In this week’s TIME, Joel Stein interviews Diablo Cody (you know, the ex-stripper who wrote Juno) and Jason Reitman (you know, the non-stripping guy who directed Juno) about their new film, Young Adult. The movie, written by Cody and directed by Reitman, is about an alcoholic young adult novelist with bleached blond hair, a purse dog and an unhealthy obsession with reality TV.
In the interview (which, sadly, you can’t read online unless you subscribe to the magazine) Reitman makes an offhand comment about having to send Charlize Theron (who plays main character Mavis) copies of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, The Hills and My Super Sweet 16 on DVD so she’d know what sort of stuff her character watched. Wait a minute, I thought when I read that, was Charlize Theron not familiar with these shows? Not even The Hills? A few years ago, Lauren Conrad was everywhere — in US Weekly, on gossip blogs. Did Charlize Theron not follow American reality shows?
It reminded me of two interviews I’d read recently. One was with Keira Knightly, who once starred in Pride & Prejudice but told New York Magazine that she’d never heard of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (“I’ve completely missed this!” she said). Another was with Kirsten Dunst, who had to have the term “manic pixie dream girl” explained to her in an interview with Moviefone — a term that Dunst herself inspired with her role in the Cameron Crowe’s 2005 monstrosity Elizabethtown.
These interviews, along with the one in TIME this week, reminded me that celebrities aren’t necessarily aware of all the different iterations their image and work can take. As far as Kirsten Dunst knows, she starred in a film that wasn’t very good and then went on to star in another one that was much better (Marie Antoinette), end of story. Charlize Theron can watch a bunch of Kardashian DVDs, make a movie about a mean, pathetic woman who watches the Kardashians, and then go back to her beautiful Kardashian-free life. And I don’t expect Keira Knightly to have actually read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, but if I every played Elizabeth Bennet in a major motion picture, I just know my friends would email me every single Jane Austen-related item they found for at least the next decade. (Case in point: I once wrote an article about competitive eating; it’s now seven years later and my dad still emails me whenever Joey Chestnut does something).
There’s an entire subculture of people who write, blog, Tweet, and make zombie-themed books about the work these stars do, and they know nothing about it. Some of them don’t even know about the reality show celebrity underclass whose pictures appear next to theirs in magazines. For some reason, I find this comforting. The fewer people who watch the Kardashians, the better.