by Sandra Parshall
Why are we so obsessed with the intimate details of celebrities’ lives? And why do so many people want to be celebrities?
I shudder at the thought of being trailed in the streets by paparazzi and having gossip “journalists” combing through my everyday life for juicy tidbits. (They wouldn’t find any, so they would make up some.) And although I hope my readers will enjoy my books, I don’t long to have an unruly mob of adoring fans surrounding me everywhere I go.
I think about this every time I see a photo or video of some actor trying to push through a crowd of paparazzi or fans. I think about it when I see tabloids in the grocery store (JEN IS PREGNANT WITH BRAD’S BABY!), and when I see “news” stories like the piece of guesswork the New York Times ran a few days ago about Mark Zuckerberg and his new wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan. The story – yes, I read it, but I felt like I was invading their privacy – concerned the possibility that the couple had signed a pre-nuptial agreement. The writer speculated about the various provisions it might contain. This reporter doesn’t even know whether they have a pre-nup, yet he felt free to take a guess at how much money Dr. Chan will get if the marriage ends in divorce. They just got married, for pity’s sake. Do we have to start talking this early about their divorce?
Zuckerberg is a celebrity only because he created Facebook and is a billionaire many times over. Dr. Chan is a celebrity only because she married him. Both seem like nice but ordinary people. I find their dog, Beast the Puli, more interesting than either of them. But they’re famous, so the press wants to feed the public every tidbit it can dig up – or make up – about them.
On the Hollywood front, I’m amazed by the sheer staying power of the Brad-Angelina-Jennifer thing. Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston have been divorced for how many years? He and Angelina Jolie have a houseful of kids now, and apparently they’re finally planning to get married. Yet the possibility that Brad will leave Angie and go back to poor Jen remains one of the tabloids’ most frequent topics. I have to ask: WHO THE HECK CARES?
I’m also baffled by the “celebrity” of people who appear on reality shows, allowing cameras to record their daily lives. I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the great majority of us can find equally volatile, shrill, silly, stupid folks in our own families. Why aren’t we obsessed with them? Because they're not on TV? Do boring people automatically become fascinating when they do boring things in front a camera?
Fortunately, writers seldom have to deal with the insatiable curiosity of fans about our personal lives, and even the worldwide bestselling authors can walk the streets unmolested by fan mobs or hordes of photographers. We should be grateful. Margaret Mitchell was one writer who inspired that sort of adulation, and it didn’t make her happy. Fans of Gone with the Wind collected outside Mitchell’s house, peering through the windows and waiting for her to emerge. She received so much fan mail that it was delivered in huge bags. (She spent much of her time trying to answer all those letters.) You may have noticed that she never published another book.
Personally, I love being approached at conferences and other events by readers who want to tell me they enjoy my writing. But would I want those readers camping outside my house? Being close to zero on the celebrity scale has definite advantages.
Do you read/listen to celebrity gossip? Do you want Brad to go back to Jen? Have you ever, for even a moment, wished you could be a celebrity?