The Boring Sameness of Celebrity Cover Stories

One of the most bizarre and popular forms of journalism is the magazine cover story/ celebrity profile. To get a clear idea of what I mean, examples can be found here, here, and here. These are Esquire on Shia LaBeouf, GQ on Brad Pitt, and Vanity Fair on Chris Pratt, respectively.

What I find so hilarious about these pieces is the current in-vogue approach used by the these journalists to couch their supposedly laid back narrative. Each one begins their piece, in the very first sentence, as if they are telling a unique first-person story:

Shia LaBeouf is nervous about this story—“I have so much fear about this thing,” he confesses to me when we first meet…

Brad Pitt is making matcha green tea on a cool morning in his old Craftsman in the Hollywood Hills, where he’s lived since 1994.

Chris Pratt wanted to cook me lunch—you can tell a lot about a person by the way they cook.

I don’t know what it is about these sentences that absolutely kills me. Maybe the forced casualness. In our age of entertainment, whatever this age is, we want our stars to be down-to-earth, person-next-door types, when in reality, to understand even the most basic components of their life, one must account for these processes & formulas that are able to harnesses billion-dollar-generating star power. These are secular gods. There is no way around the rituals.

When I arrive, I see LaBeouf through the window. He is alone at a four-top, his eyes trained forward, unmoving. As I approach him, he stands to greet me. His outfit is Valley Dad: well-fitted if unassuming khakis and a sweatshirt.

Pitt wears a flannel shirt and skinny jeans that hang loose on his frame. Invisible to the eye is that sculpted bulk we’ve seen on film for a quarter-century. He looks like an L.A. dad on a juice cleanse, gearing up to do house projects.

He [Pratt] was wearing a flannel shirt and jeans and had let his beard grow to stubble. No shoes, just socks. He’s a big guy, six feet three in boots, 220 pounds, in shape, and has the knock-around ease of a regular guy drinking campfire tequila on the set of a John Ford movie.

These are three different journalists, although you would never know that by simply reading these articles. Of course they probably didn’t have final say editorially, but still. It’s all the same sort of thing: here is a big star and yet, wow, look at how damaged and complex they are. And here is Shia LaBeouf doing artsy poses in a $4,000 bomber jacket:



Oh, and here’s Brad Pitt wearing a $485 shirt doing, uh, well, I don’t exactly know what:



Now, let’s catch up with Chris Pratt about his hobbies as he casually steps out of a race car:


What interests me most is that, despite the obvious amount of money spent on these cover shoots, creatively, they seem remarkably half-assed. They all evoke the same images and boring scenarios.

I keep imagining an ancient corollary in which Virgil describes a casual interview with Caesar Augustus. Like a washed-up wanna-be Gonzo journalist.

He invited me into his palace. Greeting me at the gate, he wore a surprisingly casual brand of toga and sandals. C’mon in, he said, waving me in and, as we passed through the palace gates, he haphazardly spanked one or two concubines on our way. I just want the people to know that I am a normal guy, you know, he said. We just like to have a little fun around here.

12 thoughts on “The Boring Sameness of Celebrity Cover Stories

  1. I know, I know! Journalists do the same thing with high-end women’s magazines. It does get repetitive. But it must sell copies- people must love this stuff….. Or else the magazines would go broke and the advertisers wouldn’t buy space in them….

    I’m not that interested in celebrities myself, but I guess they all started out as ordinary people, and you know, you can never quite get away from your past. We all start out as blank slates.

    But, yeah, these type of articles are very contrived.
    Great writing,- thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Even more interesting is what it reveals about the human mind. As animals we’re searching for patterns to emulate, patterns that increase our chances of survival. That’s the mechanism that drives people to reading that stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Very valid point. It reminds me of an old Simpson’s episode where Lisa really wanted to be a legitimate reporter but Bart became much more popular for doing feelings pieces -phrased much like your opening paragraph examples.
    The general population laps it up, while the glaring obviousness of its goals and its repetition annoys distinguished writers.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I haven’t watched them in a while, but reflect on some of the episodes now and then. Clearly, the writers are a different sort of artist, still conveying societal ideas.


  4. You lost me in the middle there after I followed to the link of stuff I don’t bother to read. ouch, my eyes! And I aught up before the end. I guess we are meant to feel like we could be part of their everyday-ness? And they are normal like us? I’m not normal! Normal is over-rated! Cheers,H

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “forced casualness” I love it! Your blog is so on point and well written. My theory — it’s almost over for many women’s magazines unless they start portraying real stories about our many real challenges. Elle did publish an excellent piece on an energy healer a couple of years ago that was thoroughly researched and they published a story on an adjunct English professor who lived in poverty (adjunct professor thing is yet another corrupt system).

    Liked by 1 person

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