First, some procedural matters. As noted in the initial announcement, readers of The Washington Post can follow personality news going forward at The Reliable Source. Because many of you have kindly asked, as I said in yesterday’s chat, feel free to follow me on Twitter @chaneyj or track me down on Facebook.
Now a few thoughts, some of which will be printed in the final Celebritology column that will run in this Sunday’s Style section, and then some thank-yous.
Traditionally, we think of The Washington Post as a resource for carefully reported stories about politics, for the latest information on local government and for educated opinions about whether the Washington Redskins will make it to the Super Bowl. We don’t necessarily think of it as a forum for discussing Charlie Sheen meltdowns, award-show acceptance-speech mishaps or the deeper significance of the Smoke Monster on “Lost.” But that, among other things, is what Celebritology was.
It’s tempting to assume that people read a blog like this one because they are vapid, or because our society is so obsessed with movie stars and “Real Housewife” hissy-fit-throwers that we glorify anyone who can Kardashian their way to a life filled with wealth, red carpets and endless tweets about how much they adore their personal trainers.
But after many years of covering the entertainment world, I am not sure that’s true.
Yes, most people do get the equivalent of a defibrillator-delivered charge from being around ultrafamous individuals, especially those they personally admire. During my time at The Post, I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to George Clooney on four occasions, and on at least one of them, I’m pretty sure I started a sentence by saying, “Blerftawuzzle.”
But as social media brings more boldface names directly into our digital circles, demonstrating via public retweets that Justin Bieber actually knows we exist, the shimmery allure of fame might be dulling a little. It’s becoming clearer than ever that these people we see on “Mad Men” or in 3-D on movie screens are just regular human beings doing a job that affords them great fame, but also less privacy. We still admire their talent. But by 2012, most of us had realized long ago that the Hollywood Movie Star is really just a diminutive man behind a curtain who wants us to think he’s larger than life, and has a massive team of PR reps and stylists slavishly devoted to ensuring that we buy into the myth.
So if we’re so cynical about all this, then why do so many people — even those brainy Washingtonians who act like they’re reading Congressional Quarterly on the Metro but are clandestinely peeking at Us Weekly — still have an insatiable appetite for celebrity and entertainment news? For the same reason so many people can prattle on endlessly about fantasy baseball even though, FYI: none of those team rosters are real. Because it’s fun. Because it gives us common ground from which to start conversations. And because — as we spend time online sharing our insightful thoughts about whether Miley Cyrus should have cut her hair so short — we can actually build real connections with people.
When I posted in the blog this week about the end of Celebritology, a number of readers talked about how it was the sense of community that they would miss most.
“We are family here,” an ever-loyal Celebritologist, epjd, wrote. “I can’t imagine life without” these readers.
Perhaps that’s the legacy of this blog: that a band of privately snarky Tom Cruise obsessives and/or “Star Wars” geeks found each other and became a makeshift digital family. If that is indeed the Celebritology legacy, well, it’s not a bad one.
Now, a few quick thank-yous. After sitting through these sorts of gratuitous expressions of gratitude during so many awards shows, I know they can get a little boring. If necessary, read the following paragraphs as if they’re being spoken by Colin Firth. It might help.
Thanks to the many copy editors at The Washington Post who, while also juggling breaking news about legitimately important matters, did their best to make sure we got it right when we wrote about Lindsay Lohan.
Thanks to all the producers who ever assisted with the Celebritology discussion, especially Producer Paul Williams, since (I think) he handled it the longest and also added so many valuable vampire/ghostly insights about “True Blood” and “American Horror Story” to this blog.
Thanks to Nancy Kerr, a former Post employee who was Celebritology’s original editor and the spiritual advisor who allowed Liz Kelly and me to express ourselves in, uh, creative language while making sure we didn’t trip and fall into excessively crass terrain. This whole thing never would have worked without her.
Thanks to Lynn Medford, the Sunday Style editor who presided over the print version of this column and trusted me when I said things that sounded inconceivable to her, like the fact that “Boom goes the dynamite” used to be a catch phrase. To borrow another famous phrase, this time from “Seinfeld,” one usually has an “all learning and no hugging” experience with newspaper editors. But from Lynn, I got both.
Thanks to Katharine Zaleski, another former Post employee who immediately understood the value of Celebritology’s currency and was a strong advocate for it in our newsroom.
Thanks to Sarah Anne Hughes, who essentially stepped right out of college and into a contract position writing for this blog as if she had been doing it her whole life. I never could have written this big thing about Ryan Gosling if it wasn’t for the many things she had previously pointed out about Ryan Gosling. Hughes, you’re the best.
Of course, a massive thank you goes out to Liz Kelly, who was kind enough to make me her “Lost” analysis partner and then to invite me into the Celebritology family. It is incredibly rare to work with someone closely, especially in journalism, that you just get. That’s how it was with Liz. At least once a day, we would say “Jinx!” after speaking or IMing the same thought at the same time. I learned so much from the Queen of Lizard Island and I am proud to call her my fellow Celebritologist and my friend.
Lastly, I’d like to once again thank allof you, the readers. On many occasions, I was convinced that any one of you could have written the blog yourself. Because you could have. Your intelligence, wit and warmth always floored me. Celebritology could not have been a success — really, could not have been, period — without you.
Now that it’s all over, I feel a little like we all did after the last episode of “Lost”: a little teary, a little confused about what the heck just happened and a little frustrated that some mysteries remain forever unsolved. (Luvlinsey, seriously, ‘fess up.)
Then again maybe — because I can only end this thing by doing it on “Lost”-ian terms — I feel more like Jack Shepard must have in the final moments of that much-dissected show, as he rested in a jungle next to a loyal canine companion after doing . . . whatever the heck he did to save the island with that cork. Tired. Happy. And thinking that maybe, in some small way, we all did something good in this place.