Why do celebrity blogs have the ability to annoy us so much?
One of the particular assets that Gwyneth Paltrow possesses is being a divisive character. On her now legendary blog, Goop, she has famously talked about motherhood, recommended and sold sweaters with hefty price tags, and in recent times announced her clamorous “conscious uncoupling” from spouse Chris Martin. It does well and is followed by haters and likers alike – Paltrow in all her iconic magnetism or all her detestable smugness, sells. Her blog is a “lifestyle” blog, one that essentially feeds you all the data and details of how to live as fabulously as she does. So far, so good – there is nothing wrong in what we term “aspirational living”, and it forms the cornerstone of most lifestyle mags, be they Cosmopolitan or Esquire. Nonetheless, there is undeniably a fundamental problem with Goop and many similar blogs.
Yesterday saw another celebrity throw herself into the blogosphere as Blake Lively launched her inauspiciously-named blog, Preserve. In her Editor’s Letter, Blake explains that she is “no editor, no artisan, no expert. And certainly no arbiter of what you should buy, wear, or eat.” She goes on, writing that “We haven’t looked at Preserve as a new website, but rather as a new street. A sort of greatest hits of “Main Street, USA.” To cringe or to facepalm – that is the question.
The skepticism and snarkiness with which Blake’s foray into the blogosphere has been met (The Cut described the design of the website as looking “like a promotional website for a horror movie in 2005”) is a common response to the sickly sweet earnestness of these types of blogs, which come across as fundamentally disingenuous. And this perhaps, can be traced back to our way of looking at ourselves and celebrities in general.
The crux of the problem is perhaps best exemplified by the spot of trouble Gwyn ran into with an interview she gave E! a few months back. In it Paltrow talked about how the hardship of raising kids while on set outstripped the difficulty of being a normal office mom – “I think to have a regular job and be a mom is not as, of course there are challenges, but it’s not like being on set.” The interview reaped havoc for a few days, with a “normal office mom” writing an open letter to Gwyneth Paltrow in The New York Post, and Angelina Jolie lashing out against Hollywood moms who complain. Insult and offense was taken, and Gwyneth ended up having to resort to Goop and Twitter to clarify what she had said.
The episode, while a pretty normal occurrence in the land of Gwyn, exposes the nerve that these celeb blogs continually touch. While we seem perfectly at ease with gazing upon examples of unattainable heights of perfection in these blogs, we do not like it when the gods come down and play at being mere mortals. The message seems to be “We are allowed to dream, you are not allowed to make fun of us.” The perceived fake intensity and earnestness that may irritate the occasional hardened punter, seems to spread to a far greater number of people when the celebrity in question is playing at being “normal”. Drawing comparisons between themselves and us, trying to create a relatable and accessible online persona, like both Preserve and Goop do, does nothing more than highlight the chasm of difference between your average “office mom” for instance, and these celebrities.
We go to aspirational websites and magazines as a form of escapism. They present hopeful images of things better and brighter, and often frameworks for inarticulate ambitions and dreams we may possess. There are a vague language and horizon of hope in these lifestyle guides, that allow you to forget the more earthly things which keep you pinned down – money, relationships, career, family etc. We are attracted to them almost as a form of spectacle. So when a celebrity whose lifestyle and day-to-day is totally alien to our own, starts to clumsily regurgitate our experiences through their own far-removed life events, it not only irks – it angers. Not only have they broken the spectacle and cut short our moment of fantasy, but they have also decided to interpret our pleb’s experience for us. They are impostors in the world of normality and we are all quick to cry wolf. If we don’t have the millions, the bodies, the dresses, the tresses, or the lifestyles, at least we have the right to our own narratives.
In a land of the backlit, a small orphan is Sisyphus. From The Cut’s “terrifying gifs from Preserve”.
“Everyone has a story to tell” is Preserve’s motto, but perhaps Blake would’ve benefited from focusing on “I have a story to tell.” While we may not be interested in another artificial and watered-down account of “the every-woman’s experience,” we always seem to have time for the make-believe world of fame and celebrity.
Roisin Agnew @Roxeenna