Are We In The Most Boring Era Of Celebrity?

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Did you feel it too? Your throat stifling a little yawn when faced with the mundanity — nay — the utter vibelessness of this year's Met Gala? Granted, our meme-able usual suspects — Beyoncé, Zendaya, Rihanna, Timothée and Harry — were absent from the red carpet but the ones who did make it noticeably served, well, nothing. And then there was this year's theme. Watching the rich of 2022 cosplay the rich of the Gilded Age (and badly) felt a little too on the nose amid a devastating cost of living crisis, calling to mind the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote: "The rich are different from you and me." Yes they are, and it's never been quite so apparent.
"Y’all the met gala really ain’t doing it for me anymore. When did fashion get so goddam boring. Some please bring back the days of club kids and fashion icons," one Twitter user sounded off. Another observed: "The deadness of every red carpet these days shows how deep we are into the most boring era of celebrity."
And we are bored to tears. A collective feeling of 'meh' shared on social media, so much so that a tweet from High School Musical alum Ashley Tisdale teasing (threatening?) to secure an invite to next year's Met Gala with an earnest promise to recreate some of her more noughties-adjacent looks — you know, keyboard clutch, UGGs, feather boa, skirt over bootcut jeans — has garnered over 911k likes. The girlies are desperate for a tender morsel of anything: vibes, aura, weirdness, flavour.
Arguably, the last time the celeb-sphere produced anything remotely scintillating was Julia Fox with her chaotic soot-liner, vacant stare and braggadocious pronunciation of "Uncuht Jahmmms". High art and performance, everything we deserve. But alas, the Safdie muse was nowhere to be seen, later revealed to be prowling the West Coast in a Tribal Titty Smasher black bikini and ultra low-rise latex pants. We wouldn't have it any other way.
It doesn't help that the masses are increasingly aware that luxury brands are paying undisclosed amounts of money for famous faces to be brand ambassadors. "The met gala is so boring every year because creative directors care more about promoting the look of their brand than getting on theme like trust me we know the vibe of Louis Vuitton," one Twitter user jabbed. Yes, if you've spotted some of your favourite celebs in suspiciously off-theme frocks that wouldn't look amiss on the jumbled basement floor of Topshop's Oxford Street flagship (RIP) — looking kind of a bit awkward and unhappy — chances are their hands are tied and they have to acquiesce to whatever ready-to-wear gown the brand is trying to push. The knock-on effect is that the red carpets are dry, and we can't help but feel cheated that the rich and famous are trying to get even more rich while depriving us of literally all we expect from them: entertainment and outfits — mere distractions to give us temporary respite from the knowledge that the world is burning.
There's also the distinct feeling that the stars doing the rounds on our news cycles right now are a bit 'meh', too. "I love and respect how hailey bieber has zero vibes. Like she has no aura at all I want to study her," one Twitter user observed. Another responded: "I feel this way about all the girls tbh... Hailey, Zoe, Dua, Florence, Mia Goth, Kiley [Kylie], Gigi, Suki... no vibes... just impeccable skin and styling. The new girls are giving tap water vibes. Just lukewarm fillers and lip gloss."
The knowledge that many have had their careers boosted by nepotism — aka famous family names — is nothing new. But social media has amplified widespread feelings of resentment. Back when being a celebrity was virtually unattainable and magazines were our sole access to the lives of the stars, there was a little more mystery. We were drip-fed intel, craved intimacy and didn't come so face to face with the constant reminder that there are a large number of celebrities who have no perceptible skills, lack talent and are technically valueless in terms of giving the public anything other than the aforementioned entertainment and stylish looks. Now we know what they ate for breakfast, what they're thinking of calling their new pet and what their multimillion-dollar mansions look like inside — in excruciating detail. No shade to Doja Cat because the woman is talented but the other day I watched a minutes-long TikTok live that primarily consisted of her exchanging miaows with her cat.
Our phone screens now supply us with a constant excess of access. And the meaning of celebrity has changed. These days anyone with a phone and a niche can get a foot in the door of Hollywood and become a superstar with a Netflix deal. It's great for levelling the playing field and upward social mobility but even that offering feels diluted nowadays.
There is something to be said for the homogenisation of social media. Everyone sounds the same, looks the same, smells the same, shares the same plastic surgeons; it's almost become aspirational to be indistinguishable in a police lineup.
Then there's the hyper self-awareness that social media has fostered. "The K*rdashians are almost too vain to turn out an interesting carpet look. Everything is too hyper-conscious and there isn't enough fun or genuine expression or creativity," argued self-proclaimed pop culture scholar Bolu Babalola. Seemingly we're past the era of raucous celebrity antics; everyone is just so marvellously well-behaved these days. Reality TV stars — who historically were met with equal derision and fanaticism for their unbridled messy behaviour and made good TV — are now too afraid to inch their perfectly manicured toenails out of line for fear their Missguided deals are wrenched from their hands. The demise of Love Island is one such pertinent example — if it feels like scripted television, it's because it is.
There's no doubt that COVID not only slammed the brakes on the constant celebrity cycle but also made uncomfortably clear — lest we forget Gal Gadot's tone-deaf PR disaster "Imagine" video a week into the pandemic — the sheer gulf of wealth between us and them, even exposing the hellish depths of narcissism of some of them.
And when they fuck up, the clapback is real. Celebrities are much more likely to be called out and cancelled, held accountable for their shitty actions. Arguably the most conversation-generating celebrity moment of this year so far is Will Smith slapping Chris Rock at the Oscars. It's not to be condoned but the swiftness of the Academy to punish a celebrated Black actor for a flash of violence when they have turned a blind eye to — even celebrated — white actors implicated in sexual misconduct, life-changing violence and racism has not been lost on us all.
In peaks and troughs, the public will always go through cycles of being disillusioned with celebrity and post this year's Met Gala, the hostility is burning on a blue flame right now. Tone-deaf, shallow and unrelatable — undeniably yes. But are we really in the most boring era of celebrity? Britney Spears is pregnant, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck are getting married, everyone is talking about Holly Valance — maybe we're back in the noughties after all.
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