Passing for Normal

If you spend any time around famous people, the first thing you realize is that they can’t go anywhere without being THAT FAMOUS PERSON. If they’re out, they’re game to be observed, evaluated, commented upon, and interrupted. You hear a lot about how the internet allows people to compensate for the shortcomings of their body-to-body persona: they can pretend they are older or younger, they’re male, they’re fully able-bodied, they’re skinny and cute, whatever it takes to get the kind of attention and connection they’re after. I’ve always thought one interesting piece of this that I’ve never seen anyone really talk about is that famous people are also invisible when they’re online. Julia Roberts can go hang out in a chat room or on a message board and no one needs to know it’s her. Or, apparently, so can Halle Berry:

Oscar winner Halle Berry loves chatting to people online using a pseudonym.The Monster’s Ball beauty regularly posts messages to fans on her official Hallewood internet site, but also visits other chat rooms under an assumed name.

She says, “I have gone online and pretended to be someone else in an attempt to have some anonymity.

“I have tried, many times, to have a normal conversation when celebrity was not a part of it. Sometimes it works and at others it gets a little weird.

I remember in the mid-1990s when celebs first started showing up in the online spaces where people were talking about them. People put Michael Stipe through quite a grilling until he answered some trick question about a movie “correctly.” People doubted Courtney Love’s authenticity until she started ranting as only the real Courtney could. There were a lot of cases of it. How weird, and perhaps refreshing, to have people challenging that you are who you say you are instead of being unable to escape being who you are. Not surprisingly, the same thing happens to Halle too:

“(Occasionally) I say in a chat room, that I am Halle Berry. But the reaction is, ‘You are kidding – get out of here.’”

and yeah, who would believe it?

Celebrities obviously aren’t ‘typical’ people, but I think they’re an interesting exceptional case to consider when we think about identity play, freedom, power, constraint, and the nuances of using the internet to perform selfhood.

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