Thursday, May 1, 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow and the Curse of Celebrity

It's a hard life without everyone watching you, but it can be even harder if you're a celebrity.  We live in a celebrity-obsessed culture that reminds me a lot of Elizabethan England about the time that William Shakespeare was writing his plays and sonnets.  Shakespeare knew that the people who crowded into the Globe Theater wanted to see the follies and foibles of their celebrities, i.e. the Royalty and Aristocrats.  And now we have Shakespeare's take on the lives of Elizabethan celebrities and we consider it to be of the highest artistic expression.  Would we say the same about what's written about today's celebrities?

Gwyneth Paltrow  (Photo from livetalksla.org)
I feel sorry for Gwyneth Paltrow sometimes.  The recent split-up of her marriage with Chris Martin went immediately under the tongue-waggers' microscopes because Martin and Paltrow chose to announce publicly their split and call it "conscious uncoupling."  Since the tongue-waggers hadn't heard of conscious uncoupling before and considered it to be a euphemism for the couple's divorce, they and late night comedians had a field day with it.  I'd not heard of it either, but wondered why the couple had chosen to describe their split in that way.

Respected news outlets like CNN, NBC, and The Huffington Post covered the story of Martin and Paltrow's split as real news.  Was it because of their "conscious uncoupling"?  Journalists dug to find out what the term meant and where it came from.  I wondered if anyone else using conscious uncoupling to end a marriage would have been as closely scrutinized.  Probably not.  Although the upside of all this was massive publicity for psychotherapist Katherine Woodward Thomas' process for ending a relationship in positive ways, rather than hurtful, and destructive ways, especially when children are involved.

Becoming a celebrity, especially what's called "A-list," curses the human being in that spotlight.  We-who-aren't-celebrities have little sympathy for them.  We believe they "wanted" it, they knew what they were getting into, and they enjoyed it.  More and more celebrities have been speaking out now about how their fame has brought far more than what they expected in terms of public attention and intrusiveness.  Especially regarding their children, who they understandably want to protect, they have protested the constant presence of paparazzi around their homes and who follow them everywhere.

I've thought about those paparazzi -- could I live my life with cameras recording my every move?  Could you?  Would you want your grocery shopping treks or doctor visits to make it into the tabloids?  I think we, as a society, have lost respect for the individual and the concept of personal privacy.  Public figures, be they actresses or musicians or politicians, need their personal boundaries to be respected, and if they're smart, they'll establish those boundaries for the public as soon as they begin to enjoy public attention.  But we as the public need to accept and respect that celebrities have the right to a private personal life.  If a celebrity chooses to share it with us, fine.  But it's wrong to force ourselves into their private personal lives.

Well, that kind of change won't happen anytime soon in America.  We have a lot of maturing to do in our minds and thinking, and there's always the demon Jealousy to undermine the best of intentions.  I don't know Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.  I respect, however, the way they have chosen to deal with the curse of celebrity in order to protect their children and move ahead with their lives.  I say "Bravo!" to them.....

Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow  (Photo from eonline.com)

No comments: