The serious actress who starred in "Herbie: Fully Loaded" sheds a few pounds and next thing you know, everyone's become her mother: "Feed Lindsay" petitions started popping up online early this summer. Exactly who's supposed to force-feed her is unclear -- Congress? The National Guard? Last month, a new section of the Chicago Sun-Times called Fluff put Skindsay Lohan on its cover with the headline "Eat a sandwich." (Oh how I envy that name, Fluff. Plus, it's a whole section, rife with celebrity schlock, clothes and the most girly concerns, whereas in this space I get, what, about 430 words?) But back to Lindsay: You heard them, girl -- eat the dang sammich! I do worry about the celebrity mediascape's delusion that celebs actually listen to the tab headlines and act accordingly. Only politicians would do that. Begging an actress to eat (or change her hair, or dump her fiance) via headlines set in pink type is pretty much a waste of bandwidth, ink and perfectly good T-shirt material. Yet we persist. The moralistic, participatory tut-tutting is what drives all infotainment (including, mea culpa, this column). And the rush to cry Skeletor! on another underfed actress is nothing compared with the summer's worth of advice/fretting over the fate of Katie Holmes, who fell for Mr. Operating Thetan himself, Tom Cruise. I don't happen to own a "Free Katie" T-shirt, not because I wouldn't like to see her return to normal (or, at least, to second-tier network television), but because I don't quite buy the prevailing narrative expounded in the tabs (that Katie is a prisoner of the Church of Scientology, a wife figure bought and paid for in a sinister exchange for fame and publicity). It supposes that Holmes has no say in her present relationship, religious conversion and bizarre new public-relations strategy.
To so many of us, celebrities exist merely to be harangued, judged and otherwise tortured by the public. The reasoning has always been that we paid for them (through the purchase of DVDs, digital downloads, hardcover memoirs, etc.), so we can say whatever we want about them. But I wonder: Does that mean we always should?