Do We Have the Right to Know a Celebrity’s Sexuality?
Confession: Like so many others in this society, I love celebrities. Gossip blogs are my morning newspapers and evening procrastination, but Twitter is definitely the best because they publish almost every single meal that they order. The entire Hollywood scene is practically like high school in a sense that everyone is always talking about each other, but it’s better: the people being discussed are much easier on the eyes, and the juice that flows between them is much more interesting than topics like prospective prom dates and who has access to (good) alcohol.
But not every celebrity reveals their daily details on the Internet for their fans, and despite society’s obsession with celebrities and my hunger for more, some celebrities still don’t share anything beyond their work in interviews. Earlier this week, interviewers sat down with actor Kevin Spacey to uncover news about his new film, but things quickly heated up when they accused him of lying (by omission) about his sexuality.
“I don’t live a lie,” said Spacey. “You have to understand that people who choose not to discuss their personal lives are not living a lie. That is a presumption that people jump to.” Sure, some of us may have our speculations about his sexuality, just like some of us did about John Travolta, Elton John and Ricky Martin, and just like some of us still do about Keanu Reeves and Tom Cruise. But confirmed information has brought mixed reviews in the past: it has been said to ruin some careers and fuel others to new heights, empowered by accepting audiences, gay and straight.
But as fans, do we have a right to know, or to even guess?
These days, it’s practically part of an actor’s job description to not only work in films and television, but also to accept their new role as a famous personality: make appearance on late-night shows, tell a few jokes, and share some intimate details about your life so that an audience can identify you and appreciate your work, let alone pay to see it. They aren’t only selling their talents anymore – they’re selling themselves, and we’re buying into it. It’s not bad, it’s entertaining and profitable, really. Plus, it potentially lends more power to their causes and charities, which can save lives and improve harsh conditions all over the world. Do we listen more attentively now that Lady Gaga has passionately spoken at a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rally?
But should sexuality, or any other unscripted information, simply remain a private matter of a public figure? It’s not as if Americans normally guess strangers’ sexual orientations on the street (oh, I hope this isn’t your hobby…), so there’s no reason to do so on the red carpet. They go to acting school and train for years to become great in their abilities to tap into their emotions and portray them in roles, not to cause controversies with who they date – male or female, famed or otherwise. Just because someone aims to create art on film doesn’t mean their personal lives must be dissected by tabloids and Twitter feeds while off screen, to the point where Spacey parallels his interview to bullying:
“I think what we have seen in terms of gay teenagers committing suicide because of bullying is anguishing. I think young people, if they are feeling like they are confused, need to know that there are people to talk to and that there are places they can go and not feel alone. But I feel that they have just as many rights as I do to not be bullied. And I don’t understand people who say, ‘Well, this is a terrible thing that is happening to this young person whose life is being exposed,’ and then turn around and do it to another person. People have different reasons for the way they live their lives. You cannot put everyone’s reasons in the same box. It’s just a line I’ve never crossed and never will.”
So what do you think? Is celebrity commodification part of the modern contract for any anticipated blockbuster and new hit sitcom? Or are we all too obsessed with celebrities that we’ve unfairly cornered them in a fishbowl, watching their every move? Duke it out!
For the record, Spacey smoothly forced a topic change in the interview with his opinion on the matter:
“Look, at the end of the day people have to respect people’s differences. I am different than some people would like me to be. I just don’t buy into that the personal can be political. I just think that’s horsesi*t. No one’s personal life is in the public interest. It’s gossip, bottom line. End of story. “