The last seven days have kept arts and entertainment editors busy. Amidst Cannes and Indiana Jones coverage came the season finales of most high-profile TV dramas, the confetti-accompanied crowning of an indie rocker as the newest American Idol, and the climax (sorry, I couldn't resist) of Sex and The City's publicity storm.
Among arts writers, however, no event has set the stage for societal reflection as effectively as the on-paper manifesto of a New York City blogger. Emily Gould's cover story in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday has, in a matter of days, turned her into a beacon of our maddeningly self-involved generation of artists. It has also given other writers a narrative lens through which to dissect other overexposed characters of our time, including Carrie Bradshaw.
A short recap: In her 8000-word piece, the former Gawker blogger narrated, in painstaking detail, her personal addiction to documenting her intimate affairs online. In the process she wrecked two romantic relationships, sank into a depression and realized that breaking the cycle—and consequently patching up her current identity as a writer—would be nearly impossible.
As it seems, this story has accomplished just the opposite of helping her come clean. Among both bloggers and those that follow them, Gould is now known as a calculating narcissist who chose to cash in on the very same strategy that presumably drove her to an emotional ditch. The story is currently listed as this month's most blogged about New York Times piece. After receiving more than a thousand comments from mostly furious readers, the Times closed her article from further reader feedback (you can browse through the existing list of rotten tomatoes here).
In today's Salon, Rebecca Traister tied the Gould phenomenon to Sarah Jessica Parker's Carrie Bradshaw, another New York City writer frantically bashed for her self-centeredness. In a way, Gould was downright asking for someone to draw the comparison: She was blogging about Sex and The City just last week on Jezebel.
"What provokes such fury, over Carrie Bradshaw, and — for a flash — over Gould (barring a book deal and TV show that will turn her meanderings into cultural furniture) is that in a media landscape in which there are a severely limited number of spaces for women's writing voices, the ones that get tapped become necessarily, and deeply inaccurately, emblematic — of their gender, their generation, their profession," Traister wrote. "When we are fed — and gobble up — stories by or about single urban working women, those exotic and potentially threatening creatures presented to us are often doing things like confessing their self-doubt, discussing their sex lives, lying on rumpled sheets looking pretty."
Similarly, in his review of two new celeb-driven reality shows on the E! Network—one about Denise Richards and the other about Lindsay Lohan's mother Dina—Troy Patterson of Slate made reference to Gould:
"It's fundamentally gross, of course, but the apparatus of contemporary media and marketing is such that life and love are treated more as commodities every day—you might try asking Tila Tequila about that or Emily Gould —and Richards' show is just another indicator of the broader cultural decadence. No privacy, no decency; no surprise," he wrote.
Many New York Times readers accused the publication of neglecting undeniably more newsworthy tragedies around the world to make room for Gould's personal essay ("It's actually less than noteworthy, it's like an abyss, a "net negative," wrote a reader who said to be interviewing war survivors in Cambodia). Many of her fellow journalists, however, seem to have taken the opportunity to wonder what her case says about the modern media consumer.
Perhaps this debaucle isn't even about the distinctions of modern stardom: After all, we like to equally spit on fictional New Yorker Carrie Bradshaw, traditional celebrity Denise Richards and the newest, self-made breed that Gould represents. We scarf down the private, aggravating realities of each with equal appetite, and let the resulting schadenfreude provide a soothing distraction from our own neuroses.