The Fame Monster

I’ve been thinking a lot about the overheated spotlight of fame in the last few days. 

More specifically, what it means when we see someone relentlessly splattered on our screen or are unable to avoid incessantly reading about them in the news or on social media.

Who and what exactly are these people and how do they fit into the paradigm of who and what THEY really are?

Kinda like Kim K’s recent Met Gala look, you have to wonder… who is she?

And what do our reactions to and fascination with them say about us.

Two people now all over the news and in pop culture that couldn’t be more different prompted this.  

In fact, the only thing they share in this moment, and likely for all time, is an outsized level of notoriety that IMPLORES us ALL to have an opinion on them.

1. The late Princess Diana Spencer, aka The People’s Princess.

And….

2. Kyle Rittenhouse, the now 18-year-old AR-15 rifle-toting killer of two men a year ago that was just found not guilty of committing their murder.

I know. 

You sure Chairy?

It doesn’t feel right to even carry them in the same thought, does it?

But bear with me.

Earlier this week I received the first complimentary DVD of the 2021 Hollywood awards season, Spencer.  It’s a creepy little film about a reimagined pivotal week in Princess Diana’s life in 1991 where she is secluded at the Queen’s estate to celebrate Christmas with the Royal Family and must decide whether she wants to fully embrace her public doppelganger, Princess Di, or re-emerge as her fast disappearing true self, Diana Spencer, and in the process attempt to save her two young sons from the clutches of the royal version of the fame monster.

As dramatic as its poster!

If that sounds a little pretentious, well, it is.  But that’s because this film was directed by Pablo Larrain, who unapologetically played fast and loose with the facts of Jacqueline Kennedy’s life in Jackie (2016), a movie I personally loathed and would have turned off had I not been determined to blog about how truly disrespectful and sickening I thought it was.

Still, there is something about Spencer that sadly speaks to the latter part of 2021.

Not to mention that, in its way, and with the help of a disturbingly transformational performance by Kristen Stewart, it manages to give the people’s princess a momentarily quite happy ending.

Is Oscar calling?

It also helps that at the outset the filmmakers superimpose onscreen that what we are about to see is: a fable from a true tragedy.   As we watch what seems like yet another crushingly awful exploitation of a dead person’s life we can at least relax into the idea that the filmmakers have copped to the fact that they’re cherry picking their way through a reimagined and reassembled graveyard of facts to serve their own purpose.

Not quite noble but, hey, when you’re as famous as Diana was and continues to be you’ve willingly bargained away your anonymity for the type of riches and attention that the rest of us mere mortals can only dream of.

Or have you?

So many Dianas, how can we keep up?

In a sense that is the question Spencer asks and it’s best expressed when the philandering and quite awful version of her husband, Prince Charles, finally confronts what seems like a mid-nervous breakdown Diana with a sobering fact he presumes she had to have always known.

The idea that there are two of us, the personwe really are and the other one people take pictures of.

In the film Charles is speaking of the Royal Family, trying to drum it into Diana that this is what she signed up for and to think or act in any more authentic way will indeed literally drive her crazy.

Pretty generous casting

Yet given what we’ve “achieved”(Note: Ahem) in terms of world interconnectivity in the last three decades this has now become an undeniable fact of life for all of us.  

For it’d be naive to deny that in less than 24 hours any one of us could be living out the hideous fishbowl existence of our own 2021 version of Diana, but without the designer clothes and cool sports car she drives in Spencer.

Whether we enable it, whether we plan it or if, as in most cases, it happens quite accidentally.

This brings us to Kyle, the good ole boy cause celebre or object of international hate/love of the hour.

Ugh, this guy

The moment this then 17-year-old little shit chose to travel to another state with a semi-automatic rifle he didn’t own strapped on his shoulder so he could strut around like a big bad PROUD boy, pretending to be someone he was not (Note: A military-style paramedic vs. a princess for the people) he was immediately trading in his anonymous life and willingly putting himself in the crosshairs of danger – red, white and blue style.

It might be true that he hadn’t planned murder – or well, multiple shots with a war weapon directly into the bodies or two unarmed people he would kill, though later be found not guilty of committing a felony against – but this was always in the cards.

The reason they call them military-style weapons is that they’re meant to kill people in the most efficient manner possible.  To deny this is like denying that dating a famous person from a famously Royal family can very likely make you viscous fodder for the international consumption of venal gossip.

