Friday, January 18, 2013

What Is Owed To Fans??

As of late there has been much talk just about everywhere and anywhere media related regarding what is expected of a ‘celebrity’.  Interestingly enough, according to fellow colleagues, published authors of any type fall under this category heading.

Why Yes, Yes We Are!
Personally, I find that somewhat amusing given that a great majority of authors are introverts who just want to be left alone to write BUT (and there always is a but) we all understand that without marketing our books don’t sell and marketing includes interaction with our readers.  The publicity that accompanies our world, though, seems much less harried as opposed to the movie or television stars’ world.

Since the Golden Globes, I’ve heard various conversations regarding celebrity and privacy. As a former publicist I am a little more familiar with the whole “celebrity privacy” thing than most people are – that’s usually why I don’t weigh in on the topic. Still, it’s a thought provoking concept because, frankly, everybody likes their privacy (Unless you’re a complete and utter exhibitionist. If that’s the case you probably want to quit reading, lol).

Stephanie Meyer Hard At Work!
As I stated, for writers, celebrity is something of a different animal – we can control our public image to a far greater extent. Only when an author becomes so entrenched within the entertainment medium itself does the option for going to Target in sweats with no makeup or golfing in one's pajamas become an issue.  A writer has to reach the heights of Stephanie Meyer, Dean Koontz, Danielle Steele, Stephen King or JK Rowling to truly be concerned about the dizzying heights of fame and fortune.

Most of us don’t have to deal with the paparazzi nor do our names show up in magazine after magazine and while some of us do participate in television interviews, most of the time it’s an on screen-off screen proposition whereby our book and all that it entails is promoted. (It should also be noted that, by and large, most writers don’t want fame and fortune. They want to tell a good story and if that story pays the bills then huzzah!!  Yes, there are some in it for the cash but they are in the minority in my opinion.)

Truth be told, authors are fairly forthcoming regarding their personal lives anyway. Connie Brockway’s forays into the frozen North of Minnesota are well chronicled while Kathleen Eagle has spoken about her cowboy hubby, Clyde, on her website for years now. Jenn LeBlanc’s awesome stories about her photo shoots are legendary and were only eclipsed this past year by her having  knee surgery. The shenanigans of Larissa Reinhart’s children provide almost daily fodder for her fans and friends alike (seriously, those kids are a riot).  Many authors are quite vocal regarding the charities or social groups that they are a part of – Darlene Arden is an avid animal rescue person while Sam Bradley is the go-to person regarding EMS/emergency services front page news.  And, frankly, many authors are just plain vocal. lol 

Of course I can’t speak for all authors but anybody who’s ever friended an RWA author on Facebook knows there’s A LOT of cross referencing in the friends list department.  This author is friends with this other author and another author is friends with the same author, etc. 
THE Most Awesome Mystery/Suspense  Writers Group Anywhere! 

As a member (and the 2013 Chapter President) of Kiss of Death I’m friends with most of its membership – every day somebody shares something about their life via either their personal profile or their business profile.  As a member of RWA I have just as many friends from other chapters as well, many of whom are friends with other members of other chapters.  On those pages you'll see just as many posts and announcements regarding authors' lives and careers - you'll also see the boring stuff like root canals, shopping trips, kids trying to drive their parents insane, etc. because authors have lives too. For the most part your favorite authors are pretty much average people doing average things and we complain or get excited about things just like everybody else.  We owe our readers nothing but a good story but because we like our fans so much we often times throw more info out there – but that is our prerogative to do so.  It is not a requirement of the craft.

A Very Early Photoplay Cover
And that’s the linchpin of celebrity – the preconceived notion that ‘famous’ folks owe their public in some form given their public personas.  Frankly, I cannot tell you when this became the norm.  For decades newspapers flouted the shortcomings of the social sets and as early as 1911 Photoplay magazine was releasing information regarding Hollywood movie stars. There were often stories regarding the occasional well-known author or socialite who caused a scene in public as well. Ironically, those articles then held more truth than the pap papers available today.

The Gloria Vanderbilt Custody Case
Back then, most celebrity stories were fabricated by their studio and issued with every intent of making both the celebrity and the studio look good.  Public displays of obnoxiousness were, most of the time, presented as they happened, limited innuendo involved, and if there were court records to back it up, all the better. Somewhere along the line, that formula slowly changed.

Too Many Tabloids,
So Little Truth...
Now it’s out of control entirely.  Now it’s all about maintaining that fifteen minutes in the spotlight for as long as possible and it doesn't matter what story is attached to it as long as the face remains in the public eye.  Or, to quote Jodie Foster at the Golden Globes:  “every celebrity is expected to honor the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance, and a prime time reality show.”  
Weirdly, it's an apt explanation.

