With all of the bad celebrity behavior in the news these days, from allegations against Woody Allen to Justin Bieber's...everything, I have been thinking more and more about what kinds of behavior we as a public excuse from celebrities. Some behaviors are criminal and aren't always entirely excused but perhaps still treated with more leniency than is deserved. Things get downplayed and downright defended. Some are social or sexual; some are political; some are just born out of ignorance or fame going to their heads. Aside from the courts and the media, the audiences-- the fans-- determine a lot about what is deemed "acceptable", and often times the results prove that celebrities get special treatment because the fans decide they are worthy of being put upon pedestals or because their work is just too pleasing, and they don't want to risk losing it. I am not here to make any judgements or assessments, but I can't help but be fascinated not only by what behaviors from favorite celebrities their biggest fans will defend or downplay and why but also where the dividing line is and what are the behaviors that cause a diehard fan to be unable to look at the celeb's body of work the same way. The whole "knocking off a pedestal" thing- whether your learn their fave celeb is an addict or an adulterer or just a bit insensitive-- what crosses the line, breaks your unspoken lust, colors your devotion, and ruins the enjoyment of being their fan?
It doesn't always have to be the extremes of someone being accused of rape or murder or constantly caught by the cops for DUIs or in possession of an arsenal of weapons, heavy drugs, or for drag racing. It can be as simple as learning your favorite celebrity is anti-abortion when you believe every woman has the right to choose or for being anti-gay when you are gay yourself or have loved ones that are, or vice verse (maybe you're pro-life and the person keeps leading pro-choice rallies; maybe you believe only a man and a woman should be allowed to marry and this person does ads for NOH8 or GLAAD). Maybe someone is an addict, and you think addiction is a choice-- a bad choice. Maybe someone who seems to be in a serious, seemingly monogamous relationship is actually cheating on his or her significant other-- with pretty much everything that walks on two legs. Maybe someone is learned to be in an open relationship, and that's not something of which you approve. Maybe someone is verbally and emotionally abusive to his or her staff, driving employees by fear, firing those who don't stop what they're doing to say "Hello, good morning" when he or she enters the room, not allowing eye-contact with any below-the-line crew members, telling the female cast they will have weekly weigh-ins and anyone who doesn't lose weight will be written out. Maybe someone continuously refuses to sign autographs for fans or pose for photos. Maybe someone denounced a particular ship or pairing or interpretation of a singular character or event and therefore any and all fans who would feel that way. Maybe someone just presents the version of themselves they want to be to you, their adoring public, and are knowingly and willfully feeding you just another character.
Are you suddenly seeing different themes or messages in their work or, are you just unable to look at their face the same way without it invoking newly conflicting feelings, and when?
Insert your individual favorite celebrity's name where the pronoun in each scenario above was. Now think about it again. Will it offer a deeper look into our own subconscious, tell us a little something about how far we will go for those we love and are attached to, despite not necessarily truly knowing? Will it matter? What should their obligation be? They signed up to create great work, not to be picked apart by the public. But by default, being in the public eye, they were also presented with a rare opportunity and somewhat of a responsibility to be worthy of the adoration the public will bestow upon them.
Many of the above scenarios are things you will never have to worry about because your favorite celebrity is not like that-- genuinely, truly. But many of the above go on every day and are just things you will never learn about because it gets decided that it is not relevant to those outside of the industry. But along the way, fans decide their own things about their favorite celebrities. They take the little information they do know about the person from promotional interviews, character traits from pieces of work they want to attribute to the real person behind said work, and social media pages and paint themselves the picture they want to see. They feel an ownership over the person, not just because the person is a public figure but in great part because they really did create the person-- at least the version of the person they are admiring. And so like any parent, they are defensive and they are loyal, but there's a flaw in any argument or any system that is only one-sided, and so I would imagine at a certain point it is no longer unconditional.
I personally believe that everyone is entitled to his or her own personal life and that only when their personal life is continuously brought to their work, getting in the way of the way they or their co-workers do their job should it become something that affects the way they work. But I am only human, and I fully admit that learning about trouble behind-the-scenes often affects whether I want to even watch a particular project because I don't want to reward or condone what I perceive as bad behavior. There have been quite a few things I have thought differently about after getting to know particular people involved. That's me, though. It's entirely subjective and personal. Which is why I am so curious about where others stand and where their individual tolerance lines are.
Feel free to leave some thoughts and examples of your own in the comments or email me through my Contact Me page. While I plan to use your answers as research for a longer upcoming feature, no one will be published without permission.