly about yourself and others is what makes the mags, and all the associated products, sell .

We’re living in a world where you can “follow” anyone you like without being considered a stalker, you can admire from afar, you can be a fan, you can Know All The Things and you can keep a safe distance without impeding on anyone because the vast majority of what you see of someone is intended to be in the public eye. All this freedom to love and we choose the most pervasive of all practises; gathering personal information on people that they don’t want us to have, like collecting stamps, then claiming it to be die-hard fanship [or “fanaticism” as it used to be *grumble* *grumble*].

We choose to like certain people because liking people makes us feel good about ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. As soon as that feeling goes and turns to bitterness, it’s time to drop it like its hot and move on. They’ll always be talented people that we admire, and there will be fame for as long as there is a public who wants it -and if you hate celebrity culture, the only way to combat it is to ignore it. Complaining is the same as buying into it because that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do.

On the other side, they’ll always be people we care for who we don’t know personally and this is not a problem in itself, as long as we know that our fondness of them is neither particularly warranted nor requested. We should be grateful that someone has given us joy. When someone you don’t even know gives you something you cherish and asks for nothing in return, the logical response is not to treat them like they owe you something.

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