Monday, April 03, 2006


There has been some talk in the news lately about GawkerStalker, a new feature at that allows people to post sightings of celebrities in Manhattan along with maps to the locations in a very nearly real-time manner (the site says it takes something like fifteen minutes for a sighting to be put up). Apparently the whole point of the exercise is that people viewing the site can see where their favorite celebs are and, if they are close enough, try for their own sighting.

All this has created somewhat of an uproar, with some celebrities complaining that real stalkers could use the site in ways that could cause the celebs to come to harm. The management of claims that this isn't so, and that the celebs should not complain because they trade their privacy for fame. I'm not so sure how much of a threat the site really is - I think if someone is determined enough to stalk someone, star or not, they'll find a way to do it. On the other hand, I think it adds to a culture that has already taken celebrity-worship to ridiculous lengths. And, I don't think anything that could even conceivably help a stalker is really necessary. I've never even seen the point of the whole southern California "Maps of the Stars' Homes" phenomenon.

Then, again, I don't understand celebrity worship in the first place. They're just like everyone else, only better known. I'm not saying that there aren't artists whose work I really like and whose careers I follow. But it is their careers I follow, not them. And I'm not going to pretend that I don't think it is cool that I've met a famous person or two myself, and seen others differetn times and places. But those encounters were just that - kind of cool - not life-changing experiences that define my existence.

Perhaps my perspective on the whole thing has to do with having grown up in Southern California, with the famous (and infamous) pretty much all around. I went to school with kinds whose parents who were in show business; people I knew in high school had dated people in the business. The first six and a half years of my life, I lived across the road from a film director who was quite famous in his time, and whose work is still considered classic today. After we moved from that house and my grandmother moved in, he would come down and talk to her across the fence while she did yard work. My dad knew a number of actors who happened to live in our area. So, the famous and semi-famous were not exotic creatures, but neighbors. Additionally, part of my feeling about celebrity worship also likely comes from having known a few people who were (and I imagine still are) caught up in that lifestyle. I knew a girl when I was in junior high who was so fanatic about one star that she went to each weekly taping of his television show. When she wasn't there, it was all she talked about, something her whole life revolved around.

Whatever has caused it, my attitude has always been that any performer only owes the public the best performance he or she can give. Where they shop, who they date, what they do with their spare time - none of that is any of my business. Anyone or anything - such as GawkerStalker - that tries to promote the idea that these celebrities owe us any look into their private life is simply wrong-headed. I don't imagine the people who run that site would like it very much if one of us walked up to them while they were having dinner in a restaurant and demanded that they give us a formal seminar on website creation, right then and there. Because that's what they are doing - they are demanding that because someone is a performer, they are obligated to perform on demand, even when they are not receiving any compensation for it. Which is just unreasonable.

Anyway, I saw a report yesterday that George Clooney, who is on record as being fairly antagonistic toward intrusiveness into performers' private lives, has come up with a solution to the GawkerStalker problem. He has asked the celebrities themselves to flood the site with fake sightings in order to render it useless. I think it is a wonderful idea. It doesn't call for abridging anyone's free speech or for censorship of the internet. It simply takes GawkerStalker's claim that it is exercising its free speech and demonstrates that free speech is a two-way street. You go, George.

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