Ugh, that popular, attractive young female entertainer! Why doesn't she just stop talking and go away? Hortense, weekend editor of the women's-interest blog Jezebel, takes aim at this oft-heard thread of pop-culture criticism in a post linking disco provocateur Lady Gaga, starlet Megan Fox, comedy writer Tina Fey, and country crooner Taylor Swift. Each of these women, says Hortense, has climbed to wild heights of popularity, and each one has undergone or will likely undergo some kind of backlash as a result.
How do these things get started? Hortense offers a capsule analysis of the hype cycle.
Because America is essentially a giant high school, there is always a need for the country to fill the position of "Most Popular." The poor soul thrust into that position via overexposure in the media is first embraced and then loathed; the public can only stand so much of one person before they have to find someone new to get excited about, and the resentment over being "forced" to watch the adventures of a certain celebrity unfold begins to fester and turn into a universal bonding point: "You're sick of so-and-so? Me, too!" In that way, the backlash is actually just another means for people to continue to talk about someone: the initial fascination remains, even as it's buried under exasperation and annoyance.
But there are also factors specific to each of these celebrities. "With Fox," writes Hortense, "the underlying nastiness of the backlash is as depressing as it is familiar: there's a sense that she is being 'put in her place,' a type of Homecoming Queen dismissal that reeks of America's inability to handle a woman who questioned and played with her own marketing as a sex object and attempted to step outside of it to no avail." By contrast, "if there's any reason why Gaga is headed toward a backlash right now, it appears to be overexposure and overall Gaga-exhaustion" (a phenomenon to which the Wire may have, on occasion, contributed in the past).
At bottom, though, these things all follow a predictable pattern: "Ultimately... any backlash is the result of a celebrity doing something that people do not think they 'should' be doing," Hortense concludes. "It's like any relationship: we fall in love and start to panic, or get annoyed, or drift away when someone begins changing. The likes of Gaga, Taylor, Tina, and Megan currently have the hearts of millions in their hands: it is inevitable that they are going to break a few as they try to figure out how to evolve, for better or worse. Nobody can be universally loved without a few detractors finally breaking away."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.