Before I worked at The Frisky, I did several years’ time in the weird — very weird — world of gossip magazines and tabloid websites. I know, I know, hard to believe there was life before The Frisky! But! I worked for several strange and sundry places (Us Weekly, OK! and TMZ among them) that make their money selling the American public on the latest news on the Kardashians, Hiltons and Lohans — or whomever else might happen to capture the public imagination at the moment. And because I spent some time in that world, I picked up a few things about how celebrity gets bought and sold and perpetuated. And in the spirit of the holidays, and because sharing is caring, I’m going to tell you, really, how the celebrity industrial complex manufactures your daily dose of craptacular celeb news, paparazzi shots and insider scoops.
1. Not all celeb gossip reported actually gets printed.
That’s because a lot of what’s reported — even if it’s true — is too potentially litigious or just overly complicated for publishers to even bother. And, believe it or not, mags have standards! Most won’t “out” someone as gay, for example, which is why you’ll never hear about the two supposedly straight, hot, teen dream television stars who have been secretly carrying on a gay affair for more than a year (this is a true story, by the way, that came across my desk when I was working at one publication). Reporters and sources feeding stories to these mags are everywhere — but they’re often spending mere seconds with celebs — and it’s the job of the writers to pull a quote just enough out of context to make it interesting or salacious, or at least juicy enough to slap on the cover and make you purchase the damn thing.
2. Celebrity publicists largely control the flow of information to gossip magazines.
When you see a gossip rag quote a “source” close to the celebrity, it’s often the star’s publicist, who’s helping to craft the story they want told about the celeb’s life. If you ever want to really get inside the celeb industrial machine, publicity is where it’s at. Often, mags and sites will make deals with publicists — they’ll write stories and items about a publicist’s less famous client in the hopes of getting access to their big star. Different mags have different privileged relationships with different stars. For instance, Us Weekly enjoys a strong relationship with the Kardashians — and they liked the mags recent coverage of Kim’s divorce — so they gave the mag an exclusive on sister Kourtney’s second pregnancy.
But publicists will also work with mags to get gossip stories out if a celebrity happens to have a big movie or tv show coming out, too. Have you noticed little bits of stories eeking out about Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes hooking up? Maybe they actually are. Or maybe you’re hearing those stories because the pair are filming a movie together, and it’s convenient to use an alleged romance between the film’s two stars to create buzz about the movie. Trust me, if movie stars wanted to carry on their relationships in private, they absolutely could and would, so chances are if you see them out in public together, it’s because somebody wants you to.
3. Gossip rags create gossip narratives to get you hooked in.
Remember how Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston used to be married, and then he got with Angelina Jolie and Jen was the sadfaced scorned lady? Yeah, that’s because gossip mags hit the mega-jackpot with their story and haven’t let it go since. It’s the perfect gossip story: in it, you have three incredibly famous people, a “love triangle,” a dark-haired sexy, blood-drinking villain and a blonde(ish) good girl (who literally played the titular role in the movie “The Good Girl”). What more could you ask for? It’s as good a story line as anything on a soap opera and that’s why it’s been milked dry for the last five years.
The current popular narrative is the Kardashian Klan, which is interesting only in how blatant they are about crafting their own stories and narratives. Kim, mama Kris, Kourtney, Khloe, etc., are all famous for doing what, exactly? Like Paris Hilton, their fame is predicated simply on their willingness to allow themselves to be subjects of the gossip mill. Talk about meta!
4. Celebrities sometimes call the paparazzi on themselves.
Not the Jen Aniston’s of the world, of course, but your average C and D and Z list celebs — the Courtney Stoddens and Shauna Sands and Speidis, I mean — often call the paps and tell them where they’ll be. See also: anyone who’s been on a Bravo reality show. You think those “candid” photos of Courtney in lucite heels in a Los Angeles pumpkin patch just naturally happen? Many of these “celebs” depend on developing symbiotic relationships with paps in order to keep themselves in the spotlight. Without those relationships, there’s no photos, and without photos, there’s no story. And without a story, these people would have to get real jobs, for which they’re clearly not qualified.
Of course, none of this takes away from the fact that reading about the stupid things celebs do is fun — we love celeb gossip here at The Frisky, and we’ll continue to report on it, analyze it and think about it. And a lot of this may be ultra obvious to you, and if so, congrats, you’re one up on the celeb complex. But it should remind you not to take any of it too seriously. So anyway, when’s Babyonce due again?