On the surface at least, the celebrity news machine of 2012 appeared to run much the way it did in 2011.
Incredibly talented performers left this Earth way too soon.
Couples who we never thought would last so long and others who we naively believed would overcome the challenges of maintaining a Hollywood marriage called it quits.
In a way, the predictability of it all was comforting. If we would count on nothing else in a nation headed swiftly toward a “fiscal cliff,” we could rely on the fact that Lindsay Lohan will always, forever and ever, get herself in messy situations that generate TMZ headlines.
But while the nature of the events being reported in the celebrity blogosphere didn’t change much, our responses to them did. The year 2012 was, without question, the Year of Accelerated Celebrity Snark.
Slate has summarized the big news events of the last year via selected tweets from a variety of now-famous Twitter parody accounts. Which seems absolutely right because that was how the Internet responded to nearly every zeitgeisty moment, celebrity-oriented or otherwise, during the past 12 months. Angelina Jolie is showing too much leg at the Academy Awards? Clint Eastwood is talking to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention? Well, then give that leg and that empty chair their own Twitter feed. It’s the only way to process it all.
(Admittedly, the mach10-speed of celebrity satire and social media sometimes yielded wryly entertaining results. I like to think that somewhere in America, a college student is registering for a Philosophy 101 seminar because of an interest piqued after following Kim Kierkegaardashian on Twitter.)
Last month, the Oxford American Dictionary dubbed GIF — the term for animated, prone-to-go-viral images — its Word of the Year, and that seems right, too. If faux Twitter feeds didn’t help us make sense of pop culture, then GIFs and memes gamely stepped in, allowing us endless hours — fine, just minutes, because who has the time anymore? — of chuckling over gymnast McKayla Maroney’s inability to be impressed and how Carl from “The Walking Dead” really needs to get out of here.
The notion of giggling about celebrities and pop culture phenomena is not exactly new. It’s been a thing ever since the first blog comment blasting one of Britney Spears’s fashion choices was written by an eye-rolling 20-something while sitting in her family room and wearing a pair of mismatched polka-dot socks. But every year, the enthusiasm and urgency we bring to slicing and dicing the major entertainment stories of the day only increases. I am convinced that right now, somewhere on YouTube, a mash-up of Seth MacFarlane gags from the 2013 Oscars exists even though the ceremony won’t actually occur until two months from now.
It all makes me wonder if, in 2012, we may have reached the equivalent of our fiscal cliff of accelerated celebrity snark, necessitating a total reboot and recovery in 2013. This Celebritologist loves sarcasm. As a Gen Xer, I subsist on it much like food, water and a low-simmering resentment toward Baby Boomers who just refuse to retire. But even I wonder if it’s healthy to be engaged in an ongoing mad dash toward the smartest, fastest celebrity-inspired gag.
During a recent media screening of “Les Miserables,” I watched Anne Hathaway’s anguished performance of “I Dreamed a Dream,” one that unfolds in a single, mercilessly tight shot on the actress’s face and will likely result in her second Academy Award nomination. It was a moving moment. And yet my brain kept imagining how some clever Tumblr or Buzzfeed writer would probably break down this scene, frame by frame, to capture every wildly distraught Hathaway expression. I could already see the post being passed around on Facebook, yet Hathaway — poor impoverished-in-France-with-barely-any-hair Hathaway — hadn’t even gotten to the part in the number where life kills the dreams she’s dreamed.
And I thought, you know, there will be time later for mining the comedy from musical-theater-tragedy. For now, for God’s sake, just appreciate the song.