With her novels Conversations with Friends and Normal People, author Sally Rooney has been hailed as one of the great chroniclers of millennial life.
Now the Irish writer, 30, has shared an eminently sensible and empathetic view of what fame is really like in 2021. For her, it's a system that doesn't enrich individual celebrities – only corporations.
"As far as I can make out, the way that celebrity works in our present cultural moment is that particular people enter very rapidly, with little or no preparation, into public life, becoming objects of widespread public discourse, debate and critique," Rooney told The Guardian. "They just randomly happen to be skilled or gifted in some particular way, and it's in the interests of profit-driven industries to exploit those gifts and to turn the gifted person into a kind of commodity."
Continuing, Rooney said that the "hell" of fame now requires celebrities to put up with "variably serious invasions of their privacy from the media, from obsessive fans, and from people motivated by obsessive hatred".
Rooney's comments come at a time when female celebrities in particular face unbearably intense levels of scrutiny, especially online. Taylor Swift has spoken about the "very isolating" experience of getting cancelled, while Dua Lipa has called out the sexist and reductive way women in the public eye are often objectified.
"Of course, that person could stop doing whatever it is they're good at, in order to be allowed to retire from public life," continued Rooney, who is about to publish her third novel, Beautiful World, Where Are You?. "But that seems to me like a big sacrifice on their part and an exercise in cultural self-destruction for the rest of us, forcing talented people either to endure hell or keep their talents to themselves."
"I don't think it is graceless for people in those positions to speak out about how poisonous this system is," Rooney added. "It doesn't seem to work in any real way for anyone, except presumably some shareholders somewhere."