If they were Martians, we’d resent them by this time It’s not enough that celebrities commandeer our admiration on the silver screen. Now they publish books, release clothing lines, start rock bands, found restaurants, launch political careers, and otherwise colonize as much of the non-movie world as possible.
Why, just a couple of days ago, I was buying a shirt in Greenwich. There was no staff anywhere, and when I went to investigate, I discovered Angie Everhart surrounded by sales staff. Not her fault of course. I could entirely see the point of witless admiration and it was all I could do not to stand there staring too. When Ms. Everhart was not glowing, she was shining. When not shining, she was gleaming. We had gathered round her like so many flowers to the sun.
But celebrities compete in our lives even when they are not actually front and center. Here’s how Chuck Klosterman puts it:
I once loved a girl who almost loved me, but not as much as she loved John Cusack. … If Cusack and I were competing for the same woman, I could easily accept losing. However, I don’t really feel like John and I were "competing" for the girl I’m referring to, inasmuch as her relationship to Cusack was confined to watching him as a two-dimensional projection, pretending to be characters who don’t actually exist. [This should have] given me a huge advantage over Johnny C., insasmuch as my relationship with this woman including things like "talking on the phone" and "nuzzling under umbrellas" and "eating pancakes." However, I have come to realize that I perceived this competition completely backward; it was definitely an unfair battle, but not in my favor. It was unfair in Cusack’s favor. I never had a chance.
Actually Klosterman has no idea how bad it is. Reading this passage, I suddenly heard it being spoken in the voice of the character that Cusack plays in Hi-Fidelity. Klosterman complains about a celebrity stealing his girlfriend? The celebrity steals his voice.
It’s when they insist they can play the little guy, this is the only place we draw the line. As when Tom Hanks plays that poor bastard living in an airport. Or Russel Crowe plays a working class hero in Cinderella Man. This is where we say, you can have stardom, your books, clothing lines, rock bands, restaurants, and political careers, but you can’t play the little guy. You can’t insist that your celebrity is a "get into anywhere free" card and then make it go away in the movie house. We’re not buying it.
Maybe. The other more terrifying possibility is that we are so enamored of celebrities, we have ceased to care about the little guy. Little guy, schmittle guy. We’re all celebrities now. Give us movies about movies, not movies about life.
Agins, Teri. 2005. With Her Own Line, Pop Star Rides Rise In Celebrity Fashion Upstaging Upscale Designers, Jessica Simpson Prepares For Big Launch in Stores Nixing a ‘Cheesy’ Touch. Wall Street Journal. June 9, 2005. A1.
Klosterman, Chuck. 2004. Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs. New York: Scribner, p. 2.