I think the cult of celebrity has won. There; I said it. We’re hooked.
The media doesn’t help. If you can manage an entire 24 hours in the world without one mention of a Karadashian, you’re doing better than 90% of us. We watch the snaps and read the articles; buy the makeup line, retweet the tweets. We go to bed at night and dream of what the next big celebrity scandal has in store for us; who’ll break up next? Will they really get back together? Beyoncé is pregnant? G’way, I would have never guessed. Who’s going to say something outrageous and damn, where did she get that dress she’s nearly wearing? The dialogue continues. We are so far drawn into the world of the celebrity we sometimes completely bypass the fact that these insanely well-paid, pampered and spotlighted individuals are mere mortals like the rest of us; we don’t really want to consider them part of our reality. Part of the draw of celebrity culture is the fantasy aspect. Now I’m not saying Orlando Bloom doesn’t exist, I’m alluding to the aspirations many of us have in the back our minds to live in this seemingly distant, exclusive La La Land. The world of celebrity is like a far off planet where everything is amazing and nothing hurts. We hang on everything these people say and do and are quick to idolise and emulate the behaviours of our favourite A-Listers. It’s like Hollywood is the alluring cult leader and we’re the impressionable sheep, conditioned to follow.
The likes of Johnny Depp could literally kill a man on live tv and after a brief stint in media frenzy mode and disarray followed by a “heartfelt” press conference and a doe eyed apology the majority would bat their eyelids longingly; “but he was beautiful in Chocolat wasn’t he? and did you see him in the new Pirates trailer? Swoon” Okay, so maybe I’m being overdramatic and this (probably) wouldn’t happen in a literal sense but my sentiment lies true; we glorify the damaging behaviour of some of our favourite celebrities purely because of their “star-like” status. Beauty, fame and status carry with them power. Who are we to criticize these deity like creatures? We can take Mr Depp as a prime example of a star who’s recent domestic violence allegations should have caused outrage. The actual result? Several well know publications coming out in his favour and a number of Depp supporting media entities victim shaming Amber Heard like she wanted to be treated in the manner attained to in her posts and testimonies about Depp’s behaviour. Ms Heard has been hounded, shredded and torn through the media circus while Depp continues to live his lavish life as though nothing’s happened. Scandal means nothing when you have a charming face and a multi-million dollar PR team fighting your battles for you.
Emile Hirsc, the one time American Sweetheart is a doting Papa with a cute Instagram feed and a felony conviction for assault. Sean Connery once advocated hitting women “now and again” in a live interview but he’s still our favourite Bond. Straight out of Compton became the highest selling biopic of all time in 2015 but executive producer Dr Dre was hitting headlines (and it seems women too) with a number of cases of violence against women. Charlie Sheen plead guilty to to attacking ex-wife Brooke Mueller and ever our own Michael Fassbender has been accused of assaulting then girlfriend Sunawin Andrews in two separate violent and scary incidents (though charges were dropped to avoid “jeopardize his burgeoning career”) and any piece of damning celebrity behaviour cannot be complete without a mention of Chris brown, who got a slap on the wrists for his assault on singer Rhianna and continues to sell out shows worldwide.
I could continue this essay name dropping the arrest warrants of the likes of Eminem, Josh Brolin, Gary Oldman, John Lennon, Nicolas Cage, Sean Bean and Brandon Marshal who have all had brushes with the law for everything from possession and DUI, to assault and domestic abuse but think I’ve made my point. Being a celebrity doesn’t automatically make you a saint but it does give you the power and money to act in certain ways us mere joe-soaps would never get away with in our daily lives. We need to stop glorifying the imbecilic, frightening and downright damaging behaviour of celebrities. If a “lay person”beat their wife; dealt drugs or got caught in compromising situations with compromising individuals; they’d be persecuted and shunned. A shining status and a big pay check shouldn’t change how we react to damaging behaviours!
