IMAGE | Att celebriteter försöker kontrollera bilden av sig själva i media är inte speciellt överraskande.
Med lite planering kan man iscensätt sitt eget liv inför öppen ridå. Inte konstigt att just filmstjärnor (eller åtminstone deras PR-konsulter) har fallenhet för just den här typen av storytelling.
Men alla berättelser har någon form av logisk uppbyggnad som går att följa. Och där det finns ett mönster kan man också kartlägga och analysera den bakomliggande strategin.
Benjamin Wallace, i tidskriften New York, har tittat närmare på äktenskapet mellan megastjärnan Tom Cruise och Katie Holmes och intrigerna inför deras skilsmässa.
From the point of view of a tabloid editor, the beginning of any celebrity marriage is also the beginning of a countdown to the inevitable celebrity divorce, and the Kremlinology of celebrity-relationship reporting isn’t as random as it appears. The Daily’s senior gossip editor Melissa Cronin almost forensically tracks PR metrics. She predicted the Ashton Kutcher–Demi Moore split based on the dwindling number of interspousal tweets. Likewise the separation of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, who hadn’t been seen together in public in months.
The operative rule in megastar coverage is to watch what they do, not what they say. Cruise’s sunny Playboy interview in May notwithstanding, Cronin was skeptical: She had maintained a running tally on her calendar of days elapsed since Cruise and Holmes were last photographed publicly together—on April 1, in Louisiana, where he was shooting Oblivion. “We see thousands of pictures a day, and then for three months there were none.” Holmes also wasn’t doing any press with Cruise for Rock of Ages, and she didn’t attend the ceremony for his Friars Club Entertainment Icon Award (instead going to China for a “random ice-skating thing”). And Holmes, who early in the marriage went to Scientology’s Celebrity Centre all the time, hadn’t been seen there in months. “I was like, They’re gonna split up,” Cronin says. Counting photos gives the closest approximation of truth in the fuzzy science of celebritology.
If at times the narrative has seemed to run on autopilot, that’s because it has. “How the tabloid magazines work is they make a judgment about what the audience already thinks about a celebrity story—Angelina stole Brad, and Jennifer is miserable about it—and they just keep repeating the story because it reassures people that what they already think is true,” says Ben Widdicombe, former “Gatecrasher” columnist for the Daily News. “With Katie and Tom, it’s, ‘She was this poor innocent lost bride, and Tom was her jailer.’ That certainly rings true to me, but that’s as deep as tabs go, so it becomes a self-fulfilling story.”
Of course, there’s almost no real information to support any particular narrative. Everything is blind-sourced. Everyone’s publicists deny everything, including denying, off the record, that they’re even sources. It’s an information desert, or close enough, and the tabs wring cover stories from the merest specks of news, pseudo news, and non-news (viz., the “Scientology goons” staking out Holmes, who turned out to be Holmes’s own security detail). The show must go on.