Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Defense of . . .

I'll never forget the first time I defended a total stranger. My friends, people I liked and respected, had had a few drinks at an Oscar party at someone's house during college. We were sitting around talking about the people presenting, the winning films, the losers, and suddenly the discussion turned to Keanu Reeves.
My friends had strong opinions about him.

According to them, he ought to be taken into a back alley and beaten. His acting was so offensive, they wanted him stuffed into a bag. But, they weren't just talking about his acting, they were passionately hating on him as a person, someone they had never even met. It was the first time I realized that to be a celebrity meant becoming a non-entity, a sort of target for others to project onto, their hopes, fears, whatever.
I jumped in and told my friends I thought it was pretty low to attack someone they couldn't know personally, who wasn't there to defend himself. They looked at me like I had five heads, and the conversation moved on to Kate Winslet's dress.

Maybe it's because I've always wanted to be part of this elite, bizarre little group known as "Celebrity" that I've always felt a little protective of its members. I make it a point to learn the real names of the people who play characters I love; there is nothing worse than meeting someone you admire and only being able to call them a fake name, in my opinion, like they are only as good as their fictional counterparts. I routinely stand up to my friends for these people when they are photographed by paparazzi at their worst, in situations that we would never imagine intruding on if these people weren't famous, and somehow public property. I have an affection especially for those who speak their mind and are painted as bitches, problems, and idiots by the media, their directors, their studios, and sometimes even their own publicists ( Hello, Taylor Swift!)

One of the recent media targets is Megan Fox, a young woman whom I have read several interviews with, stories about, and seen several films of. She has been in the news lately because of a flap over Transformers 3; she was dropped from the film, or quit, or was fired, depending on whom you talk to. But, rather than a polite "no comment" or the standard overly PC response that is designed to offend no one and is so common in the movie biz, Megan has spoken out about the situation. She has said that the director was a tyrant and impossible to work with, that she felt bullied and threatened and kept to ridiculous standards on the films, and was happy to leave. Other female stars who have worked with him have said similar things, but more quietly; apparently, you don't fuck with a powerful Hollywood director without reprisals in this business. But, Megan is fearless, and I admire her for that.

She's pretty damn erudite and assured for her age too. She's in a long-term relationship, is step-mom to her boyfriend's son, and doesn't party like a rockstar. She knows her mind. She hasn't done any Oscar-worthy roles yet, and she knows it, but she's young, and she's working, and I'm going to watch her. Not just a sex-pot or an airhead, and not afraid to show it.

Another I regularly defend is Jessica Simpson. She's been called stupid for the sound bites that get oft-repeated (how many of us have not said something stupid, and imagine if it was replayed on a jumbo-tron 12 times a day), but she is actually quite an accomplished young woman. She has a successful, stylish clothing, shoe and purse company, has a thriving music career, and is pretty darn smart when she gets the chance to express it. She's also a normal girl, full of the same insecurities and shyness that most of us have, though she gets to confront them in front of hundreds of cameras every day. Imagine having a fat day, where you couldn't get your hair to lay right, you had to struggle to button those jeans, and you feel self-conscious about it. Now imagine that Big Tabloid Magazine decides to splash this day about with headlines like, " 'Your Name' is Packing on the Pounds Again!" This happened to Jessica. Several times. Instead of crying in a puddle, as I would have done, she did a series on VH1 that was pretty interesting, often funny and rather deep, called "The Price of Beauty" examining all of our beauty obsessions, fears, insecurities, and standards, from multiple cultural viewpoints. If I ever meet her, I'm buying her a coffee and giving her a hug, and nobody better call her a dumb blonde in my presence.

Finally, Scarlett Johansson is usually praised first for her lips or her boobs, but Scarlett is a smart young woman with a good head on her shoulders and isn't afraid to show it. I've defended and praised her before on this blog, for her views on body image and the media's portrayal of women. She has impressed me time and again with her opinions, and it irritates me no end when people fixate on her hair color, her ass, or her workout regime.

I know that I don't know these people and probably never will. They will never know or care that I defend them to my friends and praise them to strangers. They do not need me as their cheerleader. But, all the same, in a world so ready to objectify and villify these people-as-commodities, I like looking at them as, simply, people. If I am ever lucky enough to be in their position, and someone in a tabloid decides to attack me, I hope there is some stranger out there willing to defend me.

What about you, dear readers? Is there any celebrity the media loves to hate that holds a special place in your heart?


Premabast said...

Well-written, Ginger.
It's a pointy-edged thing, is celebrity. You get money, acclaim, lots of shiny things, great parties, gala events, etc., and you get admiration from hundreds/thousands/millions of admirers, most of whom you may never meet; but you also become a bit non-human-seeming. I mean, omgs, can you believe so-and-so _farted_ at public...the other day? What is he, human and fallible or something? FFS....

Also, I love you. You are fabulous and I hope that you achieve your celebrity status someday. I'll definitely be a fan. :)

Ginger said...

Thank you, dear;)

I said...

This is very well written, and I agree with you very much. My friends and I don't talk about celebrities much, but as soon as they complain about a classmate, or a teacher, or whoever, saying how awful they are and rude and stupid and whatnot, I am always the first person to say, "They probably had a rough day."
I don't think there are enough of us who would rather assume the best of people than write them off as awful.