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The Respectability Threshold: When an Actor Becomes a Brand

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrity | March 31, 2011 | Comments ()

By Courtney Enlow | Celebrity | March 31, 2011 |


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Here's the good news: Gwyneth Paltrow apparently listened to me and is making an attempt to return to the uber-superior ice twat we all know and love. The bad news: she's doing this by putting out her answer to Real Simple.

If we're being honest, I truly prefer this to singing on award shows or making movies about country music, rehab and dead birds while shilling for that middle America dollar, but now she's opened a serious wardrobe door to an all new Narnia: the Narnia of the Celebrity Brand.

Because when they stop being an "artist" and become a commodity, at what point do we stop caring about them as people?

Some performers were brands, designed to be bought and sold by the general public, from day one. The Disney set, the Olsen twins, any reality television "entrepreneur" and most, if not all, mainstream pop and hip-hop acts, we are not shocked when we see their faces all over anything that has the surface area to display it. But it is rare that a legitimate "thespian," one who has devoted her career to actual proper film, could be so willing to become a business.

Mind you, I'm not saying that endorsing a product dilutes the respectability of a performer. Entertainment is a business, and the entertainer is the product. They need to sell themselves as much as Coty needs to sell perfume, or Smart Water, or designer clothing lines, or any other product that can possibly generate profit. But when a celebrity gets into the game and attempts to turn him or herself into a property, a name attached to an entire company, a BRAND, then the concept of art goes out the window.

Some can pull it off. Obviously, the two who come to mind most quickly are the late greats Liz Taylor and Paul Newman. Taylor was one of the originators of celebrity merchandising, and Newman's was entirely devoted to charity and education, something Taylor also devoted her life to.

GOOP's charitable acts involve educating our smug acquaintances about $475 fingerprint cutouts and important travel tips like "stay at The Mercer when you visit NYC" (rooms start at $440 in the off-season, so it's totally a bargain.)

Again, this kind of singular disconnect is something I appreciate in Gwyneth. I am so bored of celebrities pretending they're "just like us" (but I'll save my soapbox on that for next week). Gwyneth's utter twuntiness is a revolutionary act, and, not to compare the two, something we haven't really been privy to since the days of the aforementioned Liz Taylor and the rest of the glamorous old guard. They would sooner dramatically faint into traffic than dare feign to have anything in common with, as Gwyneth once famously said, "somebody who makes $25,000 a year."

But then why is she now so willing to take their filthy poor people money, sullied by its former place in a cheap wallet (I bet it cost less than a thousand dollars!). Ew, and it smells like a desk job. FOR SHAME.

For the most part, celebrities who attempt to brand themselves are not exactly "artists." Celebrity brands tend to skew more Jennifer Lopez or Jessica Simpson, big names without a lot of substance behind their work. Pretty faces who can sell a pretty plate or pair of shoes.

Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson are not the caliber of citizen Gwyneth usually allows herself to associate with. Not my Gwyneth who, once again because I love it, once referred to Jennifer Aniston as "that TV girl."

She's supposed to be better. Her career is entirely based upon "being better." So if she isn't, why should she be treated like she is?


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