This week a friend who was feeling down in the dumps asked on the phone if it is true that Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle are fighting. Given her mood, neither she nor I knew what answer would have made her feel better. No, they love each other. Or, yes, despite everything they have, two princesses are miserable this week too. The twin purposes of celeb gossip are, of course, jolly aspiration or schadenfreude. In this particular case, I decided to go with the truth as I understand it based on my deep networks inside the House of Windsor. They are not fighting. This story is being put out to make Prince Charles look more popular in comparison, as his 70th birthday and a possible ascension to the throne approaches.
The first level of my deep networks is a royal watch column on The Cut and the second is The Cut’s source, Lainey Gossip. I read both items and felt a certain degree of pride in their feminist approach to celeb gossip. So awesome that Elaine Liu of Lainey Gossip would slam silly items about Meghan Markle thus: “Royal Meghan gets up at 5 am and bombards people with texts full of ideas about what projects she wants to take on and what meetings she’s hoping to have set up. What a bitch for working hard, you know?”
Now Elaine Liu herself reportedly wakes up at 4.30 am, being a mini media mogul and all. Liu goes on to say, “Time has not made the players any kinder … or any more progressive, as this strategy of pitting two women against each other, when the titles and the issues involve the men, is an old ass really gross trick. And portraying the sweet, timid white girl as the victim of the outspoken, assertive black woman is also an old ass really gross trick.”
This last phrase is a handy one to describe New York-based The Cut’s eye-poppingly bad new essay on Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas. To begin with, the headline “Is Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s Love for Real?” seemed like one of those self-conscious, ironic “I love gossip but I could also competently review the Rachel Cusk trilogy” sort of signals. Even the last few sentences of the first paragraph went in that direction: “She is a modern-day scam artist, in my opinion. That’s right: Nicholas Jonas married into a fraudulent relationship against his will this past Saturday, December the 1st, and I’ll tell you why I think so.” Haha. Right?
But, alas, for us gossip-lovers, with every sentence the entire essay looks more and more like an “old ass really gross trick”, the kind that the Daily Mail does every week or so, massively trolling its readership.
The writer, Mariah Smith, first gave me a sense of time travel when she used the word “bachelor” in relation to Nick Jonas. Here it is: “That was around September 2016, when Nick was 24 — not exactly the time you’d imagine a bachelor like Nick Jonas to think about settling down. But it was around the time you’d think someone like Priyanka, then 34, would.” Excuse me, I didn’t know my male relatives are writing under the name of Mariah Smith. (You know the kind? The ones who told you that it’s only realistic that Aishwarya Rai will never get any work now that she has had a baby. )
To wildly interpret the actions of celebrities from a distance is the job of gossip columnists and the rest of us who are on Whatsapp groups. But Smith’s characterisations of the progress of the Jonas-Chopra relationship is one that even a classic MRA site or my uncles would be embarrassed by. Except that Mariah Smith is a young, black comedian and writer who usually writes Kardashian recaps. Wrap your head around that as we go along.
Somehow, to Smith, Chopra responding to Jonas DMing her on Twitter is the launch of “the very beginning of Priyanka’s plan to make this Nick Jonas opportunity her forever bitch”. Chopra later telling Jonas to text her since her Twitter messages were also read by her team is described by Smith as offensively Hollywood, as an indication that she was going to break his heart, as an indication that her team was shopping for boyfriends for PC. Instead of PC being polite and practical. The word Smith probably was searching for was “uppity”—the classic racist epithet for people of colour rising above their station. How dare Desi PC Come Lately talk about having a team to Jonas without a job?
Then we come to a bizarre passage about PC’s shopping. Smith comments on an interview in which PC says she has a home theatre in her Manhattan home as something “that speaks volumes to her personality and what she’ll do, or think she needs to do, for her career”. Yes, PC is a working, highly successful actor in two different countries. Once more I get a strong whiff from Smith of “why do you need a mop, why can’t you do pochcha on your hands and knees”. Except I can’t understand why.
Back when Anthony Lane wrote that extremely sexist profile of Scarlett Johansson in The New Yorker, many people slammed him properly like it was WWE. The New Republic complained snobbishly that “I prefer my glossy-mag sexism sans highbrow pretensions.” Eh, no. Can I have my glossy-mag with highbrow pretensions and sans sexism, please? And while we are at it, can someone check on what’s happening with the editing process at The Cut?
Recently Smith wrote in support of actor Jameela Jamil’s social media behaviour: “I’ve never been happier to see someone threaten my livelihood of tracking celebrity lies by telling celebs to have a seat and be honest for once.” Which is the kind of meta-commentary and poking holes in the fourth wall which works well in a smart gossip column. That’s not what happens here, with this khoda pahaad nikli chuhiya PC piece.
Most of the rest of this essay wanders in and out of the Department of Does Mariah Smith Have No Friends. Observe this sentence: “All Nick wanted was a possible fling with Hollywood’s latest It Woman, but instead he wound up staring straight at a life sentence with a global scam artist.” Okay, nuts. Because we never ever get a sense of what is scammy about this shaadi. But then that sentence is followed by a kind of neat, grandiosity-puncturing but not particularly unique kind of humour. Smith writes: “Even more upsetting, she’s a scam artist who never even took the time to make sure he was comfortable riding a horse before arranging for him to enter their wedding ceremony on horseback. (Sadly, no one has yet to report on whether or not Nick Jonas was truly comfortable riding into his wedding on horseback.)”
Perhaps this piece was drunk-published or this is what internalised racism looks like. Or Mariah has friends but No Editors. You can decide. I wish I could call Lainey and ask her. If ever there was a moment for friends on the inside this is it.
(The Cut has now taken down the piece, stating further editorial review found the piece did not meet its standards.)