The Gwyneth Paltrow Flap: celebrities as the new socialist vanguard
Read these first: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gwyneth_Paltrow. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/gwyneth-paltrow-this-working-mothers-open-letter-to-the-actress-who-claims-being-a-film-star-is-harder-than-working-a-95-is-amazing-9221301.html. The author, Mackenzie Dawson is a contributing editor to the New York Post. http://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/gwyneth-paltrow-open-letter-a-gentle-prod-209524803538. Dawson interviewed by Ronan Farrow on MSNBC. Talk is about “parents” and “families” and income inequality, and the need for “celebrities” to speak out more frequently to right these wrongs.
[Blog starts here:] Journalists working for such diverse institutions as The New York Post, Fox News Channel and MSNBC , have all jumped on Gwyneth Paltrow for comparing the travails of movie acting with the long, hard, slog of other “working moms.”
Several observations are in order. 1. We live in an age where “celebrities” feel free to speak out on any and every social issue, regardless of their expertise in any subject—and so do journalists and academics with captive audiences; 2. In a period of mass democracy, social media, and public education, the manipulation of public opinion is critical for parties vying for our votes and financial support; 3. Second wave feminism, while making it possible for a few women to challenge the monopoly of men in business, the arts, and in the professions, was primarily a petit-bourgeois movement, dragging itself toward the Left because second wave feminism came out of the civil rights and antiwar movements of the 1960s. Paltrow’s generation came afterwards, was more Green, and more interested in family life, diet and healthy living, including the higher consciousness. 4. Like prior would-be intellectuals laying down the timing and rules for proletarian revolution or other progressive reforms, a few physically attractive celebrities and journalists have assumed the vanguard once reserved by 19th century Marxists for the politically conscious working class. Dawson is one of these scolds (see her live with Ronan Farrow, linked above).
So when “privileged” actor Paltrow compared the difficulty of being a wife and mother while pursuing her acting career, with that of other “working moms” she stepped in it. It was inevitable that comparing “life on the set” to the lives of working class women also trying to “balance” the roles of breadwinner, motherhood and even marriage with office work, would arouse high dudgeon in the chattering class, who themselves are under the thumbs of bosses–though their working conditions are not comparable to the back-breaking labor of the old factory hands, much construction work, and farm labor. There is a reason that these office jobs are called “white-collar,” and that leftist sociologist C. Wright Mills reviled them in one of his most famous books.
I should interject here that I do not know Gwyneth Paltrow, nor have I followed her career except to recall that when she accepted her Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love (1998), she may have wept for her ill father, the movie producer Bruce Paltrow (he had oral cancer for some years). (Her acceptance speech is here: http://aaspeechesdb.oscars.org/link/071-3/”And especially to my father Bruce Paltrow, who has surmounted insurmountable obstacles this year. I love you more than anything in the world.”). Moreover, she married Chris Martin soon after her father’s death in 2002. She also suffered a postpartum depression after the birth of her first male child. You don’t have to be a Freudian psychoanalyst to suspect that her attachment to her late father is more germane to her views on marriage and work than any other factor. The pain associated with that loss cannot be cured with work, beauty, money, or any other worldly success. If Paltrow tries to hold together a family with such evasive language as “conscious uncoupling,” the maintenance of family unity may be as much of a challenge to her, as to any of the women Mackenzie Dawson defends in her letter and tweets. “Life on the set.” Unless the reader knows the mechanics of movie making, especially the tedium of long waits in trailers, lighting, constant retakes, sudden changes in directors and lines, it is hard not to envy the glamorous life of a movie star. After all, mass media barrages us with images of gorgeous, ageless, perfectly happy females.
A final word on Fame. I had a taste of fame, which was synonymous with notoriety in some quarters. That many persons within listening distance of KPFK knew who I was, and even admired my work at times, did nothing to assuage the anxieties of performance. If anything, the pressure increased, as I tried to juggle the life of the creative mind with the responsibilities and emotional demands of motherhood. Paltrow seems to have peaked with her academy award performance. Similarly, even the most established authors face a blank page when they sit down to write. “Can I match my prior achievements? Can I do even better than in the past? Can I still sell books or get the better movie scripts? Can I transcend my limitations? Was my work ever good enough to please my high-achieving parents who expected so much of me? Am I aging too quickly? If I even worry about these matters, am I a bad wife and/or mother?”