'The Kristen Stewart, Katie Holmes Playbook': How Hollywood Is Using the Internet to Control Its Own Media Destiny (EXCLUSIVE GUEST BLOG)

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Writing exclusively for Celebuzz, New York Times best-selling author and pop culture expert Richard Rushfield explains how the Internet is allowing today's celebrities to seize control of their own PR spin when it come to scandals. Rushfield is also a frequent contributor to The Huffington PostThe Daily Beast and formerly served as online entertainment editor for Los Angeles Times.

For so long, when times got tough, the Internet became a star’s worst enemy. Celebrities accustomed to controlling their images carefully found, thanks to the internet, that again and again, the debate slid away from them and sucked them into PR hell.

But finally, a young generation of stars is learning how to take the web into their own hands and become the captain of their own media destiny.

Tom Cruise’s couch jumping, Britney Spears’s head-shaving, Lindsay Lohan’s... everything, would have barely scratched the surface of public consciousness without the Internet there to repeat those moments, copy them, meme them and ultimately mock them within an inch of their lives. What would have been a passing embarrassment became a tool for their haters to come out and taunt.

For stars, the idea of bypassing the media and speaking directly to the public has always been very attractive.

But in the internet age, more stars than not have found that the web is not the rope that will save you but exactly enough rope to hang yourself.

When scandal struck, those stars who tried to use the Internet to call for help only ended up pouring nitroglycerine on the fire. Charlie Sheen, in leaving Twitter last week, was acknowledging that what would have been a run-of-the-mill star-hitting-a-rough-patch story turned into a five-alarm inferno thanks to his tweets and his straight-to-web videos. John Mayer attempted to use Twitter to apologize and calm the furor arising from his controversial comments to Playboy, but only fanned the flames more and more with each Tweet.

For the past years, as the Internet has behaved like a roving lynch mob, seeking new victims to throw on its campfire, the smart celebrity was one who kept his or her yap zipped.

But today, a few stars are proving impressively savvy at using the media to take control of the story and perhaps, taking back the streets of the internet for scandal plagued celebrities everywhere. First it was Katie Holmes, orchestrating the revelations of her divorce like a master conductor; taking the media and the internet by surprise, fleeing Cruiseland with a ready-made packet of revelations that were dripped out over the following days, insuring that her version dominated all accounts of the divorce. Awed by the details, the internet fell in line and Katie became a cause celebre.

Then last week, as rumors of Kristen Stewart’s infidelity swept the media, Stewart suddenly released a statement, posted online, apologizing to her boyfriend and to the world. The quick, smooth and unequivocal move effectively sucked all the oxygen out of the story, perhaps saving her career.

Before the internet, a star would have had to find an easygoing journalist — a Barbara Walters — to sit down with and hope their version would find sympathy. Now, they can rely on the speed of the web to simply dominate the story, if they play it right. There are three simple rules for stars to doing just that, straight from the Holmes/Stewart playbook:

1. Surprise: The Internet is a beast that always must be fed. But it is possible, even in this age, to get in front of it and shock it into submission. No one saw the Holmes/Cruise divorce coming, so before the world could even take it in, Katie was raining her side of the story down on it. If Stewart had waited another few days to issue her statement, by then the story would have raged out of control. The fact that she did it while the scandal was still getting on its feet, knocked its legs out from under it.

2. Have a clear story to tell: Stars in the past have thought they could simply charm or dazzle their way out of a scandal, but no more. You have to have a simple statement of where you are coming from, tailor made to win sympathy. My children were being held hostage by a cult. I made a mistake and I’m sorry. Keep it simple with no, ifs and or buts for people to latch onto and quibble with.

3. Then shut up. Once you have gotten your clear, simple story out there, don’t keep talking. Stars think they can rebuild their connection with the fans during this period by talking to them, but in fact their fans are hiding under their beds when scandal breaks, as the lynch mob roams the streets. One more slip of the tongue, one silly aside and the story stays alive for another week.

The alternative to this approach: the recent career of Mel Gibson, who years after his troubles broke still has yet to get ahead of the story and this finds his once invincible screen career lying in ruins.

-- Richard Rushfield

Do you think celebrities are internet savvy in their careers? Weigh in below.

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Default avatar
  • Cristina Kozain
    Cristina Kozain

    You should know that Robert is the biggest cheater in Hollywood, then the attitude of Kristen is totally excusable, even more for being so young, I'm sure if you will think calmly have reason Kristen!! She endured long with the shamelessness his!

