Over Easter weekend, the tabloids and the Internet – which often seems like little more than one big tabloid – were in a feeding-frenzy about yet another celebrity “scandal.” Only it wasn’t much of a scandal, from what I could see. And what was genuinely scandalous about it might not be so apparent to most of the public.
Last season on one of my favorite TV programs, Downton Abbey, my favorite character died in childbirth. Sybil was adorable, and I’m only one of millions who miss her. But the actress who portrayed her, Jessica Brown Findlay, has moved on to new opportunities. Who can blame her for wanting to stretch herself? The program paid more attention to Sybil after she died than it ever did while she was alive.
Anyway, it seems Jessica has done the unthinkable. She has done nude scenes in films. Both are, by all accounts, very quick and tastefully done, and she’s a long way from being the first actress in the world who’s ever done this. But she’s Sybil! And the world is shocked!
Judging from the caustic reportage in online articles and the blogosphere, and from some of the readers’ comments, this is something to titter about. Once you become a celebrity, evidently you lose any right to be considered an ordinary human being, who makes the best decision you can at each moment in life and hopes things will turn out all right. And if your more – shall we say, personal – body parts make it onto the Internet, they’ll be there to haunt you forever.
This whole, silly business says far more about the public than it does about Jessica Brown Findlay. Who seems to be weathering the whole shit-storm pretty well, but has to be getting tired of it. People don’t become public property simply because they become famous. That’s her body out there, and those remarks are directed at her – sometimes very personally.
It is regarded, by many of the morons who comment on these articles and blog posts, as somehow suspect that Jessica now declares she will do no more nude scenes. Why it is so incomprehensible to them that she’d feel this way is what’s not comprehensible to me.
“But she deserves it,” they say, “because she put herself out there.” But why? What, exactly, did she do, other than play a couple roles in films? We watch them – we expect them to be there when we want to see them – but we treat the performers in them like tin ducks in a carnival shooting gallery and do all we can to shoot them down. People who have the gumption and the talent to make anything of themselves automatically become fair game if they succeed at it.
Our celebrities are a real ink-blot test for us. We like our ink-blots beautiful, and we don’t realize that they’re ink-blots, but they certainly tell us more about ourselves than they do about them. We are a nasty, vicious, juvenile society, hung up on boobs and butts and ready to tear the stuffing out of anybody who has the audacity to be prettier and more talented than we are. Anybody willing to work hard and dedicate herself to a career most of us would be too lazy to pursue even if we had the talent.
I keep hearing advice from the chattering class, to famous actors and musicians, to “shut up and act” or “shut up and sing.” The premise being that they may pay bazillions in taxes, but they’re only allowed to air their opinions if we agree with them. Well, I’ve got some advice for the rest of us: Shut up and watch, or listen. Then get a life and move on.
There’s a reason they’re up there on the screen or the stage, while those obsessed with boobs and butts are – well – sitting in the basement in their pajamas, obsessing over boobs and butts.