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A Scathing Look at "Celebrity"

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When I read the news yesterday that Joaquin Phoenix was giving up acting and getting out of the business, I felt strangely proud and full of admiration for him. I have always wondered why more celebrities don't come to this same decision, especially the ones who are always complaining about the lack of privacy and the pressure to stay physically competitive. I mean, when you have tens of millions of dollars in the bank, doesn't that give you the luxury of "opting out"? I've always fantasized about it, haven't you?

But then I saw the video clip of the interview wherein he reveals this startling information and I was embarrassed for the interviewer. Joaquin Phoenix came across as smug and arrogant when Extra's Jerry Penacoli laughed at his statement, assuming he was just joking. The scorn and derision on Joaquin's face was obvious. I couldn't believe how self-important he came off, as if to say "How dare you question the great and powerful Oz (Joaquin)!" And then it dawned on me... this is why celebrities have trouble giving up "celebrity." They are so accustomed to someone hanging on their every word; ready to fulfill every wish and desire that normal every-day life would be a tremendous adjustment.

Case in point: Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Here are two people who have committed themselves to many worthy causes, and for that I am very grateful. They have the power and the money to contribute to the world in a way that I can only imagine. But correct me if I'm wrong, didn't they also make a commitment to parent and raise 6 children? They certainly have enough net worth to be able to take a break from working in entertainment, continue their charitable work, and focus on raising emotionally stable children. Can someone please tell me why these two can't stop making movies? Is it the ego-gratification that is so alluring and impossible to let go of? Is it the guilt of disappointing managers, agents, studio execs and others that make money off of them? Is it the fans?

Frankly I don't care what it is. I have a judgment about raising children...if you're not going to make the full commitment, then don't do it! Children are not objects through which we look for our own shiny reflection. They are human beings that have varying individual needs from the day they are born. Studies in neuroscience suggest that the quality of attachments made to the mother or caretaker in the first year of life is the most profound determinant of healthy relationships and good mental health in the future. How then can healthy attachment occur when the parent is out of proximity to the child? As humanitarian as Angelina is; recently traveling to Afghanistan for 3 days, her children remain estranged from their mother for that time. Who is the priority here? What about the needs of her own children?

Mia Farrow was the first celebrity I can remember who adopted children from many cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Unlike the Jolie-Pitts, I have nothing but admiration for her. Why? Have you heard anything about Mia Farrow in the last 2 decades other than her husband, Woody Allen, seducing and marrying their daughter? No, she stepped out of the lime light to raise her children. That became her job. And don't get me started on Woody Allen! I am disgusted that he is still making movies and hasn't been shunned for being a child molester. This is a man who began taking semi-naked pictures of his adopted daughter while underage. Not that waiting until she was 18 years old would have been excusable. But for all intents and purposes, this was the only father figure she had ever known. For him to have broken that trust is deplorable. And then what... all is forgiven because he married her and exclaimed "The heart wants what the heart wants." Oh, it was the "heart" was it? Yeah, right.

And now that I'm on a tear... who is this Jennifer Lopez? How much attention does one woman need? It's unbelievable to me that she would compete in a triathlon Sunday morning in Malibu and then be celebrating her husband's birthday, which she planned, for $400,000, that same night in New York! Where are the twins? Having competed in the same triathalon several years ago, I know how many hours of training go into preparing for such an event. Trust me, it's obsessive. Although a woman has a right to do with her body as she sees fit, and there is enormous pressure to "lose that baby weight" immediately, I have to question the amount of hours she is choosing to spend away from her newborn twins. That's not time you can get back as far as establishing consistent attachment. I wonder if this is simply nothing more than ego-gratification. I have another example to support my musings... two weeks after J Lo's $400,000 soiree, she and Marc renewed their wedding vows in a lavish suite at Caesar's Palace. All done spur of the moment in the pre-dawn hours. So if you're both out partying all night, who's taking care of the children's feedings? Not them, that's for sure! How much stimulation and excitement does this woman need anyway?

It may not be fair of me to judge since I am on the outside looking in. But as a psychotherapist with plenty of experience seeing "the writing on the wall," I would bet that my observations are right on the money. So Joaquin, best of luck with your music career. Just don't be too disappointed when no one cares!