Yesterday the biggest name in gossip dropped his own bombshell as Perez Hilton posted one picture and announced that he is now the proud father of a baby boy. The twitterverse exploded in response. The range of responses is exactly what you would expect to this kind of news from an obviously controversial figure.
First, there are the well wishers. Those genuinely sending positive thoughts and and love to what is the beginning of a lifelong journey into parenthood. These range from fans to celebrities. Of course, it’s difficult not to question which celebrities have built genuine relationships and which are acting out of a business awareness that maintaining a positive interaction with him is good for their own brand. However, a great many people said truly positive and supportive things.
Second, their are the cautiously optimistic supporters. They seem ambivalent in their feelings about Perez, but they wish him well. This is either expressed in a wishy-washy form of support, or somewhere in the middle as “if he wants to be a father, he can’t be that bad, and I hope he does a good job at it.”
Then there are the doubters. Expressing a distaste for Hilton’s brand and public image and concern for the impact the way his approach to his line of work and the ire it raises will have on this child. The concern, whether genuine or not, of the example that will be set for this baby boy and the impact his father’s own history will have on his development.
Next there are the snarky haters. There is an endless stream of jokes at Perez Hilton’s expense, dredging up anything and everything he could be attacked for and making it a satirical or insulting jab at him. From his looks, to his weight, to his self-promotion, to his perceived self-importance, to his websites, to his celebrity – there are hundreds of jokes on each topic and countless variations all attempting to outdo each other for the most aggressive punchline.
Finally, there are the genuine haters. The vitriol and personal attacks cross all boundaries without even the attempt to be disguised as humor. For various reasons and motivations, justified or not, just pure hatred.
The hatred is sad on so many levels. First and foremost, the birth of a child is an event to celebrated in every single case for every single person or family. As a gay man, obviously this is something that Perez had to work hard to achieve. He has not shared the details, but whether it was through adoption or a surrogate, this is not something he could have easily achieved by getting knocked up in the back seat of a Buick. He must have wanted this and spent a great deal of time jumping through the many hoops to make it happen. He wanted to be a father, and now he is, and he waited until his son finally arrived to share anything about it – flying in the face of the standard publicity approach to getting attention for something. Parenthood is an incredible undertaking, and anything other than well wishes and support for something he has to be passionate is sad – not for him, but for those who cannot see that. Someday this little boy will be old enough to read, and understand, and the internet is forever – and the terrible things that have been said about him and his father will be there if he looks for them. The saddest part of this is that there is a little boy at the center of this hurricane who played no part in the incidents that may have caused such “righteous” hatred of his father.
Now, that said, and truly meant, I have never been a fan of Perez Hilton’s public persona and business. Gossip is nothing new, but I was never drawn to his aggressively personal attack approach to reporting on the misadventures of celebrities. More specifically, I took great issue with his personal campaign to out closeted gay celebrities regardless of their success level. There is a huge difference between going after Jodie Foster and Anderson Cooper and revealing the sexuality of a young actor getting his very first break on a TV series. Because of his connections to the gay community, he had greater access to information and used it to reveal information about actors who were not nearly as famous as the typical gossip targets and paraded it under the self-righteous guise of “you owe it to the community to come out.” I hate outing in any and all of its variations because it denies the truth that everyone’s journey and experience is different and difficult in its own way and divides the community more than it will ever unite it. Everyone should be welcomed when they are ready, and no matter who they are, they should be allowed to get there in the way that is best for them. Far greater advocates will be created if you allow them the victory of telling their story when they are confident in it, then if you demand it from them with photos and rumors.
I have never met Perez, and I have a number of friends I respect who work with him or know him well and defend his work or at least his personal character regularly. I will admit that it seems his approach to his work has grown and matured as he has grown and matured. I don’t want to be permanently judged for the actions of my early adulthood, and I work to see growth in those around me as well. Yesterday someone I know and respect posted Perez’s birth announcement with congratulations, then warned that no negative comments would be tolerated. I can appreciate this. I have a number of friends that would be considered controversial in certain circles, and I defend them at times, and let them handle it themselves at others. However, this friend followed it up with “don’t judge people you don’t know.” While I appreciated the point of this, I found it comically ironic in this situation.
Judging people you don’t know? That’s the entire foundation of gossip culture. It’s the very basis for Perez Hilton’s personal and financial success. It’s also kind of ludicrous, no offense to my friend meant. Obviously I’m opinionated. I have strong opinions about a number of people I don’t know, based on their words and actions in public. From John Boehner to Kim Kardashian – I don’t know these people but I have definitely judged them based on the things they say and do in the public sphere. I believe we all do. It’s how we form opinions, and these are the only things we have to judge them on. They are welcome to reveal as much or as little as the choose to impact the opinions we form. Perez has had years now to carefully craft his public perception and thus the judgments of onlookers are based on this perception.
It is often said by those who know him that Mario Lavandeira is a wonderful man behind Perez Hilton, and I believe these people. The problem here is that it is Perez Hilton who announced he had a baby, not Mario, and for better or worse, he carries the responses to the words and actions of that moniker. The truly hateful responses are a definitive example of you reap what you sow. Whether it is fair or not. Perez Hilton is the LGBT advocate who published graphic sex pictures of Dustin Lance Black. He is now the father who once called Denise Richard’s daughter a “slut in training”.
So the unfortunate result is, regardless of the growth and maturity he has shown in the last several years, the aggressive no-holds-barred approach to gossip that made him the most feared man among Hollywood publicists laid the groundwork for the hate that was shown yesterday.
Regardless of his own previous actions, children should be off limits, and for his own sake during these important early days, I hope Perez was too busy yesterday to see any of these comments. This should be one of the most exciting times of his life. I wish him well, and I find myself surprisingly in the cautiously optimistic supporters. I hope he is a wonderful father. Even more so, I hope that the unfair responses to what should be joyous news help him continue on the journey of understanding the impact that even the words of mindless gossip can have on their targets.
Here’s hoping he doesn’t reap quite as much as he once sowed.