"We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off."This was only one line out of a hundred memorable lines in the 1999 movie Fight Club, which so happens to be one of my favorite movies. Ironically, though, the line was delivered by Brad Pitt, who is both a "movie god" and a millionaire. (Though thankfully not a rock star, which is more than could be said for his Fight Club co-star, Jared Leto.)
I find this quote interesting because I think that it has something to do with the explosion of celebrity snark these days. It's hard to be a celebrity these days. Just ask Mel Gibson and Michael Richards. Or Tom Cruise, Britney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Ben Affleck. I mean, isn't the career path of Paris Hilton best described as "We build her up, so we can tear her down."
It used to be that the stars were looked up to. People wanted to be them, wanted to be like them. That's what made them stars. Do you think Michael Jordan would have been in all those McDonald's or Hanes ads if the corporate advertisers didn't think you wanted to "be like Mike?"
But do you want to be Tom Cruise? An object of merciless ridicule, about your height, about your wife, about your baby, about your day on Oprah. I don't think so.
Would you want to have to look around every day to make sure there are no photographers hiding in the bushes with a telephoto lens? Would you want a grainy, unappealing photo of your cottage cheese ass blaring out of every checkstand in America?
I'm sure you wouldn't mind the millions, and the huge estate in Malibu, the vacation cottage in Aspen, the private jets and personal assistants. But all that other shit? Who needs it?
Not me. I'd rather be just rich than rich and famous.
Celebrities walk around with targets on their backs. The just rich...they could be anybody. From their vantage point, there's not too many perks in being a celebrity.
One of the perks of being a celebrity is something called "awards season." It's like the "Christmas season" in the real world. Things slow down. You have a lot of time off and spend a lot of time preparing for that one big day. Only if you're a celebrity during "awards season" your main concern is getting the right look. Working out, chemical peels, botox, fittings with your designer. Then there's all the politicking, the meet and greets and the photo ops and the celebratory screenings.
And sometimes, just sometimes, you say something that really pisses someone off. Michael Moore did it as the Oscars. The band shushed him and the press tore into him, and now people roll their eyes when they hear his name. Republicans even named a wing of the Democratic party after him.
And then you got Isaiah Washington, with his "I never called T.R. a faggot," comments. I saw a bit of the video today on CNN, and apparently he said it with the full cast behind him. You could just see how some of their gazes narrowed and they shook their heads. Katherine Heigel was pretty pissed afterwards, too, and T.R. was on Ellen, trying to put his feelings into words.
It's kind of a funny story, when you think about it. A hit award-winning show. A fist fight on the set. A homophobic slur. The outing of an actor. Hurt feelings. Bitter resentment. Careers in jeopardy.
And of course the famous celebrity mea culpa, in which Washington's case reads in part:
“I apologize to T.R., my colleagues, the fans of the show and especially the lesbian and gay community for using a word that is unacceptable in any context or circumstance. I marred what should have been a perfect night for everyone who works on ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’ I can neither defend nor explain my behavior. I can also no longer deny to myself that there are issues I obviously need to examine within my own soul, and I’ve asked for help.”Is rehab far behind?
To add to the stew, Washington convincingly played a gay man in Spike Lee's Get on the Bus and his performance would have led me to believe he had a certain empathy with the gay experience. But I guess that's why they call it acting.