LeBron James was caught on camera the other day, shoving away a fan who approached him at an Usher concert.
The fan, a schlumpy twentysomething man or teenage boy, certainly couldn’t have been a threat to the 6’9’’ James. Ask yourself, though: How often does LeBron James get mobbed by fans when he ventures out in public? Probably every time.
Online reactions to the incident have been mixed, as is my own reaction. LeBron James has generally proven himself to be an entitled jackass in recent years. And no, I’m not talking about his leftwing politics. I’m talking about incidents like this—when he interrupted a youth basketball game to confront a PA announcer, just a few weeks ago.
But there is another side to this, as well: our weird obsession with celebrities and celebrity culture. Most Americans spend far too much time absorbed in electronic screens. There are many of us who have built vast imaginary worlds revolving around LeBron, Taylor, etc.
As a matter of fact, I know one 28-year-old woman who has (in my view, anyway) a very odd obsession with Taylor Swift. She is one of the so-called “Swifties”. She not only goes to every Taylor Swift concert she can afford, images of Taylor Swift also fill her social media profiles.
In case you were wondering, then, rabid Taylor Swift fandom really is a thing. I know at least one follower of the cult.
On the darker side, Swift has also attracted numerous male stalkers, including men who imagine themselves married to her. But that’s a whole other bag of nuts.
The reality is that most celebrities just aren’t that into you, even if you are their Number One Fan and can prove it. They don’t want to talk to you, sign an autograph for you, or take a selfie with you. The only exception would be a scheduled public relations event. And even then, most of them just aren’t that into you, on an individual level.
A celebrity, it has been said, is someone who spends half her life trying to become famous, and the other half trying to avoid the downsides of fame.
Downsides like you, and your over-eagerness to approach them in public.
I’m not a snob who doesn’t like popular culture or mass-market pursuits. I enjoy the output of actors, musicians, and professional athletes as much as anyone else.
(Note: The NBA is not my thing. I had to run a Google search to ascertain which NBA team LeBron James plays for. But I do follow Major League Baseball.)
Since I am not a real person to most celebrities, however, I have made it my policy to repeat the favor of studied indifference.
And yes, I have a story to prove this: the time I ignored Molly Ringwald, more than 30 years ago.
My hometown of Cincinnati is not a place that draws many celebrities. Some do wander in from time-to-time, though. Over the years, Cincinnati has become a destination for filmmakers who want a Midwestern location that doesn’t look like New York or Los Angeles. The best-known movie to be filmed in Cincinnati was Rain Man (1988). There have been a handful of others.
I was a student at the University of Cincinnati in 1988, when some scenes from the movie Fresh Horses were filmed on campus. The star of the film, Molly Ringwald, was then in her youthful prime. (As was I; Ringwald and I are the same age). For about a week, Molly Ringwald and the other members of the cast, including Andrew McCarthy and Ben Stiller, made some appearances on campus.
I did catch one glimpse of Molly Ringwald from a short distance away. Her red locks—particularly when she was sporting 1980s-style “big hair”—are quite distinctive. She was standing at the edge of one of UC’s quadrangles. She had just arrived, apparently, and hadn’t yet been mobbed with autograph seekers.
I could have talked to her, I suppose. She was right there, and shyness has never been one of my problems. And while not exactly her Number One Fan, I had seen most of her movies. She made movies for teenagers in the 1980s, after all; and I was a teenager in the 1980s.
I didn’t approach her, though. What was I going to do…ask her on a date?
I did say to myself, “Hey, that’s Molly Ringwald over there. Huh.” Then I kept walking. I had a class to get to.
That’s my rule of thumb: If you see a celebrity in the wild, take a look—that much is probably unavoidable—and then leave him or her alone. Keep walking, and let them do the same.
They just aren’t that into you; and if you’re that into them, then…well, you might want to ask yourself what’s missing in your life, in your version of the real world.