Today in celebrity gossip: Taylor Swift descends upon the nation like a corrosive yellow fog, everybody is mad at Beyoncé, and Amanda Seyfried's dog committed a sexual assault.
Although Taylor Swift is a widely beloved, best-selling wunderkind whose prowess in the recording studio is matched only by her Temple Grandin-esque mind for publicity-generating romances, recently she has decided to devote herself to the full-time task of ruining lives. Like a corrosive yellow fog in a high ponytail and lensless glasses, Swift has seeped into the cracks of this very nation and now her endgame is revealed: She will stop at nothing until the land itself has been torn asunder. See, apparently at Taylor Swift's home (no, not the expensive Nashville penthouse, and no, not the four bedroom cottage in Beverly Hills. The other one. The $17M Rhode Island mansion. That one.), she's begun to fortify what must surely now be termed her "lair" with a multimillion dollar sea-wall made of enormous boulders dragged from the depths of Neptune's terrible kingdom and stacked atop a public beach to fortify herself against marauders and, probably, superheroes. But it's this remodeling-a-public-beach aspect that has enraged the locals of Watch Hill. According to a resigned, whimsical post in The Day, Swift has blockaded public access to Rhode Island's very own shores and has done so without having "obtained one single permit from the town for the cliff work. " So where does the life-ruining come in, you may be asking? Well, you know. Life's a beach. But look, it's not just beaches and beachfront properties against which Taylor Swift has exacted her unholy schemes, she is also apparently killing people! According to a headline in the Huffington Post, "8-Year-Old Taylor Swift Fan Dies Days After Receiving Call From The Singer." That is a direct cause and effect! (Don't click that link by the way, we should not support journalists who use misleading click-bait for titles.) Terrible, right? Who will stop Taylor Swift? Who? I fear it's already too late. [Page Six, Huffington Post]
In barely, tangentially, almost hypothetically related news, Taylor Swift was 2013's most charity-giving celebrity according to DoSomething.org. It is obviously a trick. Just what is she up to? [People]
The human brain is a hell of a thing. It was literally forged in hell, yes, but also I meant that as a sort of aphorism. For example, the brain is always whiplashing back and forth between two extremes, making sure we're all headed toward some kind of ultimate average. That means we make drama where there was once serenity. We indulge in hate to counteract too much love. We constantly change our minds about what makes a Superman movie the worst. And now here we are with the lowliest example of our brains' shortcomings yet: Everybody is suddenly calling the Platonic Ideal of a human being (Beyoncé) an asshole. It all started when she released that super-secret album BEYONCÉ, in the process blowing everybody's minds AND delivering a very, very good record in a way that no pop star has even attempted in decades. When the initial shock wore off, people started paying attention to the music and certain details started rubbing people the wrong way. One track, "XO" which is perhaps the loveliest song on the album (and of the whole year maybe?), begins with a quick, cryptic soundbite taken from the Challenger space shuttle disaster broadcasts: "Flight controllers here looking very carefully at the situation. Obviously a major malfunction." Now many people, but especially people with credibility (i.e. actual NASA astronauts), are up in arms about the appropriation of the 28-year-old tragedy. Well, Beyoncé has released a quick statement (which is, notably, not an apology) in which she explains "The songwriters included the audio in tribute to the unselfish work of the Challenger crew with hope that they will never be forgotten." Fair enough? Probably not, because it seems like a lie. Sorry guys, but no way was the usage of that clip a "tribute." However, if it's easier for Beyoncé to just say something quick and respectful to get past this controversy, fine, but a more thoughtful artistic defense would have been way more compelling. Like, first off, art constantly appropriates imagery from tragedies, that is how we deal with large-scale disasters a lot of the time. But in the specific case of "XO", the idea is that a dry understatement like "obviously a major malfunction" is sometimes the best we can do when it comes to communicating huge, horrible, complicated issues. In this case the song's about a disintegrating relationship, which, if you've ever experienced one, can feel far more devastating than something you've seen on the national news. So the question would be, can a 3-1/2 minute song really properly address the feelings of a wrecked heart? Can even the phrase "XO" properly communicate the emotions behind it? Just like that overwhelmed announcer from 28 years ago, no, it can't. So yeah, this seems like a fair usage to me. Gutsy and obviously controversial. But emotionally pure and eminently defensible. I just hope this unsolicited defense of a Beyoncé song will help get her career back on track. Hang in there, B. [Page Six]
Speaking of complicated relationships! Recently the effortlessly likable, should-be-huger actress Gabrielle Union became engaged to professional basketball player Dwayne Wade, a news bite perhaps most interesting to those of us who watched Bring It On a bit too much in high school. Unfortunately, things have become a bit more complicated, as E! News reports that the engagement almost didn't happen after Union discovered that Wade had fathered a child while the two of them were "on a break." To be clear, this salacious turn of events was actually something that both parties were aware of, had accepted, and moved past, and the Union-Wade romance continues unabated as they are grown adults and life is full of curveballs and they seem to be dealing with everything with aplomb. Phew! [E! Online]
When there is not enough news to fill out your electronic scandal sheet, sometimes one must start digging into paperwork. Yesterday alone TMZ dug up the acting contracts for nu-Carrie Chloë Moretz (can we please pretend the middle name didn't happen?) and Oscar-nominated star of Beasts of the Southern Wild Quvenzhane Wallis. If you really are as interested in the lurid details of what these very successful (and rightfully acclaimed) child actresses make, here you go! Wallis will make upwards of $1.5M (plus royalties) if her version of Annie is a hit, and Moretz is poised to pull in at least $500,000-$1M for her new film If I Stay. That is a lot of money! But their deals (complete with profit participation and awards bonuses) seem pretty typical to be honest. What's slightly more interesting is, as TMZ points out, the finer points of Wallis' contract, which stipulate that she be billed above Cameron Diaz and be provided with free dresses for all promotions. Even better, her contract forbids her image from being used to promote "the sale of alcohol, tobacco, firearms, feminine hygiene products and pharmaceuticals" but it CAN be plastered onto Pachinko machines. THAT, my friends, is the very definition of hitting it big. [TMZ, TMZ]
The Onion gets a lot of mileage out of parodying TMZ, but sometimes it's like TMZ is parodying The Onion right back? Ladies and gentlemen:
And finally, to close out what was surely a magical, dynamic, and important 2013 for many of us, please enjoy this heretofore unseen outtake from the classic children's book Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark.