The course of celebrity, more than halfway through the year, has been unprecedentedly unpredictable and turbulent. It would take a team of Sullys to navigate a safe landing for some of the year’s unlikely A-listers.
Which makes grading the major players, as we do here in our midyear report card for movies, TV, and celebrities, even more difficult. For example, what bell curve can possibly apply to all reality show stars, when some of the resulting “celebrities” know the game, and others are sad victims?
Tough call, which is why it’s a good thing this is a year-long course. Unlike real school, apparently there’s opportunity to tear up an old exam and start over. There’s a lot of time for things to change before the bell rings in 2010.
Cutest couple gone sour: Chris Brown and Rihanna
From golden couple to golden gloves, Chris Brown’s assault on then-girlfriend Rihanna has been a case study in how not to handle a terrible situation. Although theirs is a deeply personal problem, it played out under the umbrella of fame and the publicity machine that made the singers superstars in the first place. That means the rules change; now you don’t get to just navigate your own crisis, you do it with new obligations because kids look up to you.
Instead of turning this into an opportunity to teach her fans what it means to be the beaten young woman in a wrongly leaked photo, Rihanna made confounding choices. She reunited with Brown for a weekend at Diddy’s almost immediately after the assault. Now she’s rumored to have reunited with him in New York City over the weekend.
In the case of Brown, he had to be dragged away from the glare of his own ego, pulling out of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice awards only once the public pressure demanded it. Just last week he issued a You Tube apology that had all the depth of a kiddie pool.
Maybe Chris and Rihanna are just kids. Since they grew up with handlers more present than parents, they never learned to be adults, and perhaps that should count for something. And it’s possible Brown really is sorry, but I’m not sorry to say that they all but failed this one.
Grade: D. An F would make one want to give up, and I hope they both realize that there’s still opportunity to set an example for their young fans.
Worst trend: Regular people meet reality shows
Exam question: Heidi and Spencer Pratt, Jon & Kate Gosselin, Susan Boyle: One of these units is not like the other. Which one?
Heidi and Spencer
If you answered Heidi and Spencer, you were correct. Out of the lot, only the “Hills” veterans know how to play the celebrity game. They are conscientiously complicit in every photo op, sound bite and scandal they’re connected with.
Grade: A, for getting exactly what they sought, fame at all costs.
The Gosselins and Boyle, however, don’t know what hit them. The left the house with an umbrella when what they really needed was an ark, and a holy spirit to watch over them. Instead, the public is watching, and their attempts to convince us that everything’s going to be all right are about as convincing as it would be to see Joe Jackson lead a seminar on parenting.
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This is especially so in the case of “Britain's Got Talent” runner-up Boyle, who wears fame the same way as she wears her new designer clothes: uncomfortably.
Grade: Pass. For Boyle, I suspect this is going to be a pass/fail situation. For now she’s passing, but barely.
Jon and Kate Gosselin
And Gosselins: I’ve asked you nicely to leave once already, and soon, the choice might not be yours. When “Jon & Kate Plus 8” returns to TLC on Aug. 3, we’ll know within minutes if Jon's been working through the pain of his impending divorce by hitting up a yacht in St. Tropez, going to watch polo in the Hamptons, and then kicked back at Andre Balazs’ Sunset Beach on Shelter Island.
If that's the case, “Jon & Kate” might not be the family-friendly fare that attracted the show’s original fans. The “Plus 8” has a heavy burden: This is a group project and it’s clear not everyone’s pulling their weight. The kids have to be really, really cute to erase the memory of Jon’s recent past.
Grade: Incomplete for now. Let’s revisit when the ratings come in.
Three years ago, things couldn’t have been better for celebrity weeklies. A good economy and a record number of titles meant, for a time, that everyone could have a piece of the dishy, star-studded pie. Times have changed. And not just because there are fewer dollars to go around, but because of TMZ.com, which increased the pace for reporting.
Above the fray: People magazine. But that’s no surprise. They’ve been in the gifted program since day one. Us Weekly gets an A for seeing Jon & Kate’s split as a celebrity topic before the rest of us, and so does
Min, the editor in chief who just resigned, steered the ship and realized first that reality sells. Not to mention, she’s leaving while still pretty much on top, a tough lesson to teach in the celebrity world. Well done.
Grade: C+. If the only weeklies we were judging were People and Us, the grade would be higher. But as they say, a few bad apples…
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