Reese, we hardly knew ye

This column doesn’t spend its time circling cellulite on paparazzi snaps or poking Brangelina with the Aniston Stick. Why would we bother ourselves with this twaddle?

 Reese Witherspoon and husband Jim Toth

Reese Witherspoon and husband Jim Toth


The sensible response to Witherspoongate would be to talk about something else. This column doesn’t spend its time circling cellulite on paparazzi snaps or poking Brangelina with the Aniston Stick. Why would we bother with this twaddle?

Well, the story does highlight some interesting aspects of the publicity machine. More specifically, it confirms that even the most committed cynic can buy into the superficial narratives spread by manipulative publicists and compliant press.

As you may be aware, Reese Witherspoon was arrested for disorderly conduct in Georgia’s most populous city. The story is hard to resist. A state trooper pulled over Ms Witherspoon’s husband, one Joe Toth, for some outbreaks of erratic driving.

While Mr Toth was enduring the usual tests for alcohol indulgence – touching nose, walking in a line, that sort of stuff – Ms Witherspoon decided to lean out the car window and do some old-school boozy bellowing. She claimed that the trooper wasn’t a real cop. Then, defying demands that she remain seated, Witherspoon surged from the vehicle and began employing some classic six-pint logic. She bellowed that she was a US citizen and was, therefore, entitled to stand on American ground. (Try that one after breaking into your neighbour’s greenhouse. “This is America! I’m entitled to stand here!”)

Worse was to come. At some stage in the exchange, Reese dragged out the phrase that all celebrities should shun as they shun the advances of investigative reporters dressed as transsexual prostitutes. She didn’t exactly say “Do you know who I am?”, but she came as close as makes no difference. “Do you know my name?” she said. “You’re about to find out who I am.”

Oh dear. Oh dear. Here’s the narrative as it has been presented. Hollywood is full of spoilt bastards who expect their food to be pre-masticated by houseboys and the police to (quite literally) let them away with repeated genocide. But Reese was different.

Raised as the child of an Louisiana ear, nose and throat surgeon, Ms Witherspoon was a nice girl who valued, in her own words, “being conscientious about people’s feelings, being polite, being responsible and never taking for granted what you have in your life”.

We now know that to be untrue. Don’t we? She is, rather, a less portly, more southern variation on a Fat Slag from Viz magazine.

The truth is we know nothing. PR wonks processed the original, squeaky version of Reese and supermarket tabloids added further sugar. The current story relies on a few quotes gathered late at night from a gal who had knocked back one too many cocktails. (Witherspoon, in a gracious apology, admitted to having been on the sauce.)

Such personae present themselves to the public through a haze of misdirection and a miasma of misinterpretation. The moral is simple to state: if you don’t know Reese Witherspoon then you don’t know Reese Witherspoon.

Now let’s get stuck into Lindsay Lohan…