After last weeks's orgy of coverage of the on-again relationship between Star Editor at Large Julia Allison and College Humor founder and boy-millionaire Jakob Lodwick, we had promised ourselves we'd abstain for a while. But today they posted a video of a teary argument on Jakob's video-sharing site, Vimeo, and once again we found ourselves unable to turn away. Why? WHY?
A couple of years ago, around the time when Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were splitting up, I got hooked on celebrity weeklies like Star and Us Weekly. They were fascinating because they purported to give their readers behind the scenes access to people whose public personae were larger than life, and for a while I was really into knowing these details. Information about famous people, no matter how banal—Angelina Jolie bought a baby sweater at La Petite Tresor! Britney Spears likes chocolate-covered pretzels! Reese Witherspoon wore the same sweater three times in a week!—seemed entertaining.
But my tastes got a little bit more bloodthirsty and ravenous once I burned out on this quotidian stuff, and so did the tastes of the tabs, or so it seemed. I wanted: more cellulite! More weight winners and losers! More hitting rock bottom! And then, after I started writing about "gossip," it became far less possible to delude myself that any of the weeklies actually had privileged insights into the lives of the stars. I'd pick up Us Weekly and feel sorry for the writer who had to eke 1500 words out of a paparazzi photo that showed Reese Witherspoon frowning. "REESE AND JAKE: ON THE ROCKS?" Uh, right, either that or she just didn't feel like smiling for the camera for the thousandth time that day. The thing is, though, that even though we all know it's bullshit, the idea that we could be privy to a tiny bit of insider info is compelling.
So when Internet microcelebrities like Julia and Jakob compulsively display their dirty laundry online, it fulfills a need that celebrity culture has instilled in me and come on, admit it, possibly you too. Instead of extrapolating what's going on in these self-proclaimed fameballs' largeish heads based on pictures snapped on the way out of a party, we can read about it and read about it and read about it on their blogs, or we can watch them fight and offer them relationship tips in Vimeo comments. Instead of musing about how Jakob's immaturity probably will make Julia cry eventually, we can actually watch her tears. She's letting us! She wants us to watch.
Which is probably exactly why we should turn away.