I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed yesterday when I came across an Elle.com headline so poetic it would be simply un-American not to click it: “There’s Just No Way Taylor Swift Is in This Giant Suitcase…Right?”
Right. But if you think that sterling logic stopped me from reading, thank you for thinking that highly of me. You’re wrong.
“Are you ready for today’s installment of Please Let It Be True News?,” writes Estelle Tang, Elle.com Culture Editor. “Irish radio station Spin 1038 noticed that photo service Splash has labeled several photos with intriguing captions that claim Taylor Swift is inside [a] giant black suitcase.” The suitcase in question is indeed quite gigantic and could certainly accommodate a Taylor or two, but that doesn’t make the allegation any less absurd. Tang acknowledges “this tale is just totally ridiculous” and “utterly, captivatingly bonkers,” and yet it spawned a 500-word news story about it, which intrigued me as much as it impressed.
A similar occurrence unfolded this morning as I was skimmed The Cut when the following headline caught my eye: “What Could Leonardo DiCaprio Possibly Be Carrying in This Plastic Bag?” I clicked in immediately.
“This weekend, Oscar winner and walking neck-beard Leonardo DiCaprio was spotted strolling around New York City with a purple plastic bag tied around a sweater, tied around some hard-working cargo shorts,” writes Madeleine Aggeler. “But what could the mystery bag possibly contain?! What could be so valuable that Leo, a passionate environmentalist, would stoop to such an environmentally-unfriendly receptacle?” Aggeler proposes a number of possibilities, including his Oscar, “five to seven newsboy caps” and ill-fitting dad jeans. (My personal money’s on some kind of inflatable flamingo and/or life jacket. After that whole Titanic raft-sharing debacle, you really can’t be too careful.)
Like the Taylor Swift story, this one was prompted by a random paparazzi photo and very little information. Was it humorous and entertaining? Absolutely. Was it based on any concrete evidence whatsoever? No. Not that it has to be — sometimes the fact that it isn’t is exactly makes it so fun to read. Remember the absurd but wonderful rabbit hole Grantland’s Rembert Browne went down in regards to Nicki Minaj’s appearance at a Bat Mitzvah two years ago? That was peak celebrity journalism. The Taylor/Leo incidents are in another category wherein publishers are (very skillfully) spinning celebrity news out of nothing simply because…drum roll please…THERE IS NO ACTUAL CELEBRITY NEWS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.
I’m serious! Other than Beyoncé’s dramatic reveal of her twins’ names and faces, A-listers have been quiet as church mice this summer. And yet, the demand for celebrity content prevails, which is why writers seem to be scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. Rather impressively, I might add:
Maisie Williams & Her Boyfriend Share Their First Red Carpet (Literally a story about Maisie Williams and her boyfriend standing on a red carpet together for the first time.)
Anne Hathaway Is Listed As Shakespeare’s Wife On Google And I Can’t Stop Laughing (William Shakespeare’s actual wife was also named Anne Hathaway, but apparently Google uses a photo of Anne Hathaway, the actor, to represent her.)
Justin Bieber Has Apparently Decided to Wear Every Look at Once (A breakdown of some of Justin Bieber’s outfits, nary a conclusion drawn.)
Meryl’s Obama Purse Is the Fashion Accessory You Need Right Now (A PSA about a random paparazzi photo of Meryl Streep carrying a purse emblazoned with the faces of Barack and Michelle Obama.)
I’m overcome with the urge to clasp these stalwart writers on the shoulder like a millennial Coach Taylor and whisper, “Stay strong! Soon enough, a new celebrity couple will reveal themselves or someone will start wearing cool shoes on the red carpet or Viola Davis will take over the world and the content machine will whir back to life with freshly-greased gears.” After all, we writers and readers of celebrity news are in this together.
Until then, I, too, will be waiting for updates on the Leo plastic bag situation. It’s either trash or the script for Titanic 2.