Reading about the rise and fall of Thomas Kincade, and I just can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

What? you might say. He was a mediocre painter! He drove gallery owners out of business! He defrauded investors! He groped women and taunted Sigfried and Roy! HE TOOK A WHIZ ON WINNIE THE POOH!

Yes, all despicable acts. Some even criminal. And he’s paying for them.

What I feel sorry for is the way in which public figures–celebrities, politicians–thank goodness not writers, because I don’t think people are very interested in us as people, and thank God for that–become focal points for public adulation, interest, ire, ridicule, schadenfreude, love, hate, etc. Yes, Kincade has done some wild $h**, but haven’t we all? Haven’t we all said, or done things which, if splattered across the covers of tabloids or subjected to smug dissection in the NYT, would come off as screaming batshit crazy? If reports of every ounce of fat gained or lost from your ass, complete with pictures, were the subject of constant speculation by millions of people you’ve never met, wouldn’t it *make* you a little screaming batshit crazy? Could you imagine if the career you spent a lifetime building could all be scuttled by a surreptitiously-snapped photo of you picking your nose?

The celebrity, it seems, doesn’t have the luxury of selfhood, in a lot of respects. They become a living manifestation of an image created jointly by a publicity team and public perceptions, and woe if they should say or do anything that diverges from this carefully constructed image. Woe Untold if the Image contains an element of the Role Model. There’s nothing as exciting as watching someone who presents him/herself as a Role Model caught performing Immoral Behavior, especially if the immorality is in opposition to their particular Role Model shtick.

It could be argued that celebrities choose this life, know what they’re getting into, and deserve what they get. Maybe, maybe not. As for me, you couldn’t pay me enough to live under that level of public scrutiny. Neither the money nor the attention are worth it.

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