If, thanks to the Internet, you see the world as a really big Peyton Place, then you struck gold with all kinds of celebrity scandal this summer. But if you’re like me, you spent the summer in shock over the escalating foreign and domestic traumas facing our dear nation, such as dummies with bombs, angry media personalities, and an economy that still sucks. So I did a little post-summer-vacation dirt digging and found the pop-cultural train wrecks that people are still—still!—talking about to figure out who, exactly, still cares about this stuff and why. Because the way these "scandals" perpetuate themselves is a complete mystery to me.
As for Lady Gaga’s meat-dress scandal, I have a prediction: Lady Gaga will one day kill an animal onstage and throw the blood on her audience.
Why do we care so much about Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom? One possibility is that Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult are right. Despite the fact that women are the economic pistons who keep the publishing industry pumping, the tastemakers over at The New York Times are resolutely prejudiced in favor of serious books by serious men, and are quick to pigeonhole novels written by women as "chick lit" and, thus, undeserving of serious intellectual consideration. At the same time, they might just have sour grapes. Franzen is a great writer, and sometimes both Weiner’s and Picoult’s own novels do contain way too many of the tropes common in Harlequin romance novels.
Another possible reason Franzen has elicited such a fuss is that he is an ass-hat—a talented ass-hat, but an ass-hat nonetheless. His intellectual snobbery is annoying, shortsighted, and, well, rude. He's starting to remind me of Sir Topham Hatt.
Then again, maybe he's onto something: isn't it weird how Franzen’s “I’m so too good for mass marketing” act somehow helps propel him right up the bestseller list? It’s kind of meta, right?
Why do we care? It's unclear. Life goes on, and we’ll have to find new sordid celebrity marital behavior to judge mercilessly. (Maybe Mel Gibson will get married again.) Though people should stop complaining about how much money Elin did or didn’t get. If my husband did half of what Tiger is accused of doing, he’d still be writing zeros on my check.
So the new documentary I’m Still Here is fiction, and Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck are dead to me. I hate their “performance art” and I don’t want to see them perform ever again. The movie is basically a great big inside joke that only has any pathos or heart to it because Phoenix’s much-lionized brother, River, died of a drug overdose nearly 20 years ago. How is that funny? If I wanted to be confused by strangers acting foolishly for the benefit of a camera, I would watch reality TV. And don’t even start with the Hunter S. Thompson and Andy Kaufman comparisons. The whole thing reeks of a publicity stunt, not an attempt to examine the relationship between an actor and his audience. And it certainly doesn’t make any kind of statement about the corrosive nature of celebrity except what we already knew: lots of fame and money makes people assholes. And what's even the purpose of such a hoax? If it was to irritate their fans, they should both be very proud.
Lindsey Lohan goes back to jail. Why do we still care? Some thoughts:
Option A: Lohan is a living cautionary tale of everything you do not want your own kids to be.
Option B: Who goes to jail because they didn’t attend weekly alcohol-education classes? That’s like having to go on death row for unpaid traffic tickets.
Option C: When is there going to be an investigation into the completely separate legal system available to celebrities in L.A.? Honestly, all this special treatment is like something out of apartheid. Lohan was sentenced to 90 days in jail and 90 days in rehab; she did 14 days in lockup and 23 days in rehab. And all this stems from a DUI—a class of crime, by the way, responsible for 32 percent of all traffic fatalities.
OK, I understand why this hasn't gone away yet. Mel Gibson is an unrepentant drunk who loves to pop a few brewskis and get on the phone with his baby mama. Tired of listening to the same old verbal abuse day in and day out, Oksana Grigorieva starting taping his rants so she didn’t have to listen and, on the off chance he said anything coherent, she could listen to it later.
Oh, yeah, Oksana, I ain’t calling you a gold digger, but you ain’t taping no broke fellas.
Who cares? A mystery. What’s the scandal? Can’t divorced people who crave the spotlight find and date like-minded people? Also: who is Kat Von D.?
I get why people care about this. First, I can’t wait to see how much jail time famous people do in the U.K. Second, it doesn't matter what he does: I was 14 when Wham’s “Careless Whisper” came out and I listened to it 67 times a day for a year. The man is a saint.
KELLEY is a staff writer covering society and cultural affairs. Find her on Twitter.