The 2017 Oscars highlighted a number of important issues for us eagle-eyed viewers (and not just the need to be a bit more carefull with results, PWC!) Keenly trained viewers may have noted Brie Larson’s stoic reaction to Casey Affleck’s award-winning moment. A lovers tiff? A frieneme situation? An ongoing feud? Not likely. Ms Larsons’ impassive reaction to the first time academy award winners moment of “glory” acted as a personal protest against Afflecks past sexual harassment allegations; In 2010 while filming I’m Still Here not one but two female colleagues accused Affleck of sexual improprieties. In one such case the victim awoke to find Affleck had snuck into her bed, uninvited in the middle of the night and caressed her unwillingly. Both cases were settled out of court. Larson, an active advocate for sexual abuse sufferers, refusal to applaud as Affleck took to the stage takes a definite stance where many in Hollywood wouldn’t; her actions highlighting the need to stand up against abusers and the hypocrisy which plays out in the media every single day.
One of these biggest hypocrisies? The dual standards in the way we treat the behaviours of male and females in the public eye. Britney Spears’ breakdown in 2007 left the starlet’s career; public and personal life in tatters. Forced to retreat from the spotlight, Spears’ mental health problems made her the laughing-stock of the worldwide media; a crazed women who had finally lost it. Male actors like Affleck can be accused and even convicted of heinous acts and still maintain their place in the spotlight. On this issue I stand with Brie and the many ladies who spoke out on Twitter about the rewarding of celebrities like Casey Affleck (and let’s not forget fellow Oscar winner Mel “you provoked it” Gibson, whose treatment of then-wife Oksana Grigorieva in 2010 can only be described as barbaric),who’s damaging behaviours shouldn’t be overlooked by their ability to “act”. No matter how talented these men may be, the Academy is awarding an admission of redemption by the masses; another white man with a dangerous past being accepted by his peers as “iconic”, quite frankly a shocking reflection on how serious abuse is taken in Hollywood. Affleck when questioned about the backlash from his Oscar’s win by the The Boston Globe reportedly admitted neither party in the case were permitted to talk about the settlement outcome but did potter “I believe that any kind of mistreatment of anyone for any reason is unacceptable and abhorrent, and everyone deserves to be treated with respect in the workplace and anywhere else.” Beliefs however do not equate to behaviours and the crux of this comeback sounds like a man who can see no wrongdoing in the claims against him. White, male privilege is alive and present in the real life La La Land.
In society, we reject dangerous behaviors in everyday life. Drug addicts, alcoholics and those with a perchance for violence are considered the dregs of society, We laugh in the face of addiction, reject abusers as “scum” and criticise drunk drivers for being a menace to society. When male celebrities engage in these behaviours, they win Oscars, become public sweethearts and continue to succeed in their quest for fame and power. Because in essence, that’s what’s the most damaging thing about the Hollywood cult; the power. In a society where we idolize celebrities as the almost-resounding gods of our time, we’re willing to follow their every whim, emulating behaviours, understandings and beliefs. We’re being influenced by a group of “all-knowing”, “all-encompassing”, “all-powerful” human beings. (Doesn’t that sound like describing an organised religion now?) We really are hooked.
What can we do? Stop watching films? Stage protests? Write strongly worded articles few people are going to care about? Maybe. Maybe not. I think the first step is highlighting the problem; acknowledging that it’s there and that we’re not all going to stand for the hypocrisy and the damning behaviours that are not just damaging for those involved but those who are keen fans of the Hollywood Badboy Crew. We need to call-out film makers, studios and more importantly the media for glorifying these men. Call them out on their behaviours, the damage they are creating by lining the pockets and the egos of these men and highlight the issues. The internet is the world’s biggest public form, use it for more than the odd cat picture.
The by-line of the Huffington Post’s head article on the morning after Oscar’s Review says all that needs to be said;
“white men who treat women like crap can have it all”