I broke a New Years Resolution to read Nancy Jo Sale's The Bling Ring. My resolution was to hold off on buying new books, with the exception being ebooks for my Kindle strictly for vacations. My UK trip is still a few weeks away and last week I decided to take a look at the British Airways inflight entertainment schedule.
Naturally, Sophia Coppola's The Bling Ring, inspired by Sale's book, is one of the options. I'm a huge fan of Coppola, yet missed the movie when it was in theaters. I had been planning to read the book while on vacation and rent the movie upon returning, but noticing it on BA's schedule, made me impulse buy the book and devour it within two days.
I'm so glad that I broke my resolution, because Sale's investigation of the aptly named Bling Ring was fascinating. The Bling Ring was the name given to a group of Southern California teenagers who in 2008 and 2009 committed a string of robberies targeting celebrities. The kids were so enamored with the celebrities that they felt by stealing their clothes, jewelry and sometimes even underwear that they could somehow become celebrities themselves.
These kids were brazen. They targeted celebrities that they felt had superior fashion sense, such as Rachel Bilson or Miranda Kerr. In some cases, they would find a particular article of clothing that celeb had been photographed wearing and go after that specific piece. The teens would wear the stolen clothing out, often to the same clubs that the celebrities frequented. They flaunted their crimes.
Sales makes a compelling argument that technology not only allowed for the ease in which these crimes were committed, but it has also changed the way in which we view celebrities. With the popularity of social media sites, celebrities are accessible in ways that they never have been in the past.
The minute a celebrity leaves their house or travels out of town, a paparazzi or even just a fan, snaps a photograph and puts it on the internet. The kids used this to their advantage, as they knew when a celebrity was on a flight out of town and gone from their homes. They used Google Maps to find out information regarding their victims property, including the best entrances to the homes.
We live in a society in which we demand that celebrities trade in their privacy to gain fame. There are no barriers and the kids took this a step further, by actually breaking into the one area that should still be off limits. The common response from all of the celebrities targeted was one of a loss of security, not so much for the property, but because their one safe haven was violated.
On a personal note regarding the topic of celebrity privacy, yesterday, I was at a children's play area in Burbank with my friend and her daughter. Her daughter started playing with a little girl and they really hit it off. It turns out that the kid was the child of a celebrity and is rather well-known herself. There was a lot of protection surrounding this little girl, including having her use an alias. She seemed very sheltered and a bit sad.
I was thinking about it a lot last night, especially with regard to the privacy issues raised in this book and then this morning, one of the first stories that I saw on the E! website app was an article on Suri Cruise. These children are famous by association, yet their lives are on constant display. Public demand + ease of technology + very little legal protection = a big problem. I hope that some of the recent anti-paparazzi legislation passes.
The most striking element amongst the teens involved was their overwhelming sense of entitlement. This entitlement even seemed common among their parents, who were quick to defend the teens. All of the defendants escaped without a very harsh punishment and I got the feeling that the only one it really affected was Nick Prugo. Prugo showed a real sense of remorse when caught and made efforts to come clean with police, so much so, that he was accused of ratting out the other teens.
Most of the kids involved were from a privileged background, yet they felt entitled to be on the fast track towards the type of fame that comes with being a socialite and reality TV Star. Someone like Paris Hilton, who was one of the victims, was a celebrity that the kids hugely admired. Some of the girls involved were even filming their own reality show for E! Television, when they were arrested. They arrest and trial were worked into the production only increasing their exposure and fame.
The amazing thing was along with this sense of entitlement, it was as if they really didn't think that they were doing anything wrong or that it was possible that they would get caught. Most striking was Sales' interviews with one of the defendants, Alexis Neiers. Neiers babbles on and on about how she was wrongly accused and that the truth will come out. She is incoherent and it is as if she thinks if she tells her lies enough that they will become the truth. Or maybe she even believes her own lies. She sounds like a scared little kid.
Sadly, to some degree, the Bling Ring kids remind me of many kids that I know in my own life. It's an unfortunate trend in our society to want more than we need and to never feel anything is enough. I don't know anyone who would push as far as the Bling Ring kids, but I do see a smaller scale of parents spoiling their children rotten and the kids becoming entitled and complacent. This, coupled with the fascination towards fame and getting rich quick, leads some kids to devalue school or to create unhealthy goals.
Our society has forgotten how to press pause on immediate gratification and this is a big problem. The Bling Ring kids are an extreme version of the problems that plague many people in society. We should take Sales' examination of their case as a teachable moment and take a critical look at our own lives.
One last take-away from the book... don't leave a key under the doormat! Paris Hilton's house was robbed several times and each time, the kids just opened the door with a key found under the mat. Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Bilson both had alarm systems that they didn't use. I know that we all want to trust and feel as though we live in a place that is secure, but that's not reality. I have several friends who live in great neighborhoods and have been victims of home robberies in the last year. The best defense is to be proactive with security. You never know who is lurking around your neighborhood.