Everybody is above average

Rhys Ifans has inadvertently blown the gaff on celebrity interviews by being so rude that the journalist interviewing him chose not to pretend otherwise.

This is rare. Journalists don’t like admitting when celebs behave in a shitty way. They also don’t like admitting when celebs, or indeed corporations, refuse to answer their questions. Sure, they’ll admit it in the pub, but not in print. It’s a sort of unwritten code; if you admit that someone gave you nothing to work with, others might start to think that you’re not up to the job, because getting something to work with is part of the job even though it’s not within your control. So you do your damnedest to turn that nothing into something.

If there’s a PR on the scene, the “nothing to work with” thing stops being such an issue, because the PR will happily polish quotes, supply extra info and generally do anything to help you write the article (except for answering your questions honestly and promptly, of course). And if the editor has agreed copy approval, the whole article might as well have been written by the PR without the interview taking place. (OK, I exaggerate, but.)

This is why the female subjects of magazine interviews are almost always “refreshingly unstarry” and “down to earth”. This is why they supposedly arrive for the photoshoot looking amazing without make-up. This is why so many of them are “tiny” in real life, with perfect skin. (The men are almost always taller than expected.) This is why they never get called on their bullshit.

My favourite bits are when the celeb tries to rope their (absent) friends into bolstering their down-to-earth status. You want an example? Exhibit A: Gwyneth Paltrow. Apparently she loves cooking so damn much that all her friends contact her when they want a home-cooked meal. They get sick of restaurants and room service, they want some simple home-made food…so they ring Gwyneth Paltrow. Does that sound likely to you?

I mean, even if she wasn’t Gwyneth Paltrow. Have you ever thought “I want some real food” and then phoned a friend asking them to cook a meal for you? (I know some young adults do this with their parents, but I don’t think it’s the same thing.) Flipping the script, have you ever had a friend phone you up asking you to cook them a meal? If not, how would you feel if they did?

Exhibit B: Isla Fisher. She’s just a normal mum and definitely not trying to relaunch her acting career, so her friends all drop their kids off at her house and she ends up in the nursery “surrounded” by kids. Again, does this sound likely?

These are fantasies. Fantasies of being grounded, being a nurturer, being a host, being an earth mother, being an ordinary person, being needed. Ideal Home interviewees (not celebs) fall prey to the same thing on a smaller scale: it’s quite uncanny how every house featured has become the hub of social gatherings, and every couple interviewed has friends and families constantly dropping in for a meal. Life can’t be like that for everyone, or who would be doing the dropping-in? We can’t all be “tiny” with “perfect skin” either, because both “tiny” and “perfect” are relative values.

We all know that magazines are glossy bullshit. But sometimes it’s nice to get a reminder, just in case you’re feeling bad about not looking amazing and feeding the five thousand.

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