There have been times when I got weird about pop culture things (listening and relistening to Agent Cooper’s tapes looking for extra clues, trying to find X-Files spoilers in the darkest reaches of Usenet, trying to convince my classmates, and, hell, my peers now that the Monkees are misunderstood and underappreciated, reading the last two Harry Potter books on the day they were released), but I don’t think I have ever truly felt the intense, immersive fan obsession with ANYTHING. I like but don’t love (most of) Joss Whedon’s work. I’ve never written fanfic, considered myself a ‘shipper’ in anyway (except Luke and Lorelai, but even then, I didn’t get THAT emotionally involved (mostly) because I just KNEW it would happen), gone to a con, etc. Nothing wrong with any of those things, obviously; I respect my fellow nerds hugely, am envious of the sense of community that they get to share, and am in awe of their related creative projects.
Lately, I briefly delved into the dark side when I saw an offhand comment on a gossip blog (I know, I know, I really should quit) about a celebrity’s marriage being a sham, his baby’s due date being a lie, and his wife being essentially a succubus. I stupidly Googled this and found Tumblr after tweet after blog post dissecting every photo, every press release, every tabloid piece about this theory.
‘Are we sure about the date stamp on that picture? He cut his hair on (insert date here), so I think it’s been doctored.’ ‘How could he have been at (x) with her when he was filming (project) in (y)?’, ‘Are we sure there even is a baby?’
You’ve probably guessed who I’m talking about. Yes, I am a fan, but I’m not gonna name names. Don’t need the wrath of the paranoid.
But, how fucking gross, right? And…how? How can you think it’s correct to extrapolate based on unsubstantiated rumour of someone you don’t know? How can you treat someone you allegedly respect and admire like chattel? How can you hold down a job if you’re spending your days trying to back up a cockamamie theory using a grammatically suspect caption on a photo in The Daily Mail?
It’s extremely confusing and bizarre and, unfortunately, I’m totally complicit in it because a) I love gossip, b) I read some of their horseshit, and c) I am now curious to know if anything they said is even remotely correct, as morbid and disgusting as it is. But I’m not going to continue following it up (mostly) because I am (probably) not as ghoulish.
I did (by which I mean watched a couple of the lectures and completed no course work) a MOOC a couple of years ago and one of the few things my brain retained from it was that gossip helped human civilisation expand quickly. The ability to communicate, and quickly disseminate, that Grok had tracked a giant Wildebeest herd, that Nadeli had disappeared after wandering into a cave, or that Chad discovered that drinking rotten berry goo made you merrier was super beneficial.
I don’t think speculating that stranger’s almost definitely pretty OK life and actually probably dandy marriage and family is not a good use of this ability. Yes, he is a public figure, but that does not make him your property.
And it won’t make him want to marry you instead either.