There’s something about old school Hollywood that fascinates me. It had a glamour, a wit, and a level of creativity that no twenty first century film or person comes close to. People like Katie Price and Kerry Katona are famous for over-sharing – that’s how they make their living – but fifty years ago nobody would’ve dared to share so much about themselves. Lives were controlled, and they had very little say in what happened to them – Marilyn Monroe changed her name and had plastic surgery because she was told to, Elizabeth Taylor was forced into her first marriage as a publicity stunt – in a way that would be classed as inhuman now. Whilst some celebrities do still have their lives controlled, they’re far more likely to stand up for themselves – to be themselves – than they were then. The mystique of celebrity has been lost. We once craved to know everything about them because we knew nothing. Now it’s craved because we feel entitled to it. We’re bombarded with the private lives of strangers and when we don’t get enough or we’re told something that we don’t like we get angry. Gossip magazines and red tops have realised this, and they’ve started to play a game with us. A caption contest. They acquire a candid shot of someone famous – anyone even remotely famous – not caring about the context. It could be from last year, two years ago, maybe yesterday. It doesn’t matter. They make up their own story based on the image. The more outrageous, the more scandalous, the better. Occasionally the truth tries to break through, but, like the sun’s reflection rising over a bed of water, it gets distorted, and no matter where you view it from, it’s never exactly the same as the original.
Elizabeth Taylor never cared what other people thought. She would brush off even the harshest of comments, whereas Marilyn Monroe had a desire to be wanted, liked and loved. Whilst nobody will ever have the talent or the beauty of Monroe, there are far more celebrities in the world now that crave the same things that she did. The love, the attention. When they get that attention, it never lasts. It fades, sometimes slowly, sometimes they only get their fifteen minutes, but it does, and when it does, it has consequences. Many former celebrities have fallen into deep depressions, some with fatal consequences. Jo O’Meara, former member of S Club 7, suffers from depression; Jonathan Brandis, star of The Neverending Story: Part II, committed suicide aged twenty seven after his successful childhood career didn’t follow him into adulthood; Michael Jackson ruined his looks with plastic surgery; Britney Spears married the wrong person twice, going from the world’s biggest pop star to, for lack of a better term, trailer trash. Almost every celebrity has ruined their career – or nearly ruined it – because of their lack of privacy, how they can’t cope when the attention waivers or their feet become so far off the ground that it’s impossible to pull them back down.
Audrey Hepburn shared very little on her life, and, when probed too much, Elizabeth Taylor could get quite defensive. If a star does that now, they’re classed as uptight and should’ve known what to expect when they chose to act or to sing or do anything else in the spotlight whilst looking beautiful. It’s only the beautiful that get noticed, of course. That’s one of the few things that hasn’t changed – the more attractive you are, the bigger your career will become.
However, you used to need more than that. Acting skills used to be important, possibly singing and dancing, too. You might even have needed a hint of intelligence – just enough to crack a joke, but not enough to go against those that were controlling you. Nowadays, it’s a rarity to find someone like this. No matter who you name, someone will argue about their acting or singing skills, possibly their intelligence, but never their attractiveness, because they know that it’s not their personal opinion that matters. If they appeal to the masses, if they fit the mould, it’s good enough for Hollywood.
Whether you agree with the lack of privacy and glamour associated with modern day celebrities or not, you can’t deny that there’s a mystique that will always surround our parents’ generation of stars that our generation will never possess.