  • Cristina Kozain
    Cristina Kozain

    You're an idiot of the last century, men can everything, betraying and humiliating continue living their lives, women should be stoned in public?? You're a hypocrite, wake up to reality of today, the rights are equal for all!

  • mls8662

    I think everybody should let this story about Kristen go away. The whole world already knows all about it. Leave these young people alone. They are the only ones who can decide where they go from here. The most judgmental people are usually the ones with the most to hide.

  • Silly silly boy robbie
    Silly silly boy robbie

    Yes! Kristen is free of both of these douchebags, Robert and Rupert. They both took advantage of her immaturity and kind heart. They are both older than her and used her and ditched her. Now don’t worry, because Robert is his own worst enemy. He portrays himself as alittle innocent lamb around his parents, London friends and in interviews. Whereas, in reality he is the polar opposite. He is a sexual addict, hard partier and cocaine addict. He is a bottom feeder, that’s why he picks up skanks and one night stands. He thinks that he is being clever and vengeful with Kristen, but he will be the loser in no time. Just wait and see. He lost the best cover/beard that he will ever have. Kristen gave and gave and never received any quality time or affection from this creep. No wonder she strayed. She will survive, bounce back and strive. I only see happiness for Kristen after the BD2 promos. She just has to make it through that mes, and the producers will probably drop her from it all together anyway because of the death threats from Robsessed hags. She lost a lousy unloving boyfriend but will someday meet a good man who truly loves and adores her. Rob will only destroy himself.

  • For Rob
    For Rob

    @PrayInFaith: Today, forgive those that have hurt you & forgive yourself so that you can walk in victory.

  • here it is...
    here it is...

    and this comes from a fan of Kristen too. I’m still a fan but I will never quite look at her in the same way. While I agree it’s not right that Rob’s cheating has never been called into question, but I will never entirely forgive Kristen for sleeping with a married father of 2 either. There are some things that there is just no excuse for…EVER.

  • here it is..
    here it is..

    Kristen cheated with a married man who had children. Even if they had an open relationship and even if Rob had been seeing other women in the past while he was with Kristen that doesn’t somehow excuse what she did. She had no excuse hooking up with a married guy like EVER under any circumstances…even if her boyfriend was cheating too. She had ample opportunity to end it with Rob and that’s what she should’ve done…despite pressure from the fanbase, the studio, their teams, whatever. Rob should’ve ended it too with her instead of cheating or whatever they had going with their ‘open’ thing. The point I’m trying to make is that even if Rob slept with 100 or more other women over the last 3 1/2 years, that STILL is not as bad a sleeping with her married director who had children. That is the ultimate low and she will never be entirely forgiven for it either.

  • bit dot ly/Q7G0qf
    bit dot ly/Q7G0qf

    Jenn Hoffman ‏@JennHoffmanFACT: The real reason I was banned from Chateau Marmont is b/c I tweeted about Robert Pattinson being there & getting cozy w another woman. 26 Jul - This happened back in January 2012. Strange. Wasn't she 'with' Kristen then and they were living together? But he was out with another women getting cozy at the Chateau Marmont even back then? Now only Kristen is being blamed for cheating and breaking them up? Looks like Rob dodged a bullet back then...and many times before. Funny how these things work out, isn't it?

  • Sunday

    @AlyHazlewood Just seen Robert Pattinson on Brick Lane. Amusingly he was being ignored by all the hipsters. 29 Jul @AlyHazlewood To all the people asking me for a photo of Robert Pattinson, I don’t make a habit of taking pictures of celebrities in the street, sorry. 3h @AlyHazlewood Jeez, can’t believe the crazy interest in Robert Pattinson. He had a bit of a beard, was with a couple of friends & looked perfectly cheery 1hr @AlyHazlewood And that’s all I have to say about it. He probably looked cheerful because he was being left alone to enjoy a wander down Brick Lane. 1h

  • Wednesday

    @AlyHazlewood Just seen Robert Pattinson on Brick Lane. Amusingly he was being ignored by all the hipsters. 29 Jul @AlyHazlewood To all the people asking me for a photo of Robert Pattinson, I don’t make a habit of taking pictures of celebrities in the street, sorry. 3h @AlyHazlewood Jeez, can’t believe the crazy interest in Robert Pattinson. He had a bit of a beard, was with a couple of friends & looked perfectly cheery 1hr @AlyHazlewood And that’s all I have to say about it. He probably looked cheerful because he was being left alone to enjoy a wander down Brick Lane. 1h