by Katherine Schloss
They have finally recovered the bodies of the missing Kennedys. I’ve found that it’s so easy to give into the mystique of their curse. I’m certainly one to be drawn in by the fogginess that surrounds it, the mystery that their uber rich family is shrouded in. They’ve certainly been continuously blessed with fame and fortune, but one can only stop and wonder if the number of deaths and freak accidents that they’ve racked up is actually unprecedented, or if it merely feels magnified because of our intense fascination and following of all things Kennedy.
Curses are linked to supernatural powers, and ending up with one comes with all the implications that someone- or something- is out to cause you harm. I think it’s really interesting that some people walk around with a “victim mindset” in that way. It’s easier to point to something as the cause of an unhappiness, or to blame the bad things that have happened to you on misfortune. Looking at the famous Kennedy family specifically, there is folklore surrounding them, with conspiracy theories pointing to a curse that has manifested in everything from cars launching into bodies of water, botched lobotomies and the famous shooting which has yet to be completely solved and therefore remains subject to scrutiny by the masses.
Why do we find celebrities so entrancing? This question is asked again and again by anyone who cares to take a second to analyze their own obsession with the world of glitz and glamour, where old movies insist that, in the pursuit of fame, celebrities are selling their souls to the devil. They take a risk, and many end up in the hallowed halls of rehab, all for the price of the construction of a “personality.” We fall in love with, or love to hate, the fragments that they give us, following a trail of golden little nuggets of information. Nowadays, the sneak peek into their lives that we get on social media and in “stripped-down” interviews can be addicting. But how much of that would have existed if they hadn’t entered into a contract? How much of their glamorous life was written in the stars and preordained, and how much resulted from years of working towards the image that we idolize?
My art history professor told my class that, when the Cleopatra film came out in 1963 with Liz Taylor at its helm, it brought with it a trend of false eyelashes and the “new Egyptian look.” She managed to capitalize on an image that was ancient and totally unrelated to her own culture, merely because of the starpower that she held. We hold onto these images of decadence, copying those that have their fascinating lives on their hills and many who, in this quarantine, have the luxury of hiding in their mansions without reason to ever leave their shiny infinity pools and manicured pastures.
Watching old Keeping up with the Kardashians episodes- hey, we’ve got to allow ourselves some guilty pleasures during this quarantine, right?- I’m reminded of how we love to pit celebrities against one another as if everything is just one big ‘ol reality t.v. show. We love to read about the drama, to spice things up when we find our own lives to be mundane or stale. Where does the individual end and the personality begin? When writing a thesis on David Bowie and his creation of a sort of alter ego in the form of Ziggy Stardust, I was fascinated by how he described the struggle of trying to separate himself from the persona that he’d crafted purely for the entertainment of anyone who would listen. We criticize celebrities for being unable to handle the fame which somehow comes to encompass a culture where we expect them to be well-adjusted and expect them to share the secrets of their well-adjusted life with the public as well. Who are we to expect an inside peek? It’s as if no stone can be left unturned, no second left unrecorded.
I saw today that there’s speculation that Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik are expecting their first child. As I stared at the pixels that combined to create pictures taken from moments in their tumultuous on-again off-again relationship where they were actually beaming, I couldn’t help but wonder who it was that had leaked this highly personal information. There’s certainly a darker side to things, one where influencers like Caroline Calloway are cancelled and labeled as scammers by fans that had once heralded her posts about her dreamy days at Cambridge. This overload of information that exists at our fingertips has erased some of the intrigue. We no longer have to wait for a magazine to come out in order to see the latest celebrity gossip, and celebrities have literally started opening their doors up to us in Architectural Digest videos galore. I’m slowly starting to feel that celebrities are just like us, but with a whole lot more money and a whole lot less privacy.
I am not immune to the cult of personality that surrounds these moguls. I’ve been known to drool over Princess Di’s drove of fabulous and innovative outfit choices, I spent years trying to understand who Jackie O was aside from her husband, and singers like Maggie Rogers remain my spirit animal. The few times that I’ve been able to talk to these figures that I look up to or love to love- which has mainly been at stage doors or at small concerts- I’m struck by how little I’m able to muster, despite the fact that I’m usually a big talker. Though it may feel like it, we will never truly know the people whose voices fill our earbuds, whose posters covered the walls of our angsty teen years, and whose red carpet choices will continue to shape our own wardrobes for years to come. And that’s okay. We certainly rely upon a pop culture shaped by such individuals as a form of escapism, and I undoubtedly will continue to try to find the magic in the personas that they’ve so carefully created for me to indulge in. On the other side of things, I hope that at the end of the day we find ourselves in our individuality to be all the more valuable and precious, crafting our own personalities and lives based on the people and things that we are influenced by and basking in the fact that we don’t have to drive in cars with tinted windows. I, for one, can’t wait to freely walk around in Trader Joe’s once the quarantine is over, searching for my favorite off-brand takis. At least the mob won’t have something to say about that.