Power & Privilege: The dark side of fame.

Are we not entertained? Are we not amused at the spectacle of those with power and privilege, no matter what they have done, who they are, or what they represent? Of course we are. We are rabidly waiting for the next celebrity craze, the next fall from grace, the next reality TV show, or the next awards show. I don’t exclude myself from the rabid watchers, but I do have my limits. I will watch the awards shows, if I have nothing else occupying my time. I will check out a sensational story. Truth be known, I have kind of a thing for true crime, but I generally don’t watch any of the shows if they have anything to do with hurting children, animals, or old people. No thanks. I kind of feel like those people should just be locked up forever with no hope of ever seeing the real world again. I don’t care what their backstory is; they don’t belong in society. Stay out of this “gen pop,” thanks.

I could have written so much more about the Murdaugh trial or backstory, or about my own interest in it, but my last post ran a little long. So much darkness surrounds this family. It is my opinion that many more skeletons will come dancing out of the closet before it’s all over. A family like the Murdaughs, which knows all about covering things up, and who wields power like an aristocracy, become so accustomed to their power, lavish lifestyles, and history of getting away with things that they think the status quo will always be just that. What would they do to remain in their pink cloud? Steal? Murder? When they’re caught, they seem shocked. My question is — are they more shocked that someone in the family did something criminal or that someone dares hold them accountable? But I’ll come back to that in another post.

Right now I want to focus on another dirty side of fame that I came across this week.

Who wouldn’t want to be rich and famous? Isn’t that what we all strive for (in America, especially)? We worship money and power. We want to be close to the famous; maybe it will rub off on us. I have met my share of famous people, and it’s true that they are just like us. Except they are under a microscope.

In some cases, every minute a celebrity’s day is managed and scrutinized. As a person who is a homebody and who values privacy, that would be the ultimate nightmare for me. Imagine not being able to just say, “I’m tired and I want to rest (or retire)” without having to explain it to the world; without the paparazzi continuing to follow you; and without hearing the sensational lies some desperate, misguided, and sometimes corrupt people will make up about you. If you need to rest, they will say you’re battling a drug addiction. If you take your kids to the park, paparazzi will hide in the bushes and use large zoom lenses to spy on you. No rest. I do not offer this in defense of their bad behavior, but just imagine.

Imagine John Lennon facing a crowd of fans every time he exited his NYC apartment, one of whom would murder him. Imagine being a sensitive artist whose voice/image were known all over the world. He just wanted to blend in with the rest of the city and enjoy raising his son and spending time with his family. Instead, one deranged fan shot him to death in December 1980, as he left his apartment with his wife Yoko. Those of us who grew up with his music were (and are) devastated, though most of us had never met him in person. His celebrity meant that we all felt as though we knew him, which is really odd when you think of it. But Lennon believed we are all connected and, as his son Sean said after his father’s death, “Now Daddy is part of God. I guess when you die you become much more bigger, because you’re part of everything.” If we are all connected, which I also believe, then we do know a little about those we admire from afar–at least on a human level. We share this walk on Earth.

So when you’re famous, you are hounded, photographed incessantly, and your life is not your own. People think that because you’re a celebrity, they own you. You aren’t treated as though you have feelings. Although I’d love to write the great American novel, I wouldn’t want to be well known. I love my privacy. It’s really a wonder we don’t see more celebrities who’ve had enough and fight back with these predatory paparazzi, you know?

The latest trend truly baffles me, though. Apparently, people interviewing celebrities (I can’t call them journalists or even “the media,” because they are not professional at all) want to record them on camera reading “thirst tweets,” which fans expressing their sexual desire for a celebrity online. Some of these tweets are apparently pretty filthy. It seems like an assault, of sorts, for an interviewer to try to get a celebrity to read these aloud.

What would you do if someone came up to you at your job (in their case, at an event or awards show) and asked you to validate someone’s creepy sexual fantasies about you by reading their fantasy about you out loud in front of everyone. It is unfathomable. While corporate America is cracking down on sexual harassment, it is a joke in the entertainment world. I’m not sure if they’re asking women to read such crap aloud (because of the #MeToo movement maybe), but they have no hesitation about doing this to men.

The reason I know about this is because I was reading up on “The Last of Us” this week. It’s one of my favorite new shows, and I wanted to read more about British actor Bella Ramsey and Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal. One of the stories that came up in my search was this one, in which Pascal refused to read “thirst tweets” on camera when asked. He took it good-naturedly (more so than I would have) but he shook his head. His comment was, “Dirty. Dirty.”

Why do we have no respect for each other anymore? Why have we reached the point at which we feel it’s okay to attack, sexualize, steal from others, encroach upon one another’s space, or even murder? This is a far different world than the one in which I grew up. I know that each generation says something like that, but really – this is beyond the pale. I’ve had to restrict my news intake, because things in the country have gotten so bad. I’m trying to focus on stories that are more positive, but those stories are getting harder to find.

I’m not sure I’d want power and privilege. I like my anonymity. If someone is following me with a camera, then they are mistaking me for someone else. When I was young, I wanted to be rich and famous someday. Now I find more peace in being unknown.

Be kind to each other, folks. And remember that celebrities are people first, stars second.

Namaste, Jude

* You can watch all nine episodes of The Last of Us on HBOMax.

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About Me

A writer and solitary soul in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

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