The Black List: The Ten Things Alan Cumming Hates About Celebrity

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Writer, director, and actor Alan Cumming will soon appear in two new films—Burlesque, with Cher, and Julie Taymor’s The Tempest—but it’s his website, It’s A Sickness, “an obsession network for an obsessive culture,” that makes the star of The Good Wife (for which he recently received an Emmy nod) the perfect man to lash out against the ravenous cult of celebrity. This is what we call a true Hollywood story.

1. I hate that kids get older and weirder. When kids know you from a film, they are genuine and open in the way they approach you. Then they get older and jaded, and you have to deal with their new adult shit, and they come up to you and say things like, “I don’t know who the fuck you are but my friend thinks you’re kind of hot.” Then they let slip something about a film you’ve been in and of course they do know you, and actually quite respect you, but they are unable to betray that level of emotion and you wish they’d just stayed age 9.

2. Celebrities are not deaf. We can hear you when you talk about us.

3. Twitter is the devil. Not only does it mean that people will grow up unable to experience something without instantly commenting on it, but it is also a hideous invasion of normal human interaction to watch someone you are talking to in a bar go to the loo, and then be told later that they did so to tweet about you. Or how about when someone witnesses a fender bender and tweets about it rather than asking if you’re okay, or if they can help? This happened to me, and a friend of mine saw the tweet and freaked out thinking I was hurt because, of course, the tweeter didn’t bother to follow up and say that I was fine. But worst of all are people who tweet their comments during a play or a movie! I mean, come on! What ever happened to analysis, or allowing an experience to actually be just that?

4. I hate, hate, hate people who come up to you and ask if you remember them, revealing that they slept with you a long time ago. Why would you put yourself in a place of potential humiliation? If the celeb doesn’t remember you it will only make you angry and upset, and make you feel like you weren’t that good of a shag in the first place. Also, didn’t you ever consider the fact that you would never have remembered the celeb either had you not seen his face again and again on TV and in magazines? Wouldn’t it be nicer to gently remind your former shag of where and when you met, subtly and with decorum, and allow you both to have a nice little flashback to why you wanted to get into each other’s pants in the first place?

5. I hate the existential dilemma that magazines and websites deliver: if there isn’t a photo of me in US Weekly or on the latest vacuous blog, was I really at the party/premiere/awards ceremony? Do I even exist if I am not in those publications and on those sites? Is there an alternate reality where outmoded celebrities go to die or exist in a timeless zone waiting to be reborn or reinvented in a Betty White sort of manner?

6. I hate that celebrities are asked our opinion on every inane aspect of society and culture, some recent examples being, “What do you think of Kate Gosselin’s new hairdo?” and, “Are you a Gleek?” and, “Can you do a George Clooney impression?” But we’re supposed to shut up and say nothing about things that actually matter.

7. I hate that we are called “talent.” Not even the talent. My publicist shouted out of a car window recently: “You have to let us through! I have talent!” At first I thought she was referring to herself and was rather excited about what her hitherto unrevealed talent might be, but then I realized it was me, and talent was a noun by which I have come to be known. I am not talented, I am talent. One of the most vivid memories I have about a crazy, embittered ex of mine (and on reflection, probably what precipitated the beginning of the end) was him having to wear a lanyard at an event that was attached to a plastic card emblazoned with the phrase “Guest of Talent.” Ouch.

8. I hate very, very much when people recognize me enough to stop me and sometimes physically prevent me from moving on with my life, yet do not exactly know who I am and so feel entitled to ask me a series of questions about things they might have seen me in. I hate that when I say, “Well, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there when you saw it,” they don’t suddenly realize what an annoying and rude twat they are being. Ditto when, after more questions (and them still clinging onto my arm to disable my flight), I say, Why don’t you Google me?—and they still persevere. What is the solution? Should I try to become more famous to ensure that everyone, everywhere will automatically know me and I will avoid this sort of exchange? But won’t that mean that more and more people will want to stop and talk to me, and take my photo and try to drag me through bars to meet their cousins who are visiting from Arkansas?

9. I hate that people assume that being famous means you’re an asshole; that you’ll be rude to bar staff, waiters, and anyone further down the totem pole than you (which, when you’re a celebrity, is pretty much everyone, with the exception of bigger celebrities); that you will demand loads of expensive booze, clothes, and drugs, and not expect to pay for it. This is utter transference. I am always asking people to stop being total bitches on my behalf and trying to explain that it would be a nice change for me to have a conversation that isn’t about me, my work, how fabulous I am, or how I can help someone get a start as an actor, model, screenwriter, agent, publicist, or my assistant. I think it’s a real test of someone’s character if they choose to be mean to people they can be mean to. Some celebrities do this—but then, some celebrities are revolting shits. There are, however, many more revolting shits who are celebrity hangers-on.

10. I hate that I am even writing this, because it will be misinterpreted, and weird blogs and British newspapers will take lines from it and make up articles that will make me look like a spoiled, frothy dick, and there will be that “Oh, poor you to have so many problems because you’re famous” reaction from people I know and even like. But you know what? I don’t hate the fact that I still notice these things, because it means that I have not hidden myself away from the world, and I am glad about that. Also, as ambivalent as I am about my own fame, it is a byproduct—unwelcome as it may be—of me getting to do the work I love, and be the person I am, so, hooray for that.