Everyone wants to be famous these days -- or, at least, that's what the people who want to be famous keep telling us. It's not easy, and once you've achieved fame, hanging on to it is even harder. That's why gossip sites have a steady stream of desperate never-beens milking the last drops of their dubious notoriety by indulging in benders, stinky reality shows, and sex tapes that everyone knew to expect years ago.
I'm not saying the rich and famous have it difficult in the sense we, the common people, understand. As John Cheese once told us, they're generally so impossibly far removed from ordinary folks, they completely lack the means to comprehend the life of, say, a short-order chef from Chattanooga. The thing is, that works the other way around, too. So, let's put on our best safari clothes and helmets that protect us from errant $800 protein shakes and clueless advice from Gwyneth Paltrow, venture deep into the jungles of fame, and try to figure out why so many of them eventually face the following situations:
4Their Personal Problems Affect Their Entire Image Forever
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What's the most embarrassing thing you did as a kid? Peed somewhere you shouldn't have? Fell face-first into dog shit, which all the girls saw? Performed a complex heist of Fort Knox, only to be foiled at the last second by Special Agent Lance Dickheart, the bastard? Now, a follow-up question: Do people still think of you as Piss-Pants Bill, Poopy-Face Ryan, or Grorrgh the "Would Have Been Super Rich But Got Foiled By Lance Dickheart Instead"? Of course they don't. You either grow out of it, move to another town, or eat the hearts of all who dare to speak your name in vain.
For celebrities, it's another matter. Every little thing they say or do is recorded somewhere, and every single mistake they make will put a dick-shaped dent in their image. You can become one of the world's most beloved actors and earn enough money to start a collection of human souls ... yet any damn second some dickhead can slap your past mistakes on the table for cheap publicity. Your past is owned by the public, and they will never, ever let it go. Sometimes, I think about the kind of psychological effects that shit must have on these people, and I'm suddenly way less envious of the giant pile of money that cushions the slightest bump on their orgy trains.
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I'm still envious, mind you. Just marginally less so.
That is, unless you're someone like Nicolas Cage. What do you think when you see the name? It's probably tons of bullshit movies, screaming, or general, rampant overacting that borders on Matthew McConaughey levels of crazy. All of these are valid observations, and I strongly suspect all of them can be traced to the fact that the man doesn't understand the concept of money. He went famously bankrupt a few years ago, thanks to his $30 million per year spending habits, and although he's still leading a very wealthy lifestyle by most definitions, he's clearly struggling enough to keep doing those films that have made him a living, breathing meme.
Look, I'm going to say it right now: Nicolas Cage is an excellent actor. Ebert loved him. Multiple peers have praised him as one of -- if not the -- finest actors of his generation, and, every once in a while, he even shows it. Dude could have become a Daniel Day-Lewis, but, instead, gravitated toward high-octane action movies and, once shit hit the fan, the occasional turdstorm to temporarily patch the giant leak in his ever-depleting money silo. That's the difference between rich-people money problems and, say, me. If I lose what little money I have, I become poor, but, at least, get to keep a modicum of dignity. If they become poor, they're still richer than I will ever be, but run the risk of becoming butt monkeys for life.
Although Mr. Cage has clearly regained some of his dignity.
Oh, some people bounce back just fine. The word "murderer" has been hovering above Robert Durst's head for decades, and he seemed to do as fine as whatever chaos demon in charge of his brain can, before The Jinx changed the game. Everyone is sort of aware Sean Penn is a writhing pile of dicks sheathed in a vaguely man-shaped skin casing, yet he keeps racking up prestigious starring roles and awards like it ain't no thing. Actually, can someone explain that one to me? I've been wondering for years why karma hasn't just dropped him head-first into a fire-ant mound.
3 We're Actively Trying To Break Them
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Remember Jennifer Lawrence? Of course you do, she's making smash-hit movies as we speak, and, chances are, she has a very bright future ahead of her ... no thanks to you. For the last couple of years, 2014 in particular, J-Law (shit, we actually loved her enough to give her one of those stupid nicknames) has been the toast of the entire world, especially the Internet. She's had it all: youth, lucrative and iconic roles, and a string of hit movies under her belt. Her clumsy-but-fun, everyday-cutie personality was more than enough to hide the fact that she sometimes behaved like a bit of a dick. As celebrities go, everyone agreed that she's the best.
So, of course, we had to break her.
Remember what the Internet adorably named "The Fappening?" Of course you do, it was last September, and you probably still have some of the images saved on your hard drive. The Internet unearthed a huge cache of Lawrence's (and a bunch of other female celebrities') private naked pics and gleefully turned the occasion into a worldwide jerk fest, in both senses of the word. For a while, the whole male online world went into a feeding frenzy, despite the fact that Lawrence made it pretty clear that she considers each and every person who seeks out the pictures a sex offender. Although she soon attempted to regain her media composure with a tasteful magazine-cover nude, she's been comparatively reclusive since, and, lately, the biggest headline you're likely to see about her is some fucking paparazzi shot where she walks her dog.
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So, here's a dog.
I'm using J-Law (shit, now I'm using it) as my example because she's the most recent notable case of us gleefully tearing down a celebrity, but I guarantee that we, as a howling sea of individually intelligent animals that together make up a mindless mob known as the public, have done that to the overwhelming majority of high-profile people. We haphazardly toss dudes such as Kanye West and Hugh Grant into the Chris Brown/Alec Baldwin-populated pile, labeled "dickhead-rage monsters," because they once flipped out and backfisted one of the 10,000 paparazzi shoving lenses up their colons every waking hour. In their shoes, most of us would be collecting necklaces of paparazzo teeth within weeks -- don't pretend that you wouldn't.
As for Lawrence, I'll wager cash money that, in a dark corner of her mind, she'll always resent those people who were swearing they would never let anyone harm their precious favorite celebrity one second, and then queued up to look at pictures of her naughty bits the next. Will it make her more bitter or more careful about how much she'll give of herself to the world? It's too early to tell. But, I bet she'll never be the media darling she once was again. She now knows what we are.