This should not be particularly surprising, as Foster is known for being very loyal to her colleagues, as well as for being a former child star who strongly values one’s need to maintain privacy. What’s more compelling — at least from this Celebritologist’s perspective — is what Foster has to say about celebrity culture circa 2012.
”In my era, through discipline and force of will, you could still manage to reach for a star-powered career and have the authenticity of a private life,” she writes, referring to her rise to movie stardom in the 1970s. “If I were a young actor or actress starting my career today in the new era of social media and its sanctioned hunting season, would I survive? . . . I’ve said it before and I will say it again: if I were a young actor today I would quit before I started. If I had to grow up in this media culture, I don’t think I could survive it emotionally. I would only hope that someone who loved me, really loved me, would put their arm around me and lead me away to safety.”
Is Foster right? Has the notion of celebrity transformed drastically since she swapped identities with Barbara Harris in the 1976 version of “Freaky Friday”?
As the Oscar winner notes in the piece, we’ve always been interested in gossip and the none-of-our-beeswax details about the lifestyles of the rich and famous. But there’s no question that, as Foster says and I implied in a piece this week about the Olympics and fame, celebrity-coverage times have changed. The question is: Why?
Foster mentions social media and a general sense that members of the press and the paparazzi not only regularly cross the line, but have stopped acknowledging there is one. But should we blame Twitter for that? The TMZ-ification of America? Our personal appetites for fresh, nitty-gritty details about the famous people we admire as quickly as we can consume them?
Honestly, it’s a swirling mess of all the above. Technology has collided with human nature and created a culture in which everything — including our interest in and, by extension, the generation of entertainment news — is accelerated and magnified. Once upon a time, we might have merely wondered what was really going on in Stewart’s love life. Now we can actively hunt down and often find the details, true or wholly invented, via a few taps on our iPhones, then share those possibly false details with a side order of snarky commentary on our Twitter feeds, which will, in turn, be cited as evidence of the national opinion on the important matter of whether or not Stewart is, officially, a trampire. And all of this can happen in less time than it takes to pick up an order of fast food.
Celebritology, like so many blogs and news outlets, admittedly sits smack in the middle of that bizarre place where an interest in Hollywood personalities and possible invasion of privacy meet. Every day, blogs such as this one attempt to serve as fun but responsible pop culture barometers, to convey the significant celebrity and entertainment stories of the day without stepping on any editorial land mine. I know how much our readers are interested in the Robert Pattinson/Kristen Stewart story, for instance, and I want to give them what they want but (ideally) while maintaining some semblance of class. But maybe all of us, myself included, should say no to certain stories more often. Perhaps we should stop and take a breath, even when everything happening in the world around us says: “Go, go, go! Now, now, now! Publish, publish, publish!”
It’s certainly not a bad idea. But even if the People magazines and Vultures and, yes, Washington Posts of the world did just that, it probably still would not resolve the issues Foster raises.
In fact, the conclusion of Foster’s essay suggests that it’s impossible to put the celebrity-culture genie back into the bottle. She acknowledges at the end of her piece that even the biggest headline-generating entertainment story is just a temporary storm cloud, another thing that too shall pass. She encourages Stewart, and other young stars like her, to hold on to their capacity to live life fully, even though they may need to be simultaneously guarded while they’re doing it.
But it seems that’s the best they can do. Because regardless of how they handle themselves, someone — whether it’s a legitimate reporter or just your average celebrity fanatic with a FlipCam — will be there to capture that candid photo or relay precisely where a reality star can currently be found slurping margaritas with a married NFL player. And via the Internet, that information will spread.
There is no turning the car around, kids. The question that all of us — entertainment journalists, tabloid scribes, movie stars and consumers of pop culture news — must consider is whether we can all do a better job of following the rules of the road while we continue our journey on what Mr. Pattinson himself calls “the craziest theme park ride” we’ve ever been on.