Stop while ahead
Jenner should leave spotlight.
Is Caitlyn Jenner a hero and role model? Or is she just another dim celebrity?
The short answer: it’s getting tough to say. But with each passing week, as Jenner stiletto-steps into a self-controlled spotlight via a reality show, news stories, social media, interviews, PR blasts, magazine pictorials and more public appearances than Madonna made in the ’80s, the evidence grows for “dim celebrity.”
Consider her recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres.
“At first, I was not for it,” replied Jenner, when asked about gay marriage. “I mean, I thought, ‘I’m a traditionalist.’ I’m older than most people in the audience, you know? I mean, I kind of like tradition. It’s always been a man and a woman. And I’m thinking, ‘I don’t quite get it.’ ”
Judging by the sudden hush, the audience also didn’t quite get it.
Did Jenner, who put popular culture in a chokehold this summer with her transition, just say she was a traditionalist? Is she aware there are other traditionalists out there who, on balance, don’t believe it’s possible for a man to become a woman?
Has the longtime Republican supporter ever scrutinized the social positions of many party politicians, past and present, and wondered if these values are at odds with her own struggle to be her “authentic self”?
If the world ended right at that second, a blank stare would be etched on Ellen’s face for all eternity. Not since Jessica Simpson pondered the contents of her dinner bowl — “Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says ‘Chicken of The Sea’ ” — has a celebrity looked this baffled on TV.
It was as if DeGeneres was interviewing a malfunctioning Talking Elmo doll that kept reciting lines from Finnegans Wake in Korean. As she later told Howard Stern: “(Jenner) still has a judgment about gay marriage . . . And I said, ‘You’re wanting people to understand and accept you. This is really confusing to people. You still have a judgment about gay people and marriage.’ ”
It is confusing. In fact, the only way to experience greater cognitive dissonance would be if Barack Obama wandered out on the White House lawn and said, “Upon reflection, I don’t believe black people are qualified to be president.”
Sensing the backlash, Jenner clarified her position this week.
“Like many people, there was a time when I didn’t realize how important it is for gay couples to have the right to get married,” she wrote on her blog.
“But after hearing from my gay friends and learning more about the hardships they faced because of discrimination, it became clear to me that everyone should be able to marry the person they love. I can only hope that by sharing my story, there’s someone out there whose mind has been changed about trans people.”
This is a noble hope. But this is no longer about gay marriage or trans people. It’s about the danger of creating false idols, of converting otherwise flawed human beings into demigods overnight and expecting them to become infallible spokespeople for causes and equality battles they do not fully understand.
It’s also about the danger of overexposure. When Jenner first went public with her transition, I wondered if she might one day regret doing so inside a five-ring circus. Now I’m convinced she will. From the interview with Diane Sawyer to the Vanity Fair cover, from the I Am Cait show to the pressure she put on her adult children to participate for the sake of ratings, there is a nagging perception that Caitlyn Jenner’s biggest concern now is keeping Caitlyn Jenner in the spotlight.
This makes her no different than anyone else inside the Jenner-Kardashian complex: materialistic, vainglorious and remarkably selfinvolved. But if Jenner cares about her own future, if she has any grasp about how she’s increasingly grating on our nerves, she’ll step away from the cameras for a while. She’ll re- alize her quest to find her authentic self is starting to come across as an addiction to fame.
And the more she talks, the dimmer she seems. firstname.lastname@example.org
Caitlyn Jenner should step away from the cameras for a bit, Vinay Menon says.
As a man, Caitlyn Jenner was married to three women, including Kris Jenner, third from right. They are shown here in 2007 with Caitlyn’s stepchildren.