Debord called it alienation; I call it resentment. And it manifests in the weird duality that’s grown up around celebrity culture: society tears down these avatars of perfection with just as much gusto as it creates them. These two apparently conflicting phenomena, though, are really really just two sides of the same coin: the public at large wants everything that celebrities have — and they hate them for having it.
Resentment manifests most dramatically in feeding frenzies like the one that erupted yesterday over the footage of Solange laying into Jay Z, because it was footage we weren’t meant to see. It doesn’t fit with the image of Jay Z and Beyoncé that they sell to the world. No, it was a tired-looking dude standing nonplussed as his sister-in-law tried to kick him in the balls after a night on the booze, while his wife stood and watched rather than taking sides.
The subtext of the glee with which this incident has been reported is this: look, they’re not perfect! They might have more money than god and live in a palatial Tribeca penthouse and get to go to a swanky party at the Standard while you’re working nights to pay off your debts, but they still get drunk and do things they regret in the morning! Woohoo! This is the worst of celebrity culture: a sort of revelry in the misfortune of others that’s as vicious as it is vicarious.