Justice had no chance against an AR15

The difference, of course, is that young Kyle chose a potentially lethal weapon that he could aim at others for fun, frolic and effect.   Diana chose a potentially lethal arena where many of the weapons of the world would eventually be borne down on her because, well, they could.  And it’s fun.

Kyle quickly and enthusiastically became the hunter.  Diana found herself hunted. 

And it’s always better to be armed when you find yourself in the midst of a hunt.  Until, well, it’s not.

By play acting soldier and making himself a minor in a minefield of social unrest, young Kyle was living out a video game fantasy of right wing revenge on the streets of Kenosha, WI over a year ago.  But as often happens in these situations, who he truly was or could have become (Note: We’ll never know) got swallowed by the events he set in motion to hideously public effect.

More of the same…

With his exoneration in criminal court last week, it might right now seem that he’s emerged victorious and gotten away with it.  Yet recent history often has a way of George Zimmerman-ing and Dan White-ing the crap out of people like him – shooters who walk away seemingly unscathed to only years later be hoisted on their own petards (Note:  I’ve been waiting decades to use that comic book phrase from “Batman” and this is the first time it’s ever seemed appropriate).

Kyle might have physically survived a situation his victims couldn’t (Note:  Tough crap crazy Judge Schroeder, I can use that word outside of your courtroom).  But it remains to be seen if he can survive himself.

He’s scheduled to do his first post-court interview with Tucker Carlson to air on Fox Monday night and there has already been talk of him being offered an internship via accused child sex trafficker, Rep. Matt Goetz (R-FL).   

Eyeroll of the century

So, I mean, that will certainly end well for him in the long run, right?  Like, what could go wrong as the years go on?

Fame and some potentially small fortune might be currently knocking at his door but one of the things we know all too well as 2021 is coming to a close is that everything comes at a cost. 

And I’m here to tell you as a college professor with two decades of experience that few, very few, 18 year olds have what it takes to weather the kind of relentless, ongoing storms Kyle will find himself in.

It’s a dangerous drug

Fame is a harsh, relentless and unforgiving mistress as all of us adults who’ve been fortunate enough to live through Diana’s death AND the last thirty years can attest to.

No matter what side you’re on and no matter how dastardly or noble your motivations or deeds.   Stay tuned.

Lady Gaga – “Monster”

Fumbling

It’s not like I didn’t know who Aaron Rodgers was before all this.  I mean, he’s engaged to Shailene Woodley!

Kidding.

The Jeopardy Guy?

Not about the engaged part but the fact that, not being much of a football fan or someone who generally follows sports (Note: Though I do like watching a great tennis match), I wouldn’t know or care about a famous NFL receiver .

Kidding again!

I know he’s a halfback.  Um, fullback.

Okay, yes —    QUARTERBACK!

But truly, on this issue and in this news cycle, who cares???

It might take a while

Last night I made dinner for two vaccinated friends and we three multi-vaxxed gay guys all of a certain age talked about three different ways to lie.   

Before I tell you what the three are it’s worth noting upfront we’ve all spent our lives in the entertainment industry where over the years, whether you like it or not, you receive a master class in learning how to recognize and, yeah okay, sometimes execute all three types of untruth-telling.

#1Make stuff up.  That’s just saying a lot of unvarnished sh-t that you know isn’t true because it helps you and, well, because you can. 

#2Lying by omission.  This is when in answer to a question, or in making a statement, you knowingly leave out facts you are aware are essential and that, if revealed, would prove the exact opposite of the argument you are making or the impression you are trying to make.

#3 – A hybrid of #1 and #2.  Using language that is vague enough to answer a question and technically tell the truth but in just enough of a wiggle room kind of way that enables you to get the reaction and response you want.

Good question

Of course, even if you succeed, being this kind of expert wordsmith doesn’t make you George Washington. Rather, you’re just a more polite version of Donald J. Trump.

Someone who joyously engages in #1 (Note: See my crowd size and we won the election by A LOT) but tried to govern us through a pandemic with #2 and various side dishes of #1.  Yeah, it really is that simple. 

Even though it can get incredibly complicated, especially when you’re not a natural born Trumpian-like liar.

You tell ’em Larry!

