The other night a friend of mine told me he thought John Mayer
was awesome because he "just doesn't care." Never mind that Mayer has been in a self-imposed (and publicly encouraged) sort of exile for the past several months, letting the afterglow from his now-infamous Playboy
interview burn out. Or that he's considered by many to be one of Hollywood's most famous d-bags.
In some circles, John Mayer not apologizing for being a crude, young dude who likes to party is great. There are plenty of people out there who understandably find it refreshing to hear a celebrity speaking like a real person instead of a product. But a fine line exists between down-to-earth and making a mockery, and it's not always easy to see.
Unlike Mayer, most celebrities have come to grips with the existence of their "public persona" -- that is, someone who cheerfully answers queries about the new brand of mascara they're using and coyly evades questions about their love lives. But other stars have opted not to play the media game so willingly, either because they think it's stupid and shallow, or because they'd rather "keep it real."
Mayer, apparently, falls into the former category. He realizes he has to give interviews, but that doesn't mean he can't treat it all like a joke. He can mess around, his soundbites will make headlines, and no one will take him seriously. And people keep buying his albums.
That's the way it used to go, anyway. But after Mayer made racist comments to Playboy
and offered TMI about his ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson
, calling her "sexual napalm," his audience that once played along fell into uproar. African-American and women's groups were offended, and he was forced to back down.
"I quit the media game. I'm out. I'm done," he said in a teary apology during a Nashville concert. "I just want to play my guitar." When I get married that’s gonna be my vows: ‘Do you, John Mayer, take this woman to have and to hold, to wear her *ss like headgear?’ - John Mayer
What stands out here isn't that he's out, but that he thought it was all just a game to begin with. New York Magazine
recently ran an article titled "The Star Market: What Is Professional Provocateur Megan Fox
’s Valuation in Hollywood?" In other words, if she were a stock, should you buy, sell, or hold? It's no secret that Fox owes her fame to Transformers
, but the face that she's turned to the press is a selling point in its own right.
The author writes, "She posed for hot, steamy pictures while giving outrageously frank interviews in which she demystified her own celebrity, detailed and mocked her own sex life, and talked honestly about Hollywood. It was the perfect recipe to collect young male fans who were mesmerized by her photos, and yet her brash, unguarded, and real-gal-talkin’ quotes made them think that they might have a shot with her."
But then she starred in a couple of bombs and was allegedly fired from Transformers
(though she claims she quit), and she's shied away from really owning
her sexpot persona à la Pamela Anderson
. It probably didn't help when she compared director Michael Bay
to Hitler, either.New York Magazine
argues, "While Fox’s PR strategy made her a star, it’s also the very thing that has severely limited her future." A publicist added, "She sells magazines because of what she says. But she doesn’t sell movie tickets." Their verdict? "Sell!"
Fox exaggerated her outrageousness in interviews, talking about her bisexuality and comparing actors to prostitutes, because she didn't want to pander to the press. She once said we should always assume she's being sarcasatic. But apparently sarcasm doesn't translate in print, because after a while, she didn't much like how she was being painted.
She said recently, "I've been reluctant to share any bits of truth about myself or to really let people in on my reality, so I have said some things to throw people off the scent of what's really going on in my life. So I have sort of aided the media in printing these misconceptions, which I regret." High School Musical is about this group of boys who are all being molested by the basketball coach, who is Zac Efron's dad... And they have these little girlfriends, who are their beards. Oh, and somehow there's music involved. You have to get stoned to watch it. - Megan Fox
So now we're all just confused, and no one knows how to market Megan Fox.
Do we want our celebs to care? We may think it's cool when they don't, but then they end up alienating the public or shooting themselves in the foot professionally.
Take Kristen Stewart
, who has made no secret of the fact that she finds the spotlight to be very uncomfortable. She recently said of photos taken by taunting paparazzi, "I feel like I'm looking at someone being raped."
Oops. Women's groups didn't go for that quote either, and Kristen immediately apologized, saying, "People thinking that I'm insensitive about this subject rips my guts out."
Reporters have been quick to brand Stewart broody and nonchalant, which before Twilight
matched up nicely with her indie street cred. But even though Stewart has spoken distastefully about the culture of "celebrity" and all the unwanted media attention, she doesn't want people to get the wrong impression.
In another interview with Elle
, she added, "I hate it when they say I don’t give a sh*t, because nobody cares more than I do. I’m telling you I don’t know anybody who does this that gives a sh*t more than I do."
Stewart, for one, seems to realize that she's not doing herself any favors by acting like she's above the very industry that's given her success. And though she's definitely made some blunders with the press in the past, you can't say the girl hasn't learned from her mistakes -- she's demonstrated recently that she's desperate to relate to audiences, even though she doesn't want to sell out. She said
, "I have had so many people say, ‘Why don’t you just play the part? Just like, go smile, talk about whatever they want you to talk about.’ It’s like, ‘I do, I really try to do that.’ I guess I should get a face transplant or something." Nothing about being a celebrity is desirable, I'm an actor. It's bizarre to me that everyone is so obsessive. - Kristen Stewart
The transplant won't be necessary, but recent playful appearances, like her mock kiss with Robert Pattinson
at the recent MTV Movie Awards, have shown Kristen making strides to seem more likeable and more grateful.
The "not caring" attitude works wonders for a few things. If you're Megan Fox, it can turn action star arm candy into the next biggest, hottest thing (at least for a moment). Or as John Mayer learned, it can generate tabloid interest in a guy who's just playing his guitar.
But when it comes to building a lasting career in the spotlight and earning the respect of an industry, most fans need to see a little bit more graciousness. You don't have to give weight loss tips or even tell us who you're dating, but a smile, a wave and a quote about your talented co-stars is pure professionalism.
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