Celebrities are moving to your town!
It’s truly amazing. Jet setters Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are moving to a small town in Kentucky.
Similarly, Johnny Depp is coming to live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
And Justin Bieber is chucking his fabulous mansions for humble digs in Sandy, Oregon.
Of course they’re not, not really. But there are these persistent rumors going around the internet that these and many other celebrities are leaving Hollywood and putting down roots in small towns, to be with “ordinary” people.
Allegedly they’re bored with all the phonies in Hollywood, all the emptiness and glitz, and they want more meaning in their lives. They were driving through the town in question when they just fell in love with the wholesomeness of it all. Soon we can expect to see Tom Cruise washing his clothes at the coin-operated laundry, Taylor Swift grabbing an ice cream in the local soda shop, and Johnny Galecki shopping at the corner grocery store.
These stories are popping up because they play into a very common and recurring fantasy: that fabulously famous and successful people—people we’ve been persuaded since childhood to look up to and wish to emulate—would really be happier of they were more like us. I often why more movies and books—Entertaining Welsey Shaw aside, of course—aren’t based around this very basic fantasy.
In Hollywood, the most recent movie that comes to mind is Notting Hill, a Julia Roberts/Hugh Grant fantasy that I found fatally flawed simply because you don’t cast Hugh Grant as the “everyday guy.”
But the thought that perhaps we could encounter Anne Hathaway or Mila Kunis in Target, little red basket in hand, browsing at housewares, is just too delicious. I just finished revising a scene in Entertaining Welsey Shaw where Daniel Ferreira, our more humble version of Hugh Grant, thinks he spies Welsey in his small town, Callicoon, New York, during their big cultural event, the annual tractor parade. And he becomes embarrassed: Welsey is going to see his hick town with its “ordin’ry folk” and used furniture. He wants to stop her. He tries to hide. He knows the fantasy of these pretentious LA types being impressed with “the rest of us” is bunk, is naive, is pure fantasy, and Daniel is not one to live in a world of fantasy. He is relentlessly realistic, to the point that it sometimes hurts.
It turns out not to be Welsey, but someone else vaguely similar—Ever notice how when you’re thinking about someone everybody suddenly starts looking like them? He probably wouldn’t have even noticed the skinny blonde otherwise.
But we’ll continue to want to believe that Kate Hudson could be our new neighbor, that we may run into Matt Damon at the diner, that Gwyneth Paltrow may be in our drugstore buying bowel-cleansing remedies. It won’t happen—their worlds and our worlds, despite Mila Kunis’ going to a ball with a Marine, don’t collide. At least, not very often. (Turns out Mark Ruffalo does own a house in Callicoon. But I’m betting most people there don’t know where.) And there’s a reason for that. As Mr. Fitzgerald said, Let me tell you about the very rich. They are very different from you and me. The same can be said for celebrities, who of course are as rich as they come. As well as living under a microscope 24/7, literally afraid for their lives oftentimes. After being harassed by reporters, fans and paparazzi, the ending of Notting Hill shows Julia Roberts relaxing in a very public park with Grant. No one seems to be noticing her now. It gives the movie that satisfying ending we all needed to see—but it completely contradicts the previous two hours. That’s Hollywood.