I’m tired of you. Exasperated would be an even better word. And I know all of you that I address in this post don’t reside in Hollywood . . . or California, for that matter. Indeed, my exhaustion extends past the boundaries of the glittering Beverly Hills or Bel Air mansions. It exceeds the ritzy storefronts of a Rodeo Drive or a Melrose Avenue. Indeed, my real problem encompasses the whole of celebrity in this culture . . . stretching across a vast repertoire of talents: actor, musician, artist. I’m sick of you.
To be clear, I don’t want your money. It confuses things. I’m not a big fan of fame. I would rather go to Target in my sweatpants and stretch marks without someone taking my photo and plastering it all over a magazine. I can barely take a picture of myself with my own iPhone that doesn’t make me look like a whale. So, that would be a no to the paparazzi. When my life blows up, I prefer sharing that information with the people I trust the most. I can’t imagine watching my heartbreak analyzed by the talking heads or mocked by the trolls. So the public lives that many of you lead are not appealing on a personal level.
Furthermore, I respect your craft, and the talent that many of you bring to the screen (big and small), the stage (I think you are the best) and the recording studios all over this land. At the very least, your talents go a long way to entertain us, to momentarily blunt the harsher realities that the majority of Americans, nay, that even the citizens of the world, deal with on a daily basis. However, if we were going to rank those “harsh realities” on any kind of universal scale, I would dare say that America, as a whole, might not even rate (but that’s a whole other post). At the very most, your performances stand as witness, cataloguing our lives and times with a wide lens, inspiring us to think about the world more broadly while, at the same time, challenging us to inspect ourselves more closely. Granted, weighty stuff. I know I have walked out of a movie theater or put down my headphones on more than one occasion, challenged, exhilarated, galvanized. Even changed.
So, when what you do holds that kind of sway in the lives of your consumers, there is a certain responsibility that comes along with that. You don’t get to decide whether you have it or you don’t. Responsibility just is. Like it or not, that responsibility can feel like a burden, a restriction, and it requires large shoulders. You have influence. A lot of it. In fact, you have more than you deserve. Your blue checked social media accounts rule the minds and hearts of your followers. Your interviews on red carpets and inadvertent encounters with the media dominate the headlines. Even your acceptance speeches at awards shows can become more enduring than the art you won for.
So, forgive me if I find it funny when I see an actress who has compromised every fiber of morality and decency to cast her celluloid “art” tweet her disgust at the reprehensible character flaws of another. Even better, when actors who have filled their coffers with film projects that glorify all forms of graphic and gratuitous violence speak out with fiery passion about the use of guns in culture. Pardon me while I scoff at that rap artist, whose song lyrics denigrate all aspects of the female figure line by line, as he takes a valuable moment away from spitting his rhymes to comment on the harms of a misogynistic, rape culture. Oh, how it all smacks of duplicity. And you call us religious folk hypocrites!
See, if you are going to be an artist, then be an artist. Be a good one. But the second you step from behind that art into the spotlight as a human being to take up a cause you care about, you have to bring your actual character with you. Not the one you played in your most recent film . . . or the persona you created for your latest album. Your actual integrity. And, that, my friend, is when you find your mortality once again. You become one of us. You become accountable to things that your celebrity community is largely marked by: failed relationships (marriage . . . cough, cough), destructive, even deadly addictions, routine run-ins with the law (just google celebrity mug shots), entitlement and excess. And, in a world, where the insane run the asylum, we line up like sheep to listen to your golden words. And time and time again, your failing private lives speak so much louder. See, we have all been to Oz. We have seen behind the curtain. And, even though we feign adoration, in our hearts, we know it is all just smoke and mirrors.
Carrie Fisher once said, “Celebrity is just obscurity biding its time.” So, I get it. You have the tiger by the tail, and being insignificant would be the death of you. What a precarious perch to maintain. Many of you, in fact, have sold your souls to buy relevance and stave off finality. But death is a curious thing. And if there is anything 2016 has shown us, it is very simply this: death doesn’t discriminate.