Jodie Foster Accepting The DeMille Award
Just because it’s come to be expected doesn't make it right.  Those in the public eye don’t owe the public anything other than a great performance. Given that her speech spawned the discussions that prompted this blog, I’m going to pick on Jodie Foster a little bit. The woman’s got broad shoulders, she can take it! But seriously – I, like many others, have always admired Ms. Foster’s work as an actress - not to mention her abilities as a director, a producer and yes, as a writer of both screen and prose.

Totally Irrelevant But I
Really Like This Hairstyle! 
When I worked in publicity I never got the privilege to cross paths with the woman but I did hear things over time that led me to believe that she was greatly respected not only for her abilities but for her personal fortitude as well. In the entertainment industry that's a major coup in and of itself. Ultimately Ms. Foster strikes me as a good person and somebody to have in your corner. (Just ask Mel Gibson, she’s about the only one left in the man’s corner these days, proving that she IS a loyal friend). 

The Infamous Golden Globes Speech
Jodie Foster emphasized privacy in her speech – basically because of the aforementioned premise where the mainstream media has abandoned all tact and pretty much just prints whatever the heck they want, when they want, whether it’s true or not.  As a human being and a United States citizen she has that right. The viewing public has no right to demand more from her than her ability to act. 

I Actually Remember This
Egads, I'm Old! lol 
As a performer, Ms. Foster owes the public nothing but an excellent performance to the best of her ability as an actress and given that she’s been acting since she was three the woman could pretty much give a performance blindfolded in a dark room. 
Yet, one of the most hotly debated discussions regarding this actress since that speech has been, of course, whether or not she came out as a lesbian.  This is a prime example of what I'm talking about. This is something that is nobody's business. Sexual orientation is a private matter, it's a personal matter. The viewing public has no right to that information. 

It’s not anybody’s business. It is not her responsibility to publicly come out.  It's not her job to make the GLBT community feel more comfortable any more than it is her responsibility to keep her sexuality a secret out of fear of angering her conservative fan base.  Whether or not the woman is gay is not my business. It's nobody's business. The details of a celebrities private life are exactly that, private.   Those details are extraneous to the woman’s job as an actress.

And that’s exactly what celebrity in this instance is – in one way or another – it’s a job. The performance for the actor or comedian, the singing or playing for the musician, the writing for the screenwriter or the published author – it’s all work that results in a product whether it's a book or a movie or a cd, there's an end result for the effort.  (Unless you’re a Kardashian or Honey Boo Boo, reality television does not count in this equation in my opinion.)   

John Hinkley
The Man Who Attempted
To Kill President Reagan
To Get Jodie Foster's Attention.
I believe that the only time a celebrity of any sort ‘owes’ their public something beyond the end result of their efforts is in the face of some sort of disaster or oddball event that extends beyond their personal life and onto the public stage.  In Ms. Foster’s case, I think it would be nice if she at least commented on the Hinkley debacle at some point in her life. From a PR standpoint it makes her look a tad insensitive to the men who were shot by not saying anything at all about the incident but the reality is that she was just a kid when that happened. 

She was young, in college, and while she was already a veteran actor, the reality that some psycho shot the President of the United States to get her attention was no doubt unnerving and overwhelming. Most young adults can barely maintain a good GPA while partying and serial dating in college – to be in that position had to have been mortifying for her, thus I can understand why she’s chosen to never address it. (Not to mention that it’s probably smart in a psychological sense given that to talk about Hinkley gives him attention that he will sooner or later find out about and could reignite the whole bizarre obsession all over again.) 

Back to the point – celebrities, whether they be actors, musicians or writers of any caliber owe their public/fans nothing but the product of their position.  If they choose to share with their fans (or over share as the Rhianna case may be) that’s great for the fans. It helps to build the bond between the celebrity and their fans. If celebrities choose not to share then they shouldn't be castigated or hounded for the decision. It’s their life, it’s their business. Appreciate their talent but don’t expect them to offer up their personal life for your perusal. It’s not necessary. (Now, if they get arrested for selling drugs or pedophilia? All bets are off.)

Hank Phillipi Ryan Touring
With "The Other Woman"
(Excellent Book BTW!!) 
When it comes right down to it, writers as sorta-kinda celebrities appreciate their readers very much - readers give our visions the ultimate life and space within their imaginations. We appreciate the love and the kindness our many fans bestow on us.  I personally appreciate the fans who've followed me for years - through several pseudonyms and publishers, wading through a bitter divorce and losing my second husband - they've always been there, following the ebbs and flows right along with me.  I have many colleagues I know that feel the same way.  Without our readers we wouldn't have careers or the 'celebrity' that we've been granted but some things need to stay private. We're more than happy to share with you what we decide is for public consumption, but, please, let the rest lie and don't hold it against us!


  1. While I agree with you that there's entirely too much invasion into the private lives of individuals in the public eye by that public, I have to respectfully disagree regarding Jodie Foster.

    Now, I didn't watch the Golden Globes. I don't know whether she came out or not. It's her business, and none of mine. I couldn't care less whether Jodie Foster is gay. But if she did, she did it in a public forum, and as such I think she needs to expect public interest. If she is gay, and she wanted to keep that quiet, she should have kept her mouth shut about it, as indeed it seems she has done up until now.

    Whether she's gay or not, what she does in the privacy of her own bedroom is her business. What she says on stage at the Golden Globes, that's not. That becomes everybody's business, by virtue of being spoken in a public setting. It's too much to expect the public not to be interested in that. And I can't imagine Jodie Foster, of all people, wouldn't realize it.


    1. Excellent point Jenna. I think you'd need to see the clip. She didn't come right out and acknowledge it and from all the discussions that keep erupting that's what a lot of people expected of her. The point within the blog, though, goes beyond the Golden Globes speech. The woman's sexual orientation is something that mainstream media has been going on about for years now, it's something fans have been in an uproar over more than once - and this is not the only celebrity something like this has occurred with. It doesn't matter exactly what the privacy issue is, the ball is bounced in the media and the fans run with it producing unnecessary public speculation regarding something that is none of their business in the first place. We're blessed as writers in that our lives are not placed under that media microscope to the point of ultimate invasion of privacy.

  2. I agree the public needs to trade places for a couple of months or more and find out what's it like to find someone writing what you ate for dinner at your house on Saturday when you had some friends over.
    We fans are nosy folks and that's fine if it is shared with the public but no need to run the celebrity to the ground trying to find out their sexual orientation-who cares- or where they were over the weekend and who they were with. Out in the public eye okay that's different but behind closed doors I don't care what they do to be honest.

  3. Great post, Mia. I spent 8 years (in another life LOL) as a school board member in a large urban district. Our meetings were carried on TV. I was always amazed at the people who'd come up to me while I was shopping at a grocery or department store to say something about the meeting. They acted like they knew me. (Sometimes they lived in the district I represented and sometimes not.) That did change how I dressed when I went out. :) Most were kind and complimentary. But still, it was a bit odd. Maybe that's why I'm hesitant to walk up to an author to say hi. Was completely tongue-tied when "trying" to speak to Allison Brennan in Orlando. I'm not by nature ever at a loss for words. Thanks for this thought-provoking post. Love all the blue on the blog. :)

    1. It's completely disconcerting to be caught off guard in public - I hear you!

      Allison is a sweetheart, I hope you found your tongue! If it was at RWA National, never be hesitant to walk up to an author at National - that's why we're all there! ;o)

      And thanks for the compliment - I was going for a whole January feel!

  4. Great post, Mia. I didn't think about the John Hinkley incident at the time of Jodie Foster's speech.

    Personally, I don't have a lot of interest in the lives of celebrities, although I'll admit to reading the tabloid headlines in the grocery checkout and watching The Soup. I do love reality TV, not so much the throw 20 people in a room and see what happens, but shows like Moonshiners,* Duck Dynasty, and guys who soup up cars whose name I can't remember. (*BTW, If the Feds are chasing Moonshiners, why can't they watch the TV feed and catch them?!)

    However, I fear for these people, the Honey Boo Boos of the TV world. Their talent is their odd circumstances and funny expressions, which does not make for an enduring career. It's hard to feel sympathy for someone who pushes themselves into the spotlight and allows us to see the hot mess of their lives. Perhaps they get what they deserve in the end. Though I pray someone has the foresight to use Honey Boo Boos TV earnings to put into a college fund. And a therapist fund.

    1. I really didn't think of it during the speech itself Larissa - it was something I considered when I worked publicity, it sort of stuck with me.

      And I agree, I fear for the Honey Boo Boo's as well. Rumor has it that in her case Mama June has actually put her into a trust fund and doesn't allow the family to spend what they receive as a result of the show. Given her hoarding tendencies I can believe that; I hope it's true. That little girl is going to need something to insure her future, it certainly won't be her educational foundation.

      Good point about the Moonshiners - I've never watched that one but you're right, they're being filmed, the Feds can't subpeona the crew and catch them?