Rodgers, the three time NFL MVP who has so far led the Green Bay Packers to a 7-1 winning season, told reporters and media outlets back in August regarding COVID-19 vaccine requirements, that he’d been immunized prior to the season beginning.  (Note: #3) Then quickly, he added:

There’s guys on the team that haven’t been vaccinated and it’s a personal decision.  (I’m) not going to judge those guys. (Note: #2.  Soooooo #2).

Gotcha!

This week, sadly, Rodgers tested positive for COVID-19 and had to come clean and admit he was unvaccinated. 

And then he had to do some cleanup.  Actually, A LOT of cleanup.

In the entertainment business, this is usually the time a studio head gets gently ousted into an independent producing deal or a director or star leaves a project due to artistic differences.

Ding ding ding!

Though if you’re super “A” list, like Rodgers currently is, they might just weather the storm by hiring some expensive damage control experts.  Another way is for you to apologize, tell the absolute unvarnished truth, take the consequences and then try to use your platform to do some future good by learning from your mistake (Note: Attempting to make the world a slightly better place in some small, benevolent, role model-y kind of way).

Rodgers so far seems to be taking a third road that judges across the world warn against – serving as your own defense attorney and refusing to admit to the screw up that got you into all this trouble in the first place.

And looking like this isn’t helping

The Packers’ current star QB seems convinced his primary transgression right now is merely choosing to follow his own protocol of protection against COVID-19.  He simply doesn’t get that it’s the lie that almost always brings you down.

Except when you get away with it.  Which, in this case, he hasn’t.

See, it’s Rodgers’ belief that because he played this season by following all of the protocols for unvaccinated players that he is the VICTIM here.  So instead, he proclaims:

..I’m in the crosshairs of the woke angry mob right now… So, before my final nail gets put in my cancel culture casket, I think I would like to set the record straight on so many of the blatant lies that are out there about myself.

Yikes

Then, in classic client as his own ill-advised attorney style, he goes on to mansplain his vaccine lie.  How the media was on a witch hunt (Note: Yes, he went THAT Trumpian) for unvaccinated players in August and that accounted for his use of the word “immunized.” 

How they’ve (his fellow players) all endured Draconian measures…not based on science, such as undergoing daily COVID-19 testing that must be negative before entering the Packers’ facilities; wearing a mask inside and around vaccinated people; physically distancing; not leaving his hotel and other travel restrictions.

In other words, behaving like a working human who cares about others and the future of humanity in the midst of a global pandemic.

Basic. Human. Decency.

As if that wasn’t enough, Rodgers went on to whine that he was tested over 300 times and was negative every time before finally testing positive this past week.

Well, um, yeah, that is the way it works. 

As we three gay guys of a certain age would have gladly told him.

We had lots and lots of friends who were healthy and HIV negative before, one day, they contracted HIV and tested positive.  Then, they got sick with full-blown AIDS.  And in the eighties and nineties, like too many with full-blown COVID-19 in 2020 and, still, into 2021, sadly died.

That’s how viruses roll.  You become positive AFTER you were negative for months…or even…years.

Truth hurts man!

To further buoy his explanation, Rodgers brought 500 pages of research he compiled to appeal his non-vaccination status to the NFL.  It’s a cornucopia of information of #1s, #2s and #3s that you can read about here.

But basically he presents it to support his claim that he needs an alternative to a shot because he’s allergic to an ingredient in the MRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna).  This despite the view from the head of the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology’s COVID Vaccine Task Force that “you’re as likely to get struck by lightning as you are to have an allergic reaction to a COVID vaccine.”

And then you’ll go BACK TO THE FUTURE!

(Note: Not to mention anecdotal evidence from our own internal study — The Chair has allergies to countless pathogens, gets regular allergy shots, has asthma and is OLD(er).  Yet he has been thrice vaccinated thus far with nary a serious reaction).

Oh, one more thing.  Rodgers says he also hesitates to get the J & J shot because he’s heard of multiple people who have had adverse events, including leaving themselves open to sterility, which is something he greatly fears because the next great chapter of my life, I believe, is being a father. (Note: There is zero link between these vaccines and sterility.  00000.00000%).

It is not for us to say that it might be a good idea for Aaron Rodgers to delay fatherhood a bit.  But as a blogger and non-football fan, I am free to write it on behalf of the families of the 750,000 dead Americans and all those AT RISK that he might have infected had his team not required him to take the COVID protocols he so vehemently and so publicly continues to resent.

Green Day – “American Idiot”