“Teenage Paparazzo” and Celebrity-itis
I don’t often watch a lot of documentaries. It’s not that I have anything against documentaries — it’s just that I haven’t been as exposed to them as feature movies over the years. However, if Teenage Paparazzo is an example of the quality documentary-making that is going on now, I plan on exploring many more documentaries in the future.
Teenage Paparazzo is a film made by Adrien Grenier, the star of the hit television series Entourage. Having been thrown into the spotlight and inheriting the title of celebrity overnight, Grenier admits to struggling with the different sides of fame. One of these sides is the paparazzi, those who follow him day and night to get a good picture, invading his space and private life. This all comes to a head when Grenier meets Austin Visschedyk, a thirteen-year-old member of the paparazzi culture. Fascinated at how this kid could be a paparazzo, Grenier decides to do a documentary on Austin and discover what it is that these paparazzi are looking for, and exactly what this cultural phenomenon means to both sides. He also interviews other celebrities for their opinions, including Matt Damon, Lewis Black, Paris Hilton, Eva Longoria and his Entourage costars.
I believe I’ve mentioned two things more than once on here: (1) That Hollywood is a money-making machine and does whatever it can to continue that trend, and (2) Celebrities tend to be more of a product than the result of what someone does. I found this film to be a fascinating look because it not only touches on both of these aspects, but actually makes a number of interesting arguments as to why these things happen. As Adrien researches more and more about the paparazzi, he learns more about what makes a person a celebrity, and what celebrities mean to everyday people. He talks to editors, professors, psychologists, and even the lead team of a magazine, trying to figure out this entire phenomenon.
As a fan of older black and white films, there was one part of the film in particular that I found interesting. This is where they talk about the actual creation of the celebrity. One of the leading commentators on the subject makes this interesting observation when Adrien asks if celebrities have always been under scrutiny:
“No, no. Under the studio system, the studio manufactured stars. They had a heavy hand on their personal lives, so you didn’t know anything about them except what the studio wanted you to know about them… You add an aura to these people, Garbo, Gable, Bogart… That’s what it used to be about: these were your dream fantasies, up there on the screen, larger than life, and that’s completely gone now.”
Rosie O’Donnell agrees with this statement, saying
“There was no Perez Hilton. There was no TMZ. And People Magazine, at that time, worked within the confines of the Hollywood-established publicist system.”
This question of what makes a celebrity is just a tip of the revealing iceberg that Adrien Grenier has caught, using the young Austin Visschedyk as his starting point. But even making a documentary can have an impact, and so the film itself soon becomes a creature of the celebrity world in itself, affecting all of those involved in it.
If you’re at all interested in the psychology of celebrities, how impressionable society can be, or just want to see one of the fastest, most street-smart kids you’ve seen in a while, this is definitely a film to check out.