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The age of celebrity is dead

The internet has killed the Hollywood star

February 10, 2020

10:09 AM

10 February 2020

10:09 AM

Come friendly bombs and fall on Hollywood, it isn’t fit for doing good. Another year, another dreadful Oscars, another round of moral lectures from the beautiful people. It’s all so tiresome. The only reason most people pay attention to these irritating award ceremonies is precisely so that they can be irritated.

So there was a vegan theme at this year’s Academy Awards. So the show had no host. So Brad Pitt is angry about impeachment. So someone said ‘workers of the world unite’. So Joaquin Phoenix is mad (in all senses) about what mankind is doing to the animal kingdom. So Natalie Portman, in what she called ‘my subtle way’, had the names of the women directors who weren’t nominated for awards sewn into her dress.

So what? All these people are ridiculous. Nothing they say makes any difference to anything. Actors are increasingly aware, thanks in part to Ricky Gervais’s wonderful ribbing of them at the Golden Globes, that nobody cares what they think. At some unconscious level, these actors must know that they don’t really know anything about politics or the real world. They can’t admit this to themselves, of course, human nature being what it is, so they double down. They convince themselves that any angry reaction to their moralizing is an indication that they have dared to speak truth. How brave they are! And so the infuriating cycle continues. Actors end up almost trolling the public, and the public trolls them back on social media.


The Oscars have always been fundamentally silly, but 10 years ago they were still a major event. Celebrities still lectured people in their annoying, self-congratulatory way, but they had more cultural capital. People listened when they spoke, and that slightly restrained their sanctimoniousness. Now they are just howling into cyberspace, ever more desperate to be heard.

Industry bores will tell you that the audience viewing figures were up last year: 29.6 million viewers and, yes, ABC sold their precious advertising spots for lots of money. But on Sunday night, they only got 23. 6 million: in 2000, the audience was 44.6 million, and 41 million in 2010, so the pattern is one of decline.

The internet has killed the Hollywood star. Fame has been disrupted. Andy Warhol got it slightly wrong when he said that in the future, everybody will be famous for 15 minutes. In fact, thanks to social media, everybody is famous to at least 15 people. Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook mean we don’t have to ogle stars anymore; we are too busy ogling ourselves. Yes, different types of celebrities have grown online: the influencers, the YouTubers, the streamers, and they too will try to use their position to grandstand. But the age of celebrity, of mass entertainers mattering as anything other than entertainment, is dying. It won’t be missed.


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