I attended my first red carpet event in November, when I (along with what seemed like 358438 of my SCA classmates) hopped on a bus and went to the premiere of The Night Before, a holiday comedy movie starring Seth Rogan, James Franco, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anthony Mackie, and many others.
I knew red carpets were completely contrived press functions, but I didn't expect the carpet to be that small. It was pretty weird seeing publicists run around carting a celebrity in arm while navigating the snow dancers and festive characters having fun on the carpet. Seeing publicists on the carpet reminded me of how much marketing and business planning goes into the making and maintenance of a celebrity today. Celebrities rely on publicists to get them to talk to the best news outlets, get their pictures taken at the best events, and manage their image (that will in turn, get them good scripts and roles).
Everyone around me was SUPER pumped to see the celebrities, but I weirdly felt kind of indifferent about it. I feel weird obsessing over celebrities when I know that they're just normal people. I think it's really interesting how celebrity culture today both tries to draw a distinction between public figures and the public masses, but also connect lines between them (See my post on "Stars: They're just like us!"). When Joseph Gordon-Levitt walked up to take a picture near where I was standing, I noticed he was a lot shorter than I imagined. My exact thought in the moment was, "Wow. Camera framing really adds some height."
Overall, it was a really fun experience, but it was super strange to see a self-reflexive and deconstructed Hollywood. Red carpets are strange because they contain all the glamour that people expect from this industry, however, they're also really fake and contrived, and everyone who is on that carpet knows it. As much as entertainment is, well, entertaining and riveting to watch (or look at in magazines), at the end of the day it's a business.
A few months later, I was walking in Hollywood when I saw an unnamed celebrity (older white male -- could describe a ton of people) swarmed by at least 20 paparazzi. It was the oddest thing I've seen in a long time. They were yelling questions at him and preventing him from going to his car. It was really invasive and kind of disturbing, actually. Being famous certainly has its perks, but I really can't imagine not having enough of my own space to walk to my car at night. Fame seems kind of sad. You're constantly surrounded by people, but most of them just want something from you. No matter on the red carpet or off minding your own business, there's always someone who wants a piece of you.
People often say that celebrities have no right to complain about their lavish lives -- but I think it's also unfair for them to accept and understand fame when they certainly are not always treated with respect. Just as celebrities aren't allowed to complain about being stalked by paparazzi, people don't have a right to act absurdly and crazy around them. You pay a certain price in becoming a public figure, but sometimes we have to remember that they're just people, too.