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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Emperor's New Clothes

As the Wave-inatrix is approaching full flower in the summer of my life (wait - note to self: summer is the new spring) I find that have fewer and fewer judgments about other people; it's all such a big, messy stew, this life, how can we judge anybody? How can we really understand what lies within the human heart? But I will say this - the new frontier is not space, it's human consciousness. And I do wonder - collectively, what is going on in the consciousness that we humans need to worship celebrities? Why do you bring this up, Wave-inatrix? Well...I'll say it:

Heath Ledger – bravura performance – but Oscar worthy? I was as sad as anyone at his untimely death – really sad - and certainly substance abuse is tragic – but does it elevate a performer into some kind of sainted realm? When is a performer responsible for their personal behavior? Heath was a gifted actor and he clearly had a lot more go give. It’s a loss for all of us but the bottom line is that he cheated us (not to mention, primarily, his young daughter and family) by being irresponsible – personal demons or not. Hey- we’ve all got ‘em. But some of us don’t have multiple residences, million dollar paychecks and private jets. Fame can be a terrible thing – as Ava Gardner once said: Fame gave me everything I never wanted.

But when is foolishness foolishness? Can we not call a spade a spade? Or a joker a joker? Enjoy his performance – it is haunting given what we know happened next for him personally. And certainly, feel the pain of loss. But really – really? Don’t we have more important things to obsess about?

And now Shia LaBeouf and this car accident thing. And of course, much more famous examples like Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Kurt Cobain. Then there was the whole Lana Turner thing - wait, that actually WAS a pretty fascinating story. Angelina and Brad and their new twins? Really? This is news?!

And what, Wave-inatrix, does this have to do with screenwriting? It doesn't. Not really. It's just my opinion that having a social conscious rather than a celebrity consciousness is a better use of time if this world and humanity along with it is to evolve into its next iteration.

One of my favorite social action organizations is One Kid One World. Don't worry about Heath, he's in a better place now. One would hope. And I really think the Jolie-Pitt clan is going to do just fine. How about helping a child in Sudan get an education?

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Anonymous said...

Actually, Julie, if you're a screenwriter, you're judging people, the lives they're leading. I don't like it, but I find myself constantly judging people, even strangers on the subway. How else do you come up with back stories for your characters?

BTW, you forget to mention the biggest crackhead in entertainment at this moment, on the brink of stepping over the other side. What's her name? Something Winehouse? I love her music though.

Julie Gray said...

Ah - I disagree. You aren't judging when you write - you are understanding, getting inside someone else's skin. It's different.

Amy Winehouse - wow, she's a red dwarf about to become a super nova, huh? Or is it the other way around? Damn my lame astronomy skills!

millar prescott said...

Absolutely right on! I suppose this isn't the forum so don't get me started but, what's the fascination? Why do we care? Anyone - Dr. Jeff?

Kirkwood said...

The fascination with Ledger, his untimely death (is there ever a good time?), the link to, the irony of his role as the Joker, all lend themselves for the Academy to take notice of his film performance...

It's not a whole lot different than the buzz around Diablo Cody's nomination for best screenplay. First we had the myth of Diablo Cody (she was what? an exotic dancer? Oh my!), then the film itself (My God! how clever this cutesy dialogue is--a smart film? Not really, but cute? You betcha.). And, of course, the Academy and everybody else in town fell all over themselves heaping praise all over Diablo Cody.

That's just two examples of hype versus reality. There are hundreds more...

We live in a town where PR is three-quarters of the game: get your name out there and the accolades and audience will follow. The simple fact is, people buy the hype. They believe the myth. They love the back story. Premature death? Mysterious and exotic past? Rags to riches story? Build 'em up, tear 'em down--we love that shit. A good PR rep will do wonders for your career, alive or dead. Why should it be any different for Heath Ledger?

Christian M. Howell said...

Cool post. I too feel that we are a little to TMZ'd in this country. Sure, stars entertain us but give me a break. I don't want to know what size your child's shoe is.

I really agree about responsibility. It was a real tragedy but with the type of money Heath had he could have gotten the best suite in a detox or mental health center.

And I hate when people say the role was the problem. If you are not mature enough to play a role and move on, that again is something money could help with.

Perhaps some of these artists should do volunteer work or something to fill in their days. It's easy to get n trouble with a pocketful of money and 3 months off.

To anonymous,
I don't judge people as a screenwriter, I create personalities from fragments I may come across. Don't you know backstory is usually the death of a story?

Dave "Coyote" Shepherd said...

The only thing more interesting to people than a hero is a tragic hero.

Or as the Green Goblin said:

"But the one thing they love more than a hero is to see a hero fail, fall, die trying. In spite of everything you've done for them, eventually they will hate you."

Celebrities -- right or wrong -- are elevated to hero status in the public eye.

And we want to know about heroes, we want to be heroes, we want to be with heroes, be around them.

And some of us want to see them fail and fall. Simply because they are heroes.

I don't have an in-depth psychological explanation for why some of us think this way, but it's there.

Maybe it's because some of us compare ourselves to celebrities, and if they fall, we look better.

But I don't know.

Laura Reyna said...

I haven't seen TDK but get the feeling this Oscar nom for Ledger thing is mostly unwarrented hype.

I too think we're overly obsessed with celebrities. A lot of the tabloid news is stupid,crass & unnecessary. But at the same time, I'm kinda suspicious of people who have NO curiosity about celebrities.

Not directing this at you, J. but...

I think it was Barbara Walters who said something like, "If you're not interested in gossip, you're not interested in people." I think she had a point.(And I think she was talking about neutral info about personal lives, not destructive lies.)

We're writers, & writers are curious about people & what makes them tick. We can't help it.

I love history & reading biographies-- of mostly famous people. The "historical" people I read about in biographies were "celebrities" in their day.

The people who are "celebrities" now will one day be "historical" & have books written about them.

Everything in moderation. :-)

Julie Gray said...

Oh I have lots of curiosity about celebrities and I hate myself for it. This Ledger thing has gone too far.

As for the Barbara Walters quote, I counter with Eleanor Roosevelt:
"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people." :)

Hmmm...? said...

"As for the Barbara Walters quote, I counter with Eleanor Roosevelt:
"Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people."

Yeah, but, people are so much more fun--to watch, mock, love or hate--and a small mind enjoys them so.

Julie Gray said...

There's quite a distinction between gossip and being interested in people. Gossip is ugly and small, being interested in the human story is not.

Laura Reyna said...

The main point I was trying to get across in my last post was-- part of this obsession with celebrities has to do with a natural interest in people-- and how people lead their lives.

Celebrities are beautiful, successful & rich, have exciting jobs in movies & music, they travel, hang out with other successful people. In short, celebrities are INTERESTING. They have interesting lives.

Throughout history the plain folk have had a big interest in famous folk. Kings & military heroes had histories written about them. Troubadors wrote & say songs about them.

Like Coyote says, we all like heroes. Humans for some reason need other "models" of behavior to look up to... and maybe examples of "how not to live your life" too.

But now we have TV & the internet & this obessession with famous people is over the top. It's annoying to me sometimes, but not at all surprising.

Julie Gray said...

You're right, Laura, it is human nature to be curious about others. I just champion self-awareness so that we can learn to put the brakes on it when it's too much and instead put our energy into other, more important things. But you're right - it's as old as time, we all do it and everything in moderation :)