Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once (18).And a few pages later:
He was bareheaded, and the leaves had tossed his rebellious curls and tangled all their gilded threads (23).Wilde's Gray has golden curly hair. Fangirls/squees of the same genres I inhabit, I hope that I am not alone when I state that this was the first person who popped into my mind when picturing Dorian Gray:
At one part of the book, where things starting going a bit... awry for dear Dorian, Basil Hallward, painter, intellectual, and a guy with a serious crush on Dorian, is trying to convince him of his inner goodness and describes his beauty, telling him, "...you are made to be worshiped" (119). He admits his love and admiration to Dorian, who simply accepts it as a compliment. Basil is a bit put out by this and states, "It was not intended as a compliment. It was a confession. Now that I have made it, something seems to have gone out of me. Perhaps one should never put one's worship into words" (119).
Hi, Basil. I think you're a hardcore fangirl. And I don't think it's going so well for you.
Basil's reaction to his confession turned compliment caused me to begin pondering something I've often wondered but haven't really delved into too much blogging-wise: what would it be like to meet a celebrity? While Dorian is not exactly a celebrity, he is well-known in the upper class areas of London and the worshiping and idolization people treat him with... well, it's not so far off from celebrity culture itself. And thus, with Basils' confession turned sour, I began to wonder a bit more what the interaction between fans and celebrities is like.
I have very limited experience with this. I saw NASCAR driver Tony Stewart at an autograph signing at the Mall of American when I was twelve. I also saw Marlee Matlin at MOA by accident, when she was doing an autograph signing as well. I'm pretty sure my professor Robin is a celebrity and he's just not telling anyone. Other than that - nada. Sure, I saw President Obama from a distance, but didn't meet him. I've met a few local politicians and such but have never personally met someone we as a society would consider a celebrity. No one who's well known for writing books or making movies or so on. So, I can only ponder what this would be like.
And of course, because the world is a very, very strange, place, I also happened to stumble across these posts online whilst perusing Oscar Wilde's great novel with Dorian Gray cast as Hiddleston in my mind. One such one was this (and it could not make this weird connection between celeb culture and Dorian Gray any clearer to me):
A well-written post that politely but powerfully conveys a point - "fangirling is cool but please don't go to extremes in your adoration." It's interesting for me to read these as someone who has never met a celebrity because, of course, one wonders what his/her reaction would be upon meeting their favorite actor/singer/athlete/etc. I can't speak for other fangirls, but I confess that around 80% of my daydreams involve meeting celebrities and thus, I spend a great deal of time wondering about it. I worry that I would dissolve into either a gelatinous mess or SPEAK LIKE THIS ALL THE TIME IN A HIGH SQUEAKY VOICE AND RAMBLE WITH RUN-ON SENTENCES AND FEEL EMBARRASSED FOR MYSELF AND THEN NOT BE ABLE TO SLEEP WELL FOR A WEEK BECAUSE I'D KEEP REMINDING MYSELF OF HOW MUCH OF A DORK I AM. In retrospect, I don't understand why I find daydreaming about celebrities fun at all. It sounds like it should be kind of stressful, doesn't it?
Here's why it's not; I present to you yet another (surprise, surprise) Tumblr post:
(Okay, hold on, I'm terribly distracted that this post was reblogged from a Tumblr blog titled Lokisspookybooty. Wow, that's a clever use of rhyme. Okay, okay, back on track...)
If, in said daydreams one is doing epic, awesome, impossible things, and actually able to talk in full sentences and not worry about squeaking in a high, strained voice as if one's caplocks was permanently on, then things are different. Also, fighting mountain trolls is never not epic so, you know, kudos to whoever created this post.
Of course, there is still the lingering worry that one would look like a dork, or (perhaps worse) become one of those overly-ecstatic fans that does nothing but screams shrilly and whom other fans dislike for being over-dramatic. Maybe other people don't worry about becoming stalkers, but I worry about this, if only because I have a bit of an addictive personality and thus manage myself with a bit more critical distance and self-reflection than maybe the average fan does (or maybe more of us do it and just never happen to speak of it). If one of my famous actors was in a nearby vicinity, you can bet I'd be high-tailing it over to that location (what are you talking about? I hang out at MSP Airport all the time...). At what point does that become not okay? At what point does it become weird knowing that Tom Hiddleston is in Iceland vs. searching where Tom Hiddleston is currently located vs. being in Iceland and happening to find out that Hiddleston is in Iceland and wandering past that part of town vs. finding out that he is in Iceland and purposefully going to his hotel and pretending to work as a maid to get into his room?
Yeah, that did escalate quickly. Sorry about that. But I feel like that's possibly how this stuff goes. One idea leads to another and then - either suddenly or slowly - you're one of "those" fans. This doesn't happen for everyone, obviously, or even that many at all, but for some it does. Why? Who knows. You'd have to take it as a case by case basis and we'd be here for the next twenty years trying to sort it all out. It's not just a simple "fans did this because of this" answer. It's something a whole lot more complicated.
