Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Five Cents: Ashton Kutcher Twittergate 2011...

I am not famous. But having public accounts on sites like Twitter, or even this blog, put me in the public eye the slightest bit more than your average Jane. From the day I signed up with the services, I was aware of this. Before hitting the "create account" button, I had that conversation in my head about whether or not I was sure I wanted to put myself out there like this and whether or not I knew how to properly use the site to ensure I don't get myself in an embarrassing situation. I'm not on any online dating sites, but I imagine the worries are the same. You're opening yourself up to strangers; you're revealing your interests, sense of humor, flaws, and at times shortcomings. You're sharing opinions on controversial and topical issues, and your opinions won't always be popular or well-received. But if you're using these sites honestly, that shouldn't matter to you. Those who are like-minded will find you; those who are not will learn to stay away if they don't want their mind opened to new or differing ideas.


It seems common sense to me not to Tweet or post things that could get me in trouble. With the law, with an employer, with my own morality. But what often seems like common sense to me is not for others, or sometimes in the heat of the moment, we can make a mistake. We can send something out into the internet ether that sounds pithy at the time, but when stripped of true tone (and in the case of Twitter, limited in characters of expression) is taken completely wrong-- or just wildly the opposite of what the masses believe-- or want to hear me say. But I'm not famous. So if I say something that doesn't go over well, I can stand behind my "my opinions are my own" disclaimer and shrug it off without much harm done.

Those who are famous never seem to be able to let things roll off their backs so easily. Some engage in ridiculously childish behavior like calling out their haters in public forums like Twitter, ReTweeting the negative comments, and basically silently asking for all of their fans and followers to attack the hater. It's bullying without having to be verbal about it. Others make a comment that riles up the crowd, and rather than apologize, simply delete the offending message, assuming it will make it all go away. But this is the internet, and your digital footprint is forever stamped in HTML codes and caches-- not to mention screencaps from your fans-- across the world. But where I think it really goes too far is when someone "slips up" and decides to allow someone else to come in and clean up his or her mistake. Ashton Kutcher, I'm looking at you.

Last night, Ashton Kutcher Tweeted "How do you fire Jo Pa? #insult #noclass as a hawkeye fan I find it in poor taste" in regards to the Penn State scandal. Immediately critics, fans, and just general members of the human race angry-Tweeted him back, calling him out on hypocrisy for being an "advocate" against child trafficking. A few minutes later, he deleted that original Tweet and posted "Heard Joe was fired, fully recant previous tweet! Didn’t have full story. #admitwhenYoumakemistakes" instead.

Admittedly, his case was valid: sometimes we don't know all the details and rush to judgment. Sometimes a simple typo can be the cause of controversy. I was okay with his apology. He's an actor, not a politician or law enforcement official. A lot of actors stand behind Roman Polanski, too. I may not agree, but I think they have the right to their own opinion. What set me off, though, was when he decided to turn over his Twitter account-- or at least take a break from Tweeting-- until he had learned how to "properly manage" his feed. Basically, until he or his publicists could find a way to only Tweet things that would make him look good. Basically, to use his Twitter feed as part of the Hollywood machine to craft an image of who he is, rather than share a candid side of who he actually is.

The Hollywood Reporter first caught wind of this, what I am now calling Kutcher Twittergate 2011.

This infuriated me more than it perhaps should. I mean, I know publicists and management and actors themselves very carefully choose which sides to show in the public-- on red carpets, during interviews, and on their official websites. It's all a part of the game to be what the industry wants you to be-- at this moment in time, for your specific demographic, to sell, sell, sell, etc, etc, etc. Facebook fan pages for actors like Kutcher are very clearly run from that same machine-- as a promotional tool. But to me there was something sacred still about Twitter. And actors (or musicians or sports stars or authors or whatever kind of talent) who chose to engage with their fans on Twitter were doing so from a personal place-- not simply to be like "Come see my new movie." Fans would get a glimpse of who they were when the lights clicked off and the camera crews went home, whether it was through candid photos or links to YouTube videos they find funny or their favorite quotes. Kutcher turning his back on that intimacy simply because people are learning he isn't as great as the publicists would puff him up to allow you to believe, is insulting.

Sure, other celebrities who Tweet may already be doing so only selectively-- choosing to hold back a picture or comment about something in the news (entertainment or otherwise) out of fear of alienating his or her audience. That's to be expected, really. And that's okay. In fact, it's almost welcome. We don't need to hear every uninvolved person's opinion on each and every individual matter. They're basically putting themselves into news stories in which they have no place being when they comment (think about how many reputable entertainment sources now run pieces on "What celebrities are saying" about topics in the news). Silence can be golden. We're all guilty of self-censorship at times, and at times, self-censorship is necessary. But when you cause attention to the fact that you're doing it; that's when you're basically slapping your followers in the face and laughing that they're stupid if they assume you're not doing it.

Though I have to admit I don't know why I'm so surprised that if someone was going to turn his Twitter over to "professionals"-- and do so in such a public way-- it would have to be Kutcher. He's one of few celebs who appears to have bought his own bullshit, and even when he's realizing that people don't worship his every word, he thinks exposing any upcoming good will moves to be nothing more than staged propaganda machines is going to make him look better. There was a time-- after That 70s Show and Punk'd-- where suddenly Kutcher seemed to grow up, almost overnight, from a stoner, slacker, guy who couldn't think for himself into a sleek, suave business man with more talent than we gave him credit for initially (especially if he fooled us all into thinking he was just a kid this whole time). Being with Demi Moore certainly helped that. But now, more than ever, I'm convinced that was all the act-- marriage "deal" included. He's worse than someone who can't think for themselves; now he no longer even wants to have to try. At least Charlie Sheen has always been honest with us.

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