Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 22, No. 1, 2023
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Robert J. Lewis
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Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


Liz Hodgson


For more of Liz, visit her fashion/brenda website.


The celebrity douchebag is a fascinating creature. All of them unique in their way, they share a mixed bag of traits—a furnace of emotions, fraught with neuroses, perfectionists, suspicious of everyone and—paradoxically—crippling shyness. Observed from a safe distance, they can be entertaining. Hearing anyone bark ‘do you know who I am?’ is always funny. Inevitably, they have talent to burn. Who would put up with them otherwise?

Throw a rock in Hollywood and you’ll hit one: there’s the red-faced sputtering super producer threatening to destroy the person at the other end of the phone. Also, the prima donnas and A-listers with absurd demands: no eye contact on set. Trailer stocked with Evian water, not for drinking but for hair-washing. There’s the Oscar-decorated elder statesman who in real life is a surly prick and the lecherous creep who barks at the busboy then smiles lasciviously at the young ingenue across the table. In the upper echelons of fashion media, there’s the bitch-on-wheels influencers and editrixes, not to mention the pouty supermodel who sends her meal back three times. All of which may sound like a slapdash of cliches but cliches are true.

LA and Manhattan are typical habitats but douchey celebrities can turn up anywhere, making life a misery for the maitre d’s, concierges, assistants, valets and various helpers in their path. If that includes you, take heart: behind you now is a social media cancel mob ready to pounce. This is how it looks in the animal kingdom:

I first observed this phenomenon a few weeks back when James Corden found himself in PR hot water. TLDR: Corden is a ginormous douchebag whose ginormous douchebaggery got him banned from Balthazar, a fancy NY brasserie. Apparently the comedian raved like a hangry Karen over his wife’s improperly prepared omelette and on a separate occasion over a hair in his food. “Get us another round of drinks this second and also take care of all of our drinks so far,” he groused. “This way I won’t write any nasty reviews on yelp.”

When news of his behaviour reached Balthazar owner Keith McNally, the restaurateur took to Instagram and, in front of his 100k+ followers, told James Corden—in not so many words—to eat a bag of dicks:

“James Corden is a hugely gifted comedian but a tiny cretin of a man. And the most abusive customer to my Balthazar servers since the restaurant opened 25 years ago. I don’t often 86 a customer but today I 86’d Corden. It did not make me laugh.”

Good for Keith McNally. Though possibly spurred by New York’s crippling staff shortages, he sided against the rich powerful celebrity in favour of his floor crew, putting them squarely in the drivers’ seat. Working stiffs FTW. If Corden wants to get his carney hands on Balthazar’s Belgium waffles ever again, he better play nice.

Here’s James Corden:

Hurry up with my order serf or I’ll have you fired and drag you mercilessly on Yelp. Don’t you know who I am?

Here’s Balthazar staff:

In the pre-Twitter world, stories of celebrities behaving monstrously in public travelled mainly through the grapevine. That or via brief mentions in the tabloids, often as a blind item. For decades, gatekeepers of glossy media formed a protection racket around the worst offenders, airbrushing over a multitude of sins. Mainstream media religiously adored JFK right up until the internet came along with a series of alternate historical facts.

In the age of Twitter, the hall pass has been revoked. Within hours of McNally’s Instagram post, Twitter lit up with stories of the ‘James Corden is a ‘sh*tbag’ variety. Revelations included outward contempt toward ‘nobodies,’ that he may have lobbied to reduce writers’ pay and was a corporate suck-up. Most damaging of all, his disastrous 2019 Reddit AMA (‘ask me anything’) thread resurfaced—the one that went completely off the rails when pretty much every question was in the vein of ‘Why are you such an a**hole?’

Basically, James Corden became Ellen 2.0. You’ll recall that Ellen stepped on a similar rake in 2020 when it was revealed her ‘be kind’ persona was a fairy tale and her show was a toxic waste dump in which lowly production staff were bullied, belittled and even sexually harassed. In a grovelling apology, she insisted this was not who she was. An unearthed Tweet said otherwise:

So has the world been freed of this narcissistic scourge? Not quite. There will always be those too big to cancel—too talented, too much of a money-maker, too useful to the Establishment. Consider Anna Wintour, someone so impervious to outside opinion, one chilly glare in the direction of Twitter would cause it to burst into flames. A woman so cold that, when asked by her predecessor Grace Mirabella what job she wanted at Vogue, Wintour replied “yours.” According to her biographer Amy O’Dell, she is so unconcerned with approval, she gets up from lunch after 40 minutes even if her lunch companion is still eating. She once asked her photo department to retouch the fat around a baby’s neck. Her mere presence is so intimidating that a junior editor, finding herself sharing the same elevator, fled in terror just before the doors closed.

As a life-long approval junkie—a diplomat at heart and high on Jordan Peterson’s ‘agreeability’ scale—I sometimes daydream about spending a day in Anna Wintour’s Manolo Blahniks. What does it feel like to literally drive someone out of an elevator?

Scientists, pharmacists, drug dealers—anyone?—could we bottle up a formula? A drug that blunts shame and guilt and the instinct to relieve the discomfort of others. I’ve already written the VO for the TV ad:

Narrator: Do you apologize needlessly?

Me: I apologized to a woman at the supermarket who ran her shopping cart wheel into my Achilles heel.

Narrator: Do you seek approval, even from strangers?

Me: I tip 15 percent when the service is rotten!

Narrator: Do you feel guilty for saying ‘no?’ Impulsively fill the silence with mindless chatter? Feel like an imposter at work meetings? Hesitate to take the last piece of pizza?

Me: Check. Check. Check. Check.

Narrator: Ask your doctor about Wintourica. Wintourica is a new medication that helps with assertiveness. Don’t take Wintourica if you’re pregnant or nursing. Wintourica can cause . . . Blah blah blah. You get the idea.

What are the chances the geniuses at Big Pharma can turn a pathologically nice pushover like yours truly into an elevator-clearing, baby fat-shaming harridan? Since they haven’t managed to cure baldness or even the common cold, I’m guessing ‘low.’ Which is fine since it all sounds exhausting and being a nobody douchebag—as opposed to a celebrity douchebag—doesn’t preclude you from getting thrashed on social media.





Arts & Opinion, a bi-monthly, is archived in the Library and Archives Canada.
ISSN 1718-2034


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