Battle Studies, indeed! TMZ recently ran video of someone harassing James Cameron to sign an Avatar poster, the highlight of which: Cameron calling his "fan" a "fucking asshole." Typical TMZ. But Cameron's surprising public advocate nailed the story.
Introducing John Mayer: The Blogger.
So, this happened:
And then TMZ followed it up with a post cutely titled "True Lies" (like the AWESOME James Cameron movie starring Tom Arnold and Tia Carrere) where, in some Avatar press interview footage, James Cameron notes that "he'd sign as many autographs as people will line up for."
Nice! James Cameron doesn't really seem like the kinda guy TMZ would go for, right? But Avatar posts are getting awesome traffic right now, so they're just astutely following the news cycle. And it just so happens that James Cameron called this guy a "fucking asshole" and they were there to get footage of it!
So why'd James Cameron, the fan-friendly director, freak out? Maybe it was because it was Christmas Eve, and he's normally signing things when his wife isn't with him. Or maybe it was because he had a turbulent flight! How the hell do you feel when you get off of airplanes? Or maybe it was something that happened between the relatively suspicious cuts on the TMZ game tape.
But most people know better. John Mayer, who probably deals with this kind of shit often, is one of them. And in an articulate posting to his Tumblr—John Mayer has a Tumblr! And it's not John Mayer Will Change Your Life! How 'bout that?—Mayer breaks down how this works, from his perspective.
First, he calls out the system: everyone's for sale, everywhere.
American Airlines has long been known to have at least one person in their organization selling flight manifests to the paparazzi. I'd imagine it's not hard to find a gate agent or a skycap willing to trade a well-known name or two for a couple hundred dollars..
Which, as this website knows, is totally correct. Money buys things, like scoops!
...The fact that passenger lists are not available to the general public means that anyone waiting at the airport with any more than the CD from the passenger seat of their car has gotten word of which celebrities will be traveling through the terminal in the same way the paparazzi do. In some cases, these "fans" are working in concert with them. After all, it's a great way to get a celebrity to interact with you on video if you can ask them impolite questions while they're stopping to sign a few items for someone. If they decline, it's time to switch to plan B: paint them as shallow Hollywood types that only care about the "little people" when it best serves them. This logic doesn't really hold water since everyone now knows that being videotaped at LAX is regarded as one of the most high profile appearances one can make, especially during the release of a film.
Also true! Most celebrities have to fly like normal people do: through airports. And if you've ever been to LAX, you know the hell that may or may not await them (and you!) as you shuffle through paps to find your friend giving you a ride home. And celebrities know to look good when they go through LAX, because, again, they'll be photographed. And often, asked to become part of the celebrity autograph moneymaking machine! Celebrities are wont to preserve autographing things for fans and charities and things like that; they don't like to sign the shoddy things scheme-people try to get them to.
Even some of TMZ's commenters know this, one of whom pointed out that this eBay seller is most likely the guy in the video, who screamed after Cameron "I'm an asshole because I ask someone I admire for their autograph that makes me an asshole? I make $15-an-hour at work to go see your film and I'm an asshole?"
That'd make sense, as the guy in the video's wearing the same hat he also got Jackie Earle Hayley to sign. Which I guess he keeps a good stock of. Or: was just smart enough to take it off his head and get it signed by Hayley at the time.
See! Scheme-people are quick-witted! And when they don't get what they want, which is money, sleazy scheme-people get angry. Then they try to get people like James Cameron to call them "fucking assholes." And John Mayer sees that part going something like this:
While I can't speak to what happened before the segment of video on TMZ, I can tell you that the man in the tiny hat with the Avatar poster had probably engaged with Cameron from at least 50 paces before the automatic doors. That's how it goes down; they walk alongside you. They bark requests at you, trying to get your pulse to quicken. If you give in and sign, the guy with the poster gets to sell it and make a few bucks. If you don't give in, as it gets harder to acquiesce with each successive yelp, then the stench of cash really starts to waft in as Video Camera Guy gets the goods while you explain in no uncertain terms to Obnoxious E-bay Poster Guy that he's not going to get what he's asking for tonight.
Pretty good, right? Mayer goes on to observe that Cameron isn't used to dealing with this kind of bullshit. Think about the last time James Cameron was doing serious press rounds. TMZ wasn't around then.
Mayer's entire blog post is here, and if you'll read through it, you'll note that it's not just "good for a rock star," but "good for a blog post." Not bad! Though the most interesting part is actually when he notes, of Cameron's media dealings:
He doesn't understand the media shuffle, and I'm glad he hasn't given any thought to it. It's actually a waste of brain matter, and a slippery slope of compromise.
Well, Mayer does speak from experience, and that experience clearly involves very little compromise, but also, clearly, an impressive regard for self-awareness (just as suspected). John, anytime you feel like taking to the blog, holler. We're a growing company, and I, for one, am impressed.