Director Sofia Coppola's new film "The Bling Ring' depicts the wild real-life 2008-2009 burglaries of celebrities like Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan by a group of Southern California teens.
The fictionalized film is based on Nancy Jo Sales' 2010 Vanity Fair article "The Suspects Wore Louboutins." Sales has since turned the story into a new book called "The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World."
In a couple of recent interviews, the author warned of serious societal ills that she believes are largely to blame for the burglaries.
First, there's the celebrity worship of the 2000s. "It used to be People magazine, 'Entertainment Tonight' and that was pretty much it. In the 21st century, we had the rise of gossip industry via TMZ and blogs and Perez Hilton and Gawker and on and on and on; it became a 24/7 news cycle," Sales said to Salon. "Is it news if Kim Kardashian has a baby bump showing — is that really news? Does that count as news? I really question that."
Second, there's porn-like images of girls and women broadcast nonstop, largely on the Internet. "The fact that they stole the underwear just seems so weird, but it’s not weird when you think about it, because they’re growing up at a time when their culture is constantly telling them to be sexy," Sales said to Vanity Fair. Add that sexualization to celebrity worship: "They don’t just want expensive underwear; they want Paris Hilton’s underwear."
Sales reported that the teens, led by Alexis Neiers, strutted into celebrities' homes as if they owned them. Instead of worrying about getting caught, they believed they would become famous and wealthy themselves, Forbes adds. Besides, Hilton and Lohan have been in and out of jail but never faced any real punishments.
They saw themselves as subjects on TMZ or a reality TV show in part, Sales said, because almost anyone can be these days, especially if you act out.
"The very nature of celebrity is changing, because social media is breaking down the walls and there's a sense that anybody can become a celebrity now. Wasn't it Justin Bieber who was discovered on YouTube?," Sales said to The Wrap.
"They get rewarded for exhibiting dysfunction," Sales said. "I really feel like this Amanda Bynes moment we're having, with her tweeting all those pictures of herself in her underwear, is a continuation of the Bling Ring story."
The solution? Talk to your kids about what they're seeing in the media, Sales said. "You have to protect your kids from this, just like cigarettes. It’s toxic," the author said to Forbes. "I’m not a prude – I had a baby out of wedlock way before it was cool – but I am a feminist."
"The Bling Ring" recently premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Check out festival photos here: