Last week, I took to the red carpet for what might be one of the last times this summer. Or, rather, I took to the side of it, pressed against reporters from Variety and In Style for The Gift world premiere as we stuffed ourselves with the free chocolate the PR staff was handing out. The main guests of the evening were Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton, the star and the director-writer-producer-star, respectively, and I got several texts from friends asking why I wasn’t freaking out more.
The weird part is that I wasn’t nervous. At the start of the summer, I walked into a freezer full of frozen dinners when I thought I saw Zooey Deschanel at Whole Foods. This time around, I was preoccupied about what kind of food they’d have at the afterparty and whether the open bar would be serving Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not that I wasn’t excited to talk with Jason Bateman — I admire his acting and Arrested Development quotes remain part of my daily vocabulary — but gone was the senselessness of being star-struck. Jason Bateman may be very talented, but he’s also just a man with a job and a wife and kids. It’s silly to make anyone into something more than that, but we do it anyway. Some celebrities can’t even go to Starbucks without being hounded by paparazzi and fans. Tens of thousands of people they’ve never met comment on all of their Instagram posts and tweets.
I wasn’t part of the generation that idolized Bill Cosby, but when he ruled entertainment, he ruled. He generated billions of dollars. He sold out stadiums. He was the top client at William Morris (now WME), which meant that he was almost invincible. Almost. Unless you’ve been living under a rock in another solar system, you’re aware of the rape allegations against him, and the fact that this isn’t the first time these accusations have seen the light of day. Women came forward years ago with stories of drugged drinks and unwanted advances, but they were either threatened or paid into silence. Part of the reason is that the system for taking care of rape victims is still flawed. A major part of the reason is that it was Bill Cosby. America’s Dad. He wasn’t a person. He was a star.
Now, luckily, the women he reportedly assaulted are getting justice, but for some, the incident happened almost 40 years ago. Many of them were afraid to come forward because it was during the reign of Bill Cosby. Who were they to stand up to Bill Cosby?
The murkiness surrounding the allegations and who knew what makes this an issue that demands more space and time to discuss, but it points, in a much darker and harsher fashion, to how we perceive and interact with celebrities. Being in the public eye doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail free card, but with the way people fawn over the rich and famous, sometimes that’s hard to tell. As a writer, I think artists should be celebrated for their hard work and talent, but there’s a fine line between admiration and idolization (for the record, I’m not excusing Cosby in the slightest).
I imagine that’s a lot of responsibility, being treated like you’re more than human when you know that human is exactly what you are. I imagine it can also get confusing when the divide between who you are and who everyone thinks you are is continuously blurred.=
Kim Bussing is a rising senior in the College. Behind the Screens appears every other Friday at thehoya.com.