March 3, 2014
Kim Novak is 81. I don’t know how I’ll look at 81, but it’s a sure thing that I won’t be a screen legend who starred in what’s widely considered one of the best movies from Hollywood’s golden age.
Rarely has the gap between real achievement and the shallow sniping of social media loomed so large as it did in the Twitterverse after Novak’s appearance at the Academy Awards. Everyone had an opinion on her appearance, it seemed, and they weren’t shy about expressing it.
Imagine: You’re a reclusive actress who retired at a young age and has rarely made high-profile appearances. You show up at your industry’s biggest event, hoping that movie lovers, and your peers, will give back some of the pleasure you gave them with your performances.
And instead you become the biggest joke of the evening, with people racing to show how clever they can be in making fun of you.
Social media allow people to say things at a safe remove that they’d never say in person. Can you imagine any of the tweeters being introduced to Novak, face to face, and exclaiming, “You should sue your plastic surgeon”?
That comment, by the way, came from Donald Trump, a man who got rich the old-fashioned way: He inherited a real estate empire built by his father (and has proceeded to run it into bankruptcy several times). He’s also someone who might want to be careful about making fun of other people’s appearance.
Society has spent thousands of years devising ways to get the human id under control. Social media unleash it. Someday the snarkmeisters on Twitter will grow old. I can only hope they’re treated with more respect than they gave to a dignified survivor of the brutal Hollywood studio system.