Being a celebrity isn't all it's cracked up to be. Beyond the A-list parties, luxury swag, and mass adoration is the unseemliness of intrusive photogs, obsessive fans, and a lack of privacy. But as much as the rich and famous wish the world – us – would just go away and leave them alone, they sure don't mind us when we are in the audience.
Celebrity worship is as old as religion. Be it for escapism or emulation, the symbiotic relationship shared between those we idolize and the idols themselves help to shape their world and ours. Acting as mostly passive observers of the lives of celebrities, we aren't completely blind to their manipulations, but neither are the celebs always on guard or in "persona" mode. Bits of actual truth do leak out.
Ultimately, the celebrities themselves are responsible for the success or failure of their efforts to appeal to us, and as we have all witnessed, even the most celebrated individual can fall out of favor in an instant. The journey back to our hearts can be a chasm to overcome, and for some, a point of no return.
When Mel Gibson barked at the arresting Malibu officers, "The Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world," he merely proved what many had already suspected. A once revered celebrity, actor, and director, Mel Gibson not so long ago waded into the waters of religious bigotry when he made his epic '04 film The Passion of The Christ, rated the most controversial film of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
In the face of Hollywood's reluctance to create the film during a time fraught with religious tension, Gibson financed, produced, wrote, and directed his controversial depiction of the last days of Jesus himself. Many felt his depiction was heavy-handed and not so subtly anti-Jewish. Through perseverance, a huge Jesus fanbase, and many interviews expressing his oneness with the Jews, Mel emerged relatively unscathed and with a smash hit film to boot.
Some, though, were not persuaded by Mel-sell, and this latest eruption merely confirms for them that Gibson is a Jew-hater. Despite issuing an apology, calling his remarks about Jews "despicable," many remain unmoved.
Actor, director, and producer Rob Reiner has suggested that Mel Gibson needs to recognize and admit "his work reflects anti-Semitism," especially The Passion of the Christ, which earned over $600 million in theaters worldwide.
Reiner went on to say, "When he comes to the understanding that he has done that, and can come out and say, you know, 'My views have been reflected in my work and I feel bad that I've done that,' then that will be the beginning of some reconciliation for him."
With his religious intolerance now publicly confirmed and his drinking back in effect, Gibson has entered a rehabilitation phase of his life and is now actively engaged in a 12-Step program. In the course of treating his alcoholism, Gibson is apparently at the stage where one makes amends – in Mel's case, one Jew at a time – to those he has hurt. This includes personally calling upon Jewish film industry associates to assure them he's not only sorry for what he did, but that would like to work with them again in the future.
Confirming your hatred of Jews in Hollywood is like donning your Grand Wizard apparel at an NAACP meeting. Not cool, Mel. And super scientifically speaking, only 41% of respondents to an online survey thought he was being sincere. Clearly, more Hebrew schmoozing will be necessary.
Of course, no discussion of the meteoric rise and fall of celebritydom is complete without mention of Michael Jackson. Once loved by billions around the world for his infectious rhythms, childlike joy, and musical acumen, Jackson banished himself from the U.S. after his acquittal on child molestation charges last summer, and has been living in the part of the world where women (or men who try to look like them) are encouraged to cover themselves from head to toe – perhaps blessed relief for the bizarrely transformed former King of Pop.
Despite having scored over 20 #1 chart hits, and selling over 51 million copies of just ONE album (Thriller), he has undoubtedly become persona non grata in the entertainment industry and most of the rational world. Jackson's lurid trial, unchecked spiral into profligate weirdo recluse, and obsessive physical transformation through countless plastic surgeries (and repeated denials thereof) have instilled such suspicion in the general public that no amount of good publicity can counter his betrayal of its love and trust.
In a Washington Post article discussing how much people dislike Dick Cheney, a poll indicated only 1 in 4 people still consider themselves fans of Michael Jackson (for the record, Cheney was at 18%. Yikes!). And, clearly, most of those were old school Thriller fans, considering Jackson's last #1 was in 1995.
How the mighty Moonwalker has fallen.
