The cult of psycho-celebrity

Many media types were surprised when Michael Jackson's legal woes didn't generate the same kind of schadenfreude as say the Simpson trial. But really, how much pleasure can you derive from the misfortunes of a discolored wretch already a staple for late night TV jokes.

Nah, better to wait till a better candidate comes along, like, say, an improbably good-looking mega-star with control issues. Oh Tom, we never knew ye ... could be so much fun! The Cruise meltdown -- which has included many public displays of affection and aggression -- has been the talk of the town for over a month. What began as a bizarre display of manic affection on Oprah has since degenerated into a series of media slug-fests over Scientology.

And it's all been good, especially watching the diminutive star trying to play Mr. Tough Guy in his TV interviews: Scientology's last action hero. Everyone talks about his going after Matt Lauer, but the man outdid himself in Australia when he compared hostility to Scientology to the treatment of Muslims in Europe -- Muslims who visit synagogues, that is.

Speculation is rife -- except when it's rampant -- about the cause for this lack of oral control. There is the gay theory, and Seattle Weekly at least has a more charitable version of that one, accompanied with requisite hand-wringing about our homophobic culture.

But if you want just plain creepy -- and who doesn't when it comes to celebrities -- check out Salon's James Verini, who attributes it to TC's ascension in the Scientology hierarchy: "Cruise feels that he has freed himself from thousands of errant thetans, and he seems to be in a kind of euphoria he hasn't experienced before." Oh well, if you put it like that.

The only person I feel somewhat bad for in this comic spectacle of megalomania is Katie Holmes -- not because she's about to become the first publicly cult-knapped celebrity, but because she wasn't even his first choice. According to various news sources, Cruise -- along with an entire committee of Scientologists, handlers, etc. -- may have been "auditioning a host of young starlets to be his 'girlfriend' and convert to the controversial religion." His number one candidate: Scarlett Johansson. Now that's Hollywood. [Via ReligionNewsblog]

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