The newest John Green movie adaptation is out, and the cast and author are just finishing up the promotional press circuit.
Today, Green wrote a passionate article about the commodification of persons in the promotional cycle of the film industry, and what it’s like to be on the side of the interviewed, and it was in response to an interview with Cara Delevingne on a morning talk show in which they asked her if she had read the book. Curious, I looked up the interview, and I disagree with Green’s assessment that things went downhill after that fateful question. I’m pretty sure things started at the farthest bottom of the hill and sat there until Delevingne gave up trying to drag it up to a more acceptable standard of interviewing, at which point the whole interview fell apart as a result of losing her complicity and effort to hold it together.
They were incredibly rude and patronizing to her, from the very first second. As a way of venting my discomfort at having witnessed this situation in which a fellow human being was treated with unearned disrespect and unnecessary spite, here’s my summary/interpretation of the interview:
Interviewer 1: “We have here: Carla. I know I just called you not your name but I’m going to gloss over it because your feelings and identity don’t matter to me. Hey there Cara, how are you? No don’t answer, I don’t actually care or want to hear about it. The book is taught in a lot of high schools, and you’re pretty much a child so you might have read it for that reason, but you’re just /sarcasm oh so busy being a famous little princess lololol /end sarcasm, no really though did you get a chance to read the book the movie you starred in was based on?”
(Cara diffuses situation with witty joke)
Interviewer 2: “lololol your joke was not appreciated because you know my cohost was just trying to point out that you’re taking part in what we consider to be a freakishly high frequency of projects. Isn’t it hard to keep your little air head focused? Do you work continuously because your life is otherwise empty and unmotivating? What’s your Meyers Briggs type? What do you think?”
(Cara registers confusion at the random, context-lacking line of questioning, attempts to explain what it’s like to have a real job, gives up and attempts to explain what it’s like to actually like your job, gives up and trails off)
Interviewer 2: “So it’s not hard? Alright, if you say so.”
Interviewer 1: “Are you even capable of identifying with this character you portrayed across a feature length film?”
(Cara makes another sarcastic joke, in an almost defeated, knee-jerk manner at this point, as if thinking – for the love of sanity, are we really only a minute into the interview? How much more of this do I have to take?- and then answers the question they should have asked about her relationship with the character, giving an interesting insight into the dynamic between actor and character and its effect on the end product)
Interviewer 2: “HURhur oh RLY?”
Interviewer 3: “Hey I love this movie because the characters talk like people instead of like teenagers (who are not people, as everyone knows). LOL I was such an idiot in high school so I know everyone else was, it’s like these characters aren’t even REAL, it’s like the writers don’t even know how to write a teenage character and the actors don’t even know how to play a teenage character, because these teenage characters are so similar to actual people. LOVE IT. Now, keeping in mind that I just gave your movie and its target demographic a really back-handed complement, can you tell us why you aren’t excited to be talking to us? You were excited talking to other people. Is the wittle baby tired? Are you PMSing or something? What’s your problem?”
(Throughout all of this, Cara appears to become offended at the backhanded complement, realizes that being offended isn’t worth her time or energy, stops being offended and tries to take the next question seriously, becomes reoffended when they finish asking the question, pulls herself together, spits out a stock answer to keep things moving, and attempts to take the high road and be empathetic to the interviewers, explaining that maybe she just seems lower energy because it’s the morning)
Interviewer 1: “Yeah. You seem irritated. Perhaps it’s just us. Look, we’re giving you a clear opening to stroke our egos here. We’re handing you this one for free. Don’t mess it up.”
(Cara can’t take their BS anymore, calls them out)
Interviewer 1: “Well, if you don’t want to talk to us, we don’t want want to talk to you. How ’bout that? I guess it’s just past the small child’s nap time.”
(Cara attempts to respond and they cut her mic, but continue to film her as she looks on with a look of cold, calculated hatred in her eyes – after a few seconds the video feed cuts from her end)
Interviewers: “WOAH WHAT A MOODY LADY TEENAGER GEEZ. I know it’s hard soul sucking work going to all these interviews but STILL. You made money for doing a job, so you OWE US all the ego stroking we want! We are entitled to that ego stroking! We are entitled to your time and energy! We are entitled to whatever we want from you, regardless of whether or not you had any way of knowing we wanted it, regardless of whether or not we deserve it. This isn’t a business transaction based in tradition, mutual benefit, and mutual understanding/respect, it’s where you’re supposed to show us the attention we’re owed! Bitch can’t even take a joke. We were treated SO BADLY but I guess we just have to shake it off, like the poor TV talk show host martyrs that we are. So moving on to our next story about cholesterol…”
Of course, I hardly quoted them directly at all, but instead replaced direct quotes with my interpretations of what they meant by what they were saying. Whether those meanings were intentional or not, doesn’t matter. That’s how it all came across, Delevingne handled it incredibly graciously.
This opens up a lot of thoughts I’ve been thinking lately about the way we handle celebrity interviews and how it represents the failure of traditional mass media to understand the context in which it exists, but this is already pretty long so I think I’ll just leave it as a rant and save those thoughts for their own post, should I ever get around to writing it.