That's What She Said: In defense of gossip
- Dawn Dumont | June 27, 2017
I probably know more about celebrity gossip than I do about law. Which makes sense because law school was only three years but I was reading Star and the Enquirer since I was ten years old.
I read once that the human brain can only store so much information and that when you add new information, it pushes out other information. Well, it appears that nothing has thrown out such facts as, that Salma Hayek was 5”2 inches tall (Ha! I’m taller Shrimp!), that Angelina Jolie was once dumped by Timothy Hutton (I know, right? Like, as if Timothy Hutton.) and that Woody Allen married his ex-step-daughter (gross).
Celebrity gossip has its purposes. It’s shorthand for describing what our shared values are. Back in the olden days, when we were all bigots, gossip was: “that dude hangs out with other dudes” or “that woman has had a female roommate…for a long time.” Which nowadays is, “Oh they’re gay, yawn.”
But what people gossip about now, tells you what are current taboos and what is not. Cheating on your spouse – it still titillates. But now people stop to look at the why. Is she cheating on him too? Do they have an open marriage? Is their partner ever home? There’s more to the story and picking sides isn’t so black and white. Even my mom, a conservative who has used the word “homewrecker” on occasion refused to apply it to Angelina Jolie. She believed that Brad Pitt left his wife, Jennifer Aniston, because Aniston didn’t want kids. Her proof is that Pitt and Jolie had six kids together – or what my prolific cousin Beaver would call, “a decent start.”
Celebrity gossip has another layer because most of these people have chosen to have their lives exposed. By letting people into their lives, it builds a relationship with the general public which can then be parlayed into a bigger audience for their movies, TV shows, book projects, blogs about their pet French bulldogs, etc. The downside is of course that complete strangers feel comfortable weighing in on the minutiae of their lives. Have they gained weight? Are they too thin? What parts of their bodies are real and which parts are not – and when do they qualify for cyborg status?
The weird part is that by watching these people most of my life I actually feel like I know them. Like I could sit down with Britney Spears and I know that we would end up talking about being working moms and I would delicately avoid mentioning her shaved-head incident. Or I could sit down with Angelina Jolie and we could discuss refugee crisis around the world and also parenting. We could also talk about who she’s gonna date now that her and Brad are done – I’ll put in a good word for Cree guys. Or I could hang out with Jennifer Aniston and we could talk about why Angelina is such a “B” (although I wouldn’t say it because I adore Angelina but I’d listen to Jennifer and then tell Angelina later.)
Even when you have unlimited resources at your disposal, celebrity gossip has taught me that bad stuff still happens to everyone. No matter how rich and famous you are – you will have problems. Brooke Shields wrote a book about her experience with post-partum depression. Brad Pitt recently said he was boozing it up too much and his wife took the kids and left him. Charlie Sheen disclosed his HIV status and now talks about the different medical options with his same ornery openness.
Gossip also levels the playing field, in a superficial way. Like the closest I’ll ever get to private jet is a security guard telling me to stay away from it – but I can feel slightly superior to Lil Wayne who was once thrown off a private jet for being too high.
I do have my limits when it comes to gossip. I have no interest in looking at pictures of celebrity kids – they didn’t ask to be exposed so I won’t participate in that. I don’t look at nudie pics of celebrities from their hacked phones either. Although regarding this issue – I do have two points to make. First of all, don’t send naked pictures of yourself to anyone. I’ve seen enough people’s phones to know that those pictures are always shared beyond the person they were intended for (both guys and girls are guilty of that). But if you do and they end up on the Internet, don’t freak out – it’s just a body at the end of the day. And it’s probably yours at its peak so why not immortalize it?
The best part of celebrity gossip is that I always have something to discuss with my parents. When we run out of gossip about my siblings, it’s always nice to sip a steeped tea while weighing in on Tiger Wood’s DUI arrest video.