But, if you want to continue on more complicated... here comes our good friend Oscar Wilde with a fine work of English literature. Clearly, Oscar Wilde was not writing directly about fan culture and he's not going to be able to answer any of the above questions. But his beautiful phrasing and occasional moral ambiguity leaves plenty of opportunities to tie it to modern fan culture. Why? Because Dorian Gray.
However, from the Tumblr posts I've shown, it's not things like paparazzi or fame getting to celebs like Hiddleston - it's worrying about the fans. It's fans hacking into his Facebook and spreading rumors that he died (so I'm new to the Hiddleston fandom and had no idea this happened... yikes). It's a fear that love in certain expressions (perhaps in its "confession" form) will change people like Hiddleston and lead them towards a more cynical end. It's an understandable fear, one I'd worry about and one I worry about for myself. It being election season and all, my cynicism is at a higher rate than usual just because all of this finger-pointing is getting old really fast.
But in terms of fan culture, this is really worrying. In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Basil's friendship with Lord Henry leads Henry to meet Dorian and fundamentally change the person that Dorian is. Henry is also a fan of Dorian, but of a different sort, the sort who proclaims, "I love acting. It is so much more real than life" (84). It is not that he confuses reality and fiction but that he finds fiction more real than reality. He is the sort of person cultural studies would greatly dislike and the sort of man the "worst" of fans would be compared to. I honestly don't know if people like Henry exist in our world; he is so humorously dark and complex that I both love and hate him. But then I think of my friend's friend Nick who parties and drinks to excess despite his two DWIs and is fun to be around even though he can be cruel and unkind. And then I want to ask Oscar Wilde how he could possibly be so relevant to modern society despite the fact that he published this book 122 years ago.
To clear up this meandering, I don't think that fans - the average, the extreme, and all in between - are exactly like either Basil or Henry. Perhaps some individuals are, but as a sum total, that's an impossible comparison. However, there are aspects of them that are relevant. Basil's reaction after his confession, for instance. I have never told a famous person that they mean the world to me (not in person, at least). But I can understand how this might backfire. This is rare, I am sure, but I think of cases where one of my favorite famous people suddenly has their reputation tarnished (Lance Armstrong... *sobs*) and how my appreciation for them feels lost. Once, I told an acquaintance how Benedict Cumberbatch was the best thing ever or something to that respect and her response was a sarcastic, "Well, he's one of the best things ever" and I suddenly wanted to curl up in the corner, feeling worthless and rejected and, as Basil said, "as if something seem[ed] to have gone out of me." The point was utterly lost on her and I just felt silly.
Yeah, this is what I think about when I should be paying attention to motivation concepts in I/O psychology...
In the end, there's this fear that somebody is going to turn into Dorian Gray (minus the Faustian soul-selling with the portrait and whatnot). Either it's going to be the celebrity in terms that fame got to their head or the fans or paparazzi drove them to it, or it's the fans who prove that "they were right when they said we should never meet our heroes" (song lyric from Metric's "Breathing Underwater." Thank you, the Current, for providing random music for me to sprinkle throughout my blog posts). I'm the sort that would like to blame society, the system, something outside and external for influencing us, something beyond Dorian's poisoned book. But then there's this sobering thought:
Because here's the clincher: some of them honestly HONESTLY seem to love their fans. They really, really do. Hiddleston wants to sign autographs and talk to his fans. Cumberbatch gushes about all of the support he receives. They seem flattered that their fans care so much, but not like Mr. Gray who gets smug over it - they seem take fan reactions as compliments (ever so humbly) but also understand that we as fans are confessing something, voicing something. In this way, they are fundamentally different from Dorian Gray.
This, of course, is not to say they are "perfect." This holds them to dangerous ideals, the sort that Basil creates in his worship for Dorian, and the sort that I've described as being a bit worried about, as it holds celebrities to unrealistic standards and doesn't allow them to make mistakes. But they're human - they're going to make mistakes. And I feel that if we really care about and appreciate a person, then we're going to support them even in their mistakes.
And so, if I may address you, celebrities: make mistakes. Be unpolished. Mistakes are part of a growing process and part of being human. But stay gold, Ponyboy. (I swear, if you get that last reference, I will buy you a drink of your choice. Seriously. I am getting more and more obscure over here.) That being said, I don't think I really have to say it. These fine young men with their splendid cheekbones don't need my advice and speculations; they seem to be doing rather marvelously without it. But, you know, just in case I'm wrong... here's my ridiculously long post on it. I hope this makes some semblance of sense.
All citations from:
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Barnes and Noble Classics, 2003.