I really hate entertainment news. When I was younger, it was the only place you could get those behind the scenes and sneak previews of movies and television shows. It was worth sitting through the story-within-the stories of personalities and celebrities, their mating habits and shopping agendas.
The job of the Hollywood “fixer” has changed much over the decades. Back in the golden age, each studio had a few people on hand to protect their image from entertainment reporters. Actors and executives would engage in “scandalous” behaviors of all types and the fixer would make the story go away somehow.
The idea was that the stars of Hollywood were just as much a fiction as the characters they played. Stars were marketed with a certain mystique and character designed to appeal to the masses. They were larger than life, glamorous, handsome, and articulate. They were sexy, brilliant, and ultimately either relate-able or to be worshiped. If you love the actor, you’ll spend money on the movie or tune in to their new show. You’ll buy a magazine to read their story and follow their fairy tale wedding in the papers. So long as the studio protected that image from real life bleeding through in reports of drunken fights, rape allegations, or unpopular sympathies, the revenue stream will flow.
These days, publicists and managers work with entertainment media to control stories and make deals to protect the higher-level stakeholders by throwing them tasty stories about drunken debauchery, infidelity, or perversion among the lesser-ranks. The principle is the same, except we come to expect a level of “scandal” from our celebrities. Divorces are terrible, sad affairs (but still sell papers). We have celebrities who are famous because they are rich and beautiful, exhibiting the perfect blend of style and stupidity that makes them the subject of public debate. As moral and decent as we want to seem as a culture, we revel in their antics. We tune in for every “housewives” restaurant throw-down. We’ll forgive a star’s drunk driving record if her Q-Score sustains its entertainment value and profitability.
Even TMZ.com, a company that prides itself on showing celebrities as they “really are” with an emphasis on scandal and schadenfreude, knows its limits. It won’t risk its access to studios over a Harvey Weinstein, but will happily take out Weinstein’s trash when a celebrity runs afoul of him.
When these powerful players are “discovered” the Entertainment Media frames the story as new and shocking revelations. This is a lie. A story like Weinstein’s wasn’t just discovered. Someone shifted the power structure in the industry to make it less of a risk to take on Weinstein than continue hiding the truth in the interest of self-preservation.
For how many years was Bill Cosby an alleged sexual predator? So many he was still wearing those god-awful sweaters and sucking on pudding pops. But for many of those years, Cosby was a gate-keeper to success, especially for African-Americans. He was a profit machine and a powerful partner to have. Associating with one of the “Top 100 Most Powerful in Hollywood” was currency in the realm of entertainment. Quashing rumors and paying off victims was profitable. However, once the stories came out and the lawsuits were filed, all those loyal business partners began to “discover” the truth. Suddenly the machine that kept Cosby safe and his image clean began destroying him and anyone who dared support him or deny his behavior.
Cosby is an old man who will likely not outlive this shame. But other celebrities will. And have.
When the Entertainment News machine declares a celebrity dead, they’re usually just in celebrity rehab. If they are rich enough and retain just enough power or public support, they can make a comeback regardless of how horrible their sins may be. It all comes down to what’s profitable. If the public is willing to overlook terrible, criminal behavior, a monster can again become a hero.
Mel Gibson was “ruined’ years ago over a vile, racist and anti-Semitic outburst during a traffic stop. After a few years, he sits among the A-Listers in Hollywood and plays a supporting role in this Christmas’ feel-good comedy film.
Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist but also a wife abuser, and bit off a man’s ear on pay-per-view. He has a cartoon show and was a big part of the original “Hangover” film.
Actors continue to work with Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Proudly.
Donald Trump’s infamous Access Hollywood tape was a proud endorsement of rape culture by a man who is now the leader of the free god-damned world.
The fact that there are those among you who will defend the people I mentioned is proof that there is no sin, no atrocity that cannot be excused if the public can be persuaded that being entertained or otherwise distracted is possible and profitable.
Here’s the part we don’t think about.
None of these monsters acted alone. The only way they could act with impunity is by having willing accomplices who are either working directly to quiet accusers or intimidate witnesses or those associates who know but choose to remain silent.
Do you really think that Harvey Weinstein’s closest friends and associates didn’t know? Why aren’t they sharing in this shame? Do they really get a pass when they tweet how “shocked” they are at the revelations? Perhaps they do because we can stomach destroying one monster but destroying the mechanism that kept it preying on people is too hard for us. Or perhaps it’s the Entertainment News machine’s choice to frame the story as a lone wolf predator so that other valuable stars and players can continue generating profits?
And then there is “entertainment journalism” with its legions of insiders and informants. These are the people who clue the paparazzi on where to catch Kanye and Kim having dinner but also when the right celebrity punched a guy but didn’t pay enough to keep everybody quiet about it.
This is what makes me angry about Entertainment News. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a beast. So long as you’re a profitable beast and your professional success feeds enough others, your sins are not news. You are protected. The talking heads and the career journalists know who they are protecting right now and they will cover the charity functions and ask who the stars are wearing and what it means to them to support such amazing causes, all the while knowing that when the cameras stop rolling the predator’s hunt will resume.