Starz's 'Blunt Talk' Creator on Gossip: "We Used to Have Lives, and Now We Have Phones" (Guest Column)
Jonathan Ames feels bombarded by technology and wonders if there is any escape from tabloid headlines that "come to me through osmosis."
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
I anticipate that any pronouncements I make here will fall under the category of "opinions of an old fart." Not that I'm actually old (51), but when I was a young man, to possess an answering machine seemed to be the height of technology — when you weren't home, people could leave you messages! Now we carry these devices that are like those electronic boxes dogs have about their necks that give them a shock if they pass an invisible barrier, and these devices are called smartphones. You can get shocking messages at any time of day or night, and we all addictively look at these things, like Narcissus and his pond. We used to have lives, and now we have phones.
But this is all part of existence now in the first world — we live in an age of constant distraction, one form of which, of course, is gossip. At one time, I read the New York Post and "Page Six" — there was usually a picture of an attractive starlet — but, like most Americans, I don't read newspapers anymore, and I haven't seen "Page Six" on a page in a few years. It must be very quaint now. How could it possibly keep up with the constant busted sewer main of gossip that is the Internet?
Personally, I don't seek out gossip, but it just comes to me through osmosis, really. I still belong to AOL — I really am an old fart — and whenever I log on, there are all these little scandalous headlines. They penetrate my consciousness and so, for example, I'm aware that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are divorcing. From afar, I have applauded Mr. Affleck's incredible return to stability as an actor, director and family man. On principle, I applaud second acts and second chances. It gives us all hope for when we fail. So I was sad to see that he was struggling again, and having gone through a breakup myself recently, I thought both of them must be in terrible pain.
Thus, I would have preferred something less emotionally taxing, like a gossip piece about Mr. Affleck's hair. As a bald man, I'm very intrigued by sophisticated hairpieces and transplants. I want to know what these fellows — these successful actors — are doing about their balding. And that, I think, is one of the primary lures of gossip — we want to know other people's secrets so that we can better live with our own.
Besides AOL, I also occasionally engage in Twitter, another source of gossip, and there I saw something about Lenny Kravitz’s penis. I was drawn to the word penis and watched a GIF of Mr. Kravitz’s genitals fall out of his pants during a rock concert. I know more about this than what's happening in Syria or North Korea.
What is venal and insubstantial will always be more appealing than what is important and real. But, like the last line of The Great Gatsby, we can try to fight against this, we can "beat on, like boats against the current," like boats tacking forward against the tide of sludge that is gossip and modern life. We can try to look away from our computers and our phones and look at each other, look at the world. We might even like what we see.
Jonathan Ames is the creator of Starz's new series 'Blunt Talk.'