"Bling Ring" is a hot new movie about celebrity in our time, all flash and bang, set in Hollywood to rework the mangled cliche that almost anybody can get 15 minutes of fame if they're light enough to float, perverse, and (if female) pretty and skinny enough. There's a need to know the right labels, ZIP codes, trends and fashions, and you have to know how to appeal to ignorant adolescents who think they know more than they do. (That's quite a long list.)
The movie is about five high school students who actually burglarized a string of homes of the rich and famous in Tinseltown. Paris Hilton, one of the burgled, appears in a cameo role and felt good enough about it to let the moviemakers use her house as a set. The camera found her many closets stuffed with couturier dresses, designer pocketbooks and Louboutin shoes. The rooms were littered with prominently placed pillows on sofas and chairs decorated with life-size photographs of her face. If she doesn't get an Oscar nomination for supporting actress, maybe she can get one for best set decoration.
Fame is fickle, and the gods of celebrity take it away as quickly as they confer it. Edward Snowden, the uber-celebrity of the moment, seems about to be exiled from his celebrity to suffer in a friendless and alien land reserved for the loneliness of the long-distance leaker. "Bling Ring" illustrates the observation of Clive James, in his television documentary about fame in the 20th century, that "when the century started, famous people were still required, as of old, to do something first and then get famous for it later. As the century progressed, people who became famous for what they did got more famous just for being famous."
In the 21st century, social media updates ambitions of fame with high tech displays of the grand and gossamer. The young burglars in "Bling Ring" not only planned their exploits on the Internet, assisted with facts from Google and GPS house maps, but exposed themselves with their loot in photographic boasts on Facebook. After they were found guilty and on the way to prison, hundreds of fans wanted to be Facebook "friends."
Behind the tinseled surfaces, a theme emerges in the movie version of amoral youth, untutored, unmoored and inexperienced in anything beyond flash, flesh and filigree, and we are their static spectators. There's no irony or judgment; spectacle takes precedence over action, character, diction or thought. Aristotle would not approve.