I’ve been thinking a lot about this strange hybrid creature I like to call the Celebrity Mocker, which combines mocking celebrity with being celebrity. I know, right? What?
Celebrity is this strange, omnipresent phenomenon where our society collectively obsesses over the hot person of the moment. It has a lot of power over our delicate attention spans. We see traces of this influence in the overuse of celebrity couple portmanteaus originating with Bennifer (Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, duh), or the shortening of celebrity names to the standard format of J.Lo (Lopez again, duh) or the general fixation on Kim Kardashian’s booty that owes a lot to the legacy left behind by Ms. Lopez. Can you tell I love me some Lopez?
Even though celebrity is super powerful, its weak spot is that it can easily be ridiculed. I mean, did you read that list in the previous paragraph? Society often upholds the most trivial things to the highest extent of publicity — like, what’s up with Nicki Minaj’s hair? In the supposedly grand history of human existence, who really cares that a starlet wears a lot of colorful wigs? Apparently, a lot of people do. But there’s often backlash against this kind of phenomena — sometimes by celebrities themselves.
Say what you want about Justin Bieber’s ability to crank out quality tunes, but you can’t deny that his career is pretty ridiculous. Countless tweens pine(d) over his baby-face, his looks are repeatedly compared to lesbians and his pant sags are totes swag. Actress Olivia Wilde tweeted this past Friday: “Bieber, put your fucking shirt on. (unless you lost all your shirts in a fire in which case my condolences and please purchase a new shirt.)” And that doesn’t even compare to the Twitter war waged by Patrick Carney, drummer of the blues rock band The Black Keys.
A few weeks ago, TMZ asked Carney what he thought about Bieber getting snubbed by the Grammys. He made a sarcastic comment about how the Biebs is rich, so he should be happy. Then the Biebs tweeted that Carney should be slapped around. Then Carney changed his Twitter name and profile pic to that of the Biebs and began trolling Beliebers. So yeah.
What should we peasants make of celebrities mocking celebrity? At first, it might seem like an act of biting the extravagantly manicured hand that feeds them. But at least in an interview with QTV, Carney’s motive for ridiculing not just Bieber but musicians in general, is to keep them in check. He and bandmate Dan Auerbach joke that they could never take themselves too seriously to the point where they expose their navels a la Led Zeppelin — they’ve seen this kind of behavior and think, “It’s really weird.”
And yet, they’re members of a critically acclaimed, Grammy-winning band. They could easily slip into, like, the pretentious tendency to wear their sunglasses at night. But instead, they jokingly toddle around their music videos in adult-sized baby outfits attached to giant men. They mock from a position of authenticity that transcends their gimmicks.
The humbling process intended by mockery is an attempt to navigate the vapidity of society toward a worthwhile focus. It highlights the divide between focusing on insignificant details (e.g., paparazzi slideshows of stars’ love lives) and appreciating an artist’s craft for itself. Without this, we’ll all begin to take the trivial things too seriously — and God forbid if the time comes when we all permanently admire the sagging of Bieber’s pants.
Contact Caitlin Kelley at [email protected].