Dean Gaffney – A Lesson From History

Celebrities. They’re weird, aren’t they? Just take a look at Dean Gaffney. Last Wednesday, he appeared on the front page of The Sun, talking about how he’d applied to join MI5. He said: “MI5 put out an advert looking for people and I thought, ‘How hard can it be?’ Most spies spend their lives pretending to be people who they’re not. I do that for a living.”

Apart from not being the best way to handle an application to a covert intelligence organisation – it’s certainly why my application was rejected – it’s clearly ridiculous. Here’s a bloke best remembered for being fired from a soap opera while they kept his dog, and he wants to be James Bond. Let’s all laugh at the nerk. Go on, laugh at him.

And while you’re laughing, take a look at yourself. Get up, waddle over to the mirror and take a look at yourself. In the mirror. The same mirror you’ve pulled the gun barrel pose in a hundred times. The same one you’ve said “Bond. James Bondâ€? to like it’s the world’s easiest casting agent.

Most of us like the idea of being a spy. The less intelligent among us might even think it’s just like it is in the Bond films. Either way, how many of us haven’t, on a cold, lonely evening, baked beans bubbling in the pan, The One Show warming the lesser parts of our brain, wondered what it might be like?

MI5 even take applications these days.

I know people who’ve applied and none of them are idiots. They’re intelligent folk who realise they’re smart enough to have a stab at getting that dream job. I’m not saying Dean Gaffney isn’t an idiot for using the front page of a tabloid newspaper as his supporting statement for a job which relies on anonymity – not unless he has a damningly honest opinion of his own current profile – but celebs aren’t some weird cult class.

Every year we laugh at the D-grade icons they drag out for I’m a Celebrity. We scoff at the horrible tasks we put them through and laugh at the idea that anyone might find it worthwhile. How desperate are these people for a shot at fame? Can’t they see that really they’re making us do this to them?! Now eat worms, Bristow!!!

But how many of those viewers sat at home, speed dialling with Greggs-fattened fingers, wouldn’t do the same if the reward was a five minute segment with Phillip and Holly? Any number of prank shows have shown what the general public are willing to do to themselves for their 15 minutes.

Yes, it’s Christians-to-the-lions and the Victorian freak show and all that, but it’s the same mentality that made the big boys pick on the camp one at school: a punishment for people willing to show the thing we’d rather hide away. Most of the celeb’s behaviour isn’t even odd. I see Cheryl Cole’s had a bad hair day. So? Walk down Stoke high street and you’ll see things a thousand times worse, they just haven’t got a camera pointed at them.

But these people are celebrities, they must perform for us. They let us photograph them and interview them when they walk the red carpet to promote their new film, so obviously we have a right to see their baby’s face the moment it’s plopped out of their womb, to oggle them as they struggle with a soul destroying divorce, or ramp up the Mail Online’s ad revenues whenever they dare pop out for milk without makeup on.

Is it any wonder Scientology flourishes in Hollywood? If you had to live your life in a bubble, at the centre of and yet completely disassociated from popular culture, wouldn’t you feel alienated? Extraterrestrial warlords and ancient volcanoes don’t seem so weird when you had a pap shot of your tits plastered across a double page spread on your sixteenth birthday.

Celebrities aren’t weird. At least, not most of them. In the week after the publication of Leveson, we should be particularly mindful that questions of privacy, of public interest and sheer nosey-ness seep down. Hacking Hugh Grant’s phone may not be as bad a hacking that of a murdered teenager, but our outrage relies on the same principle. Don’t hate them, do something constructive with your criticism and hate yourself instead. It worked for me: I got 745 words out of it.

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