In the pages of TIME’s latest issue, Mariah Carey revealed that not long ago, a photoshoot with photographer friend Elliotte Friedman brought her to tears. She thought she was performing in New York, and her face took on a “heavy fog” as photographers asked her to raise her shirt.
Her attempt to conceal her emotions—“the best I ever have”—were soon followed by laughter. “It was my way of trying to keep from crying,” Carey said. “It was a selfish thing on my part, but it also ended up being funny.”
Such woe is typical of these celebrity interviews, where the conversation is often meandering and the subjects adroit at making the occasional amorphous remark. They may be thoughtful on topics as varied as the power of comedy and cross-pollination. They tend to repeat clichés, bizarrely open themselves to accusations of self-interest and blame others for their success. And while publicists and PR flacks will try to stop any worse moments, the canny celebrity is aware that publicity can buy the trip to publicity.
But as the discourse among writers in the two years since Donald Trump became president has grown more contentious, the leisurely nature of celebrity interviews is harder to justify. It’s what accounts for the strange cover shot of Carey, yoked to the increasingly unpopular President of the United States.
And it’s what reinforces the Trump Effect: Celebrities are losing their touch with the people they admire, no matter how expert they are at fronting a scene.
More and more, even top-ranked celebrities are struggling to speak honestly to and for the people who actually vote in American elections, while also taking potshots at their modern-day counterparts for their gaffes.
Take Kim Kardashian West’s public dissection of Matt Lauer’s behavior on the “Today” show. “People are really proud of you,” the co-host of this week’s Miss America pageant wrote in a Twitter note, according to Deadspin. “You don’t even know what’s in store. This is going to be so cool!”
A Kardashian publicist told The Daily Beast that the next video announcement could be on the way. And perhaps it will be. More often than not, the unwieldy Kardashian is pleased by her “second chance.”
The legacy of Donald Trump is reverberating through politics and pop culture alike, from the rapper Foxy Brown to Katy Perry. But as the seeming insubordination of Weinstein to a room of women rang in his doom, Trump expanded the definition of such behavior.
“Women are so powerful, but when they get together it’s like the devil,” he told Alec Baldwin last year. While Trump was still acting, artists like Beyoncé and Grande were aligning themselves with anti-Trump causes. Of course, since the election, a lot of those people have had to defend their actions against women and their former fans.
No one wants to see their idol guilty of ignoble behavior, but maybe someone needs to ask if there’s an intersection between a reported flirtatious text exchange and an enthusiastic 50-yard pass. The man who once told an interviewer he was terrified of the menstrual cycle is now afraid of grandpa.
Likewise, if someone is bringing their kids to his old tweets, it’s fair game to ask what his actual views on guns and taxes were in the old days. If he once thought the actions of first lady Melania Trump were suitable for social networking, it’s not like there’s no record of him telling the world otherwise.
If his Twitter is no longer the world’s first unfiltered source of commentary, perhaps it’s not a big surprise that Trump couldn’t stop crying over an SNL skit.
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.