Why Celebrities Need To Get Off Twitter
In May of 2005, the biggest movie star in the world jumped up and down on Oprah's couch, acted like a loon and instantly destroyed his career. The seeds of this meltdown had been sown the previous year, when he fired his longtime publicist and started talking more openly about Scientology and his beliefs, basically letting us all get to know the real Tom Cruise. This was obviously a huge mistake. Cruise had managed to become the world's biggest movie star because he ruthlessly controlled his image and sued the hell out of anyone who tried to write about the real him. But instead of other stars learning from his mistake, the floodgates seem to have opened for celebrities who want to share everything with their fans — to hell with their image.
Many stars and celebrities have Twitter pages now. While some of them just let their management run them and promote whatever they're doing, a surprising number actually use them to share their personal thoughts with the world. This is kind of the final step in breaking down the barrier between celebrities and their fans. Famous people used to exist in a rarefied, impossibly glamorous world that ordinary types could only glimpse from a distance. In the days of the studio system, teams of minders, handlers and cleaners would keep all disgraces private and make sure a star never strayed from his or her image. The whole industry of the paparazzi came from our desire to peep through the keyhole and get a glimpse at how the other half live.
But while the paparazzi stalk celebrities and intrude on their most private moments, they still have a vested interest in making them seem interesting. They don't want pictures of celebrities eating breakfast, they want pictures of celebrities falling over in the gutter. There's still a certain glamour in being a druggy mess — it's a life most people aren't leading, and looking down on people can be a form of escapism too. But when famous people get on Twitter it destroys the most important illusion: that they have something better to do with their time than post their every inane thought on the Internet. Celebrities really are just like us, in the worst way.
Granted, some celebrities manage to tell us their personal thoughts while maintaining their image. Ghostface Killah dispenses fashion and grooming tips and tells you not to drink milk before going somewhere unless you want to shit yourself in traffic (I guess dropping your persona isn't really an option when your name is Ghostface). Stephen Fry tweets stuff like "Oh Lordy! *trembletremble* I've been thru the mangle and no mistake. Heart thudding like billio. Ghost Stories is wondrous!" from November 16, which reads like a particularly cruel parody of Stephen Fry, and William Shatner is hilariously courtly and polite and ends every tweet with “My Best, Bill.”
The most obvious Twitter success story is Kanye West, who used Twitter to rebuild his image, going from an awful egomaniac to a more lovable one by embracing self-parody (and getting more and more famous in the process. He's now been personally called an asshole by two successive U.S. Presidents, the American dream).
But they're outnumbered by stars making themselves look sad, petty, and worst of all, boring. Take for example Sylvester Stallone, who is now a big movie star again but still takes time out to talk to his fans, taking their advice on casting suggestions, responding to questions like “how are you?” by giving his current height and weight, and occasionally getting into insult matches with them when they disagree with him on politics (his political opinion being that Barack Obama is a Manchurian Candidate sent by foreign enemies to destroy America). "NO @clontz I am not , how bout you ? are you smarter then the characters I play? Written any produced screenplays lately? Enlighten me …." he tweeted on November 2.
Obviously there's not many out there who think Sylvester Stallone isn't an idiot, but you'd at least think he was too busy to respond personally to some Joe Nobody who insults him, rather than take the time out to remind them that he, Sylvester Stallone, has a more successful movie career than his naysayer does. You'd think being a famous movie star would make you above that level of pettiness where you feel you need to rub it in face of strangers.
Then there's Britney Spears' Thorazine-tinged updates; a grim look into the kind of sanitized existence that comes after a complete mental breakdown and Jim Carrey's feed, which takes his manic always-on persona to its frightening end point: "#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING#BOING.Okay seriously I'm goin'! G#BOING! I MEAN G'BYE!!! ;^>" he tweeted on May 11th (this is a completely typical post, and knowing the context only makes it more bizarre).
And most disappointingly of all, David Lynch's twitter feed, which isn't all about dwarves and pie and instead is a mix of bland pleasantries and New Age-y bullshit: "It is eternal & unbounded, the basis of all the phenomenal existence of the cosmic life. It is the source of all time, space, and causation," from August 3.
When you look at the world's current biggest movie star, Will Smith, he gets a lot of flak for being cold and robotic, but really he's just professional. He acts in his movies, he tells his pre-written anecdotes on talk shows, and that's all you get. But do you really want any more than that? Do we really want to know anything about stars beyond the public persona they've crafted to entertain us? I think it's time to put the publicists back in control.