Celebrity Crush

Many who admired Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s artistic abilities were crushed upon hearing of his untimely death from heroin. Because he didn’t “seem” like an addict or out of control, and in fact seemed to be one who harnessed his abilities and honed them, revelations of his relapse were surprising and sad. His brilliance and low key, mature manner off screen furthered the public’s impression of a master– one with incredible gifts and work ethic and  seemingly able to transcend the trappings and excesses of Hollywood and of American culture. Alas, here on earth, stars are human. We may not know the depth of his struggles, but the scene of his death revealed conditions that suggest profound struggle. Addiction is insidious and cruel for anyone. It becomes crushing not only to the individual who struggles to maintain, but for friends and family as well.

Earlier Sunday morning, like so many, I sat with my morning coffee reading the New York Times. I tend to veer away from a lot of celebrity stories, but this was The New York Times. And Nicholas Kristof. Initially I was intrigued because this week’s op-ed piece seemed like a departure for him. Then I stepped in the quicksand. He shared an excerpt from a letter penned by Dylan Farrow, daughter of Mia Farrow. I followed the link to her entire letter. I was utterly uncomfortable, as she recounted being molested by Woody Allen when she was 7.  I assumed that Dylan Farrow’s piece was a reaction to Woody Allen’s Lifetime Achievement Award(s), and the upcoming Oscars. Her anger extended to  Cate Blanchett and Louis C.K. for working with Allen.  She seemed to be suggesting that anyone who doesn’t reject Woody Allen must be complicit with this man she accuses of molesting her.  I felt tremendous compassion for her and wondered if something happened, even if that something wasn’t exactly as she wrote it.The readers’ comments included much support for her, which in that case, included hateful remarks about Allen. She was tormented. That was clear. Still, the whole thing was so uncomfortable to read, not only because it is an uncomfortable subject, but because many others got involved. I don’t want to read about their dirty laundry. I have compassion for people who have been made to be victims. Then came the counter piece in The Daily Beast written by Robert B. Weide, a documentarian of Woody Allen. I was reminded of the very messiness of this case from 20 years ago. Was Dylan Farrow’s experience a result of being coached as a kid by her mother Mia during a hideously nasty break up? Why would Mia Farrow and the newest sensation, her son Ronan Farrow, (supposedly brilliant??), tweet middle-school-esque tweets about Woody during the Golden Globes? Why do we need to be bombarded with this AGAIN after 20 years? The Farrow side wants to use a wide audience to discourage any support for Woody Allen. After all of this, not only do I definitely not know what happened, I don’t want to be bombarded with their stuff. I am not complicit in what may or may not have taken place 20 years ago. It is very sad. They need to heal. Whatever happened, and I have no idea what DID happen, has left Dylan traumatized and she and her family have remained bitter and unrelenting. Moreover, they are determined to keep crushing as they have felt crushed.

These two tragic stories unfolded on Sunday before the Super Bowl, when the Denver Broncos were crushed by the Seattle Seahawks. So many were hoping Peyton Manning would get the win–a likable celebrity  athlete with incredible talent who is disciplined and affable and without the negative gossip. But the truly superb defense of the Seahawks overwhelmed the Broncos, and once again, assumptions were challenged. Of course, the  Super Bowl commercials are the other great excitement along with the championship game. The anticipation of the commercials as the zenith of entertainment in 30 second increments (unless it’s with Bob Dylan), adds to the enjoyment of the Super Bowl as Super Event. (**For a week or so prior to the Super Bowl, there was quite a bit of scuttlebutt about Scarlett Johansson’s role in a Super Bowl commercial as celebrity spokesperson for Soda Stream and the seeming conflict of interest with being an Oxfam ambassador. She chose economic opportunity for herself, but also for Palestinians and for Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation at Soda Stream.) The theme of celebrity in all the ads was sensational.Watching Super Bowl commercials has become a pastime, but this year’s all-star lineup made it that much more entertaining–even when the commercials themselves were otherwise not so terrific.  Star gazing is as old as humanity.

If we can learn anything after the celebrity immersion of Sunday, it is that life events can be crushing, and distortions abound. Celebrity sells. Certainly celebrity can be useful in attracting attention to worthy causes (and products), but the causes must go beyond the celebrities, and we need to create better resources for dealing with life’s crushes.

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