No mention of PR nightmares born of private infidelities would be complete without the Brangelina/Vaughniston bizarre love quadrangle.
Once Hollywood's golden couple, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were everything we could hope for in an off-screen union: beauty, success, wealth, great hair, perfect teeth, and they even seemed to like each other.
What they clearly didn't have was lasting love. After four years of what appeared to be bliss, in walked slithering seductress Angelina Jolie. Flush from having snatched up adorable orphan children from impoverished regions of the world, all Angie needed was a genetic match in the looks department with whom to spawn pulchritudinous offspring. Never mind that he was already married to America's sweetheart. The vixen got her chance when she and Pitt made Mr. and Mrs. Smith together: Jen was out, husband stealer was in.
The fallout of these transgressions has been a tabloid bonanza. On one side we have the hurt and wounded Jennifer, left to dry her tears on the lapel of her next-in-line co-star, the tall and charming Vince Vaughn; and on the other we have the guilty-as-sin Brad Pitt playing dad and sex toy to Angelina Jolie and her motley crew of pampered street urchins.
All the press needed were photos of the heavily impregnated Jolie with Pitt's bastard child and we had a modern Shakespearian tragedy.
What's at stake here are the hearts and minds of the public. Team Aniston, no stranger to working the media, did what all scorned famous women do: Oprah. The intimate "girlfriend" chat, eye-dabbing, and "don't feel sorry for me" brave grin Aniston played Oscar-style, reaped the sympathy and public favor she sought. The world wagged its finger at Brad the Cad.
This did not sit well with Team Jolie, and Angelina dramatically whipped out her U.N. trump card and moved her burgeoning little family from urbane Paris to squat in the dirt of Namibia. To top off the ploy, she and Brad gave birth to the second messiah, Shiloh, quite possibly the world's most comely baby, with the final cherry being a $4 million donation to the needy of Africa.
Well played, bitch.
Contrived or not, the angelic earth mother tactic worked its magic, and people who otherwise would have likely sided with Aniston – Friends fans, even! – softened toward Jolie and Pitt. Aniston began to appear superficial, brittle, unmotherly, with reports surfacing that her marriage to Pitt failed because she was focused on her career and wasn't interested in starting a family.
And the one thing the heartland of America can relate to is motherhood – this whole "career" nonsense is for the faithless and selfish.
To make matters worse, Aniston has been on a shrill crusade to rid the world of rumors regarding her relationship with her Break-Up co-star, Vince Vaughn. Aniston has gone WAY out of her way to act as if they aren't dating, including refusing to be pictured with him at movie junkets. Sheesh, if I were Vaughn, I might feel a tad insulted. Two weeks ago, both Today and CNN were reporting that Aniston was engaged to Vaughn, and her response to People magazine was less than cheerful.
"People are getting fed a lot of bull," she complained. "I'm not engaged and I don't have a ring and I haven't been proposed to. Even my dad has called me saying, 'Honey, it's on the CNN crawl,' and I'm going, 'Wait a second!' When it starts to travel over into the Today show and CNN and supposedly reliable and accurate news programs, then you just go, 'This is insane,'" she said.
It IS insane, and what's worse, the whole "catfight" thing between Aniston and Jolie may be a farce. According to recent reports, Aniston and Jolie are even on "civil" speaking terms, an insider is quoted as saying. "Angelina has had several conversations with Jennifer. Jennifer is still close to Brad's parents and Angelina has accepted she is part of Brad's past in the same way her ex-husband, Jonny Lee Miller, is part of hers. She has no problem with Brad speaking to his ex."
Unless of course, they are talking about reconciliations.
It's hard not be obsessed with celebrities, their lives seem so much like our own, except for the wealth, beauty, adoration, and powerful friends part. They DO have legal woes, embarrassing drunken moments, salacious rumors, infidelities, and angry exes to deal with, just like regular people. And though they have teams of experts and operatives in league to manipulate and control how we perceive them, we have the secret weapon of bullshit detection: tabloids.
God bless the tabloids!