Firstly I apologise for the misleading title of this post. You’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m about discuss how one should be prepared to pay for a handbag. The answer to that is of course entirely budget (or credit card interest rate) dependant but Birkins and Proenza Schouler PS1 satchels aside, for once it’s not handbags I’m talking about. In this month’s Elle Magazine, various journalists were asked to write their own obituaries. Sounds morbid I know but as any of you who’ve read the piece will know, the vast majority were witty and life affirming. Cat Marnell’s was decidedly neither but like everything she writes and the car crash life she leads, it was undeniably compelling.
I won’t bore you by retelling Cat’s life story (but do Google her, there’s a LOT there) so to quote her Vice Magazine profile, Marnell “is a 29-year-old Condé Nast drop-out and former beauty editor at “Lucky” and xoJane.com who has also worked exclusively in beauty at “Teen Vogue,” “Glamour,” “Nylon,” and lots of other vaguely zzZZzz women’s mags. She quits every job she has to party and lives hard in downtown NYC.” Oh yeah, and she’s also a drug addict who caused major waves last year when she quit her job at xoJane.com (after her bosses demanded she go to rehab, again) by writing an open letter to the New York Post stating that she “couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends.” Having begun documenting her drug use on xoJane.com Cat was, perhaps predictably, snapped up by the consciously controversial youth culture magazine Vice where she continued to share her pill popping past times in a column entitled “Amphetamine Logic”.
After seeing her piece in this month’s Elle, I then spent the rest of my Friday night reading every single one of Cat’s posts for Vice (no doubt a far cry from what she herself was up to) and subsequently most of the articles written about Miss Marnell. This got me thinking, how much is too much to share on the internet? Is Cat’s work brave, up front and self reflective journalism or is she merely airing her dirty laundry in public to turn a profit? Love her or loather her, you can’t deny that Cat Marnell has a remarkable way with words and in a suger coated, PR approved media landscape, you can almost buy Vice’s arguement that her writing is refreshingly honest… If indeed it is honesty and not all a perverse, self promoting ploy. The critics have lampooned Cat for glamourising drug addiction and the magazines who publish her work – not to mention the publisher’s who recently shelled out a £500,000 advance for her memoir – for enabling a drug addict. Personally, I’m torn. While I certainly don’t think Cat’s accounts of crying alone in her darkened apartment and doping herself to sleep make the life of a trust funded junkie sound like fun, the fact she’s managed to make a career (and a lot of cash) out of doing so is something else entirely.
A few weeks ago I was interviewed by The Daily Telegraph and they asked me whether I felt that I “ever shared too much of (my) personal life on (my) blog?” Unsurprisingly my answer was no given than most of my posts revolve around clothes, clothes and more clothes but the question did get me thinking. How much of our warts-and-all selves should we put out there for anyone with an Internet connection to see? Striking the balance between letting your readers into your world and oversharing online isn’t always clear cut but broadly speaking I reckon that sex lives, bowel movements and drug use are three things best kept well away from the blogosphere. Ultimately what you choose to make public is entirely down to you and I’m not for one second arguing for Cat Marnell to be censored. Nor do I think she should, or could, be forced to recover but the fact that Cat is effectively being paid to remain an addict and rewarded with celebrity? That doesn’t sit quite right with me. And this is where the whole thing gets even more complicated. What unites Cat’s harshest critics is the fact they’ve read every word she’s written. How can we criticise Cat for documenting her sordid exploits and Vice for publishing them when we continue to lap up every sentence she utters? While I may not condone Cat’s lifestyle and the way she publicises it or the publishers than enable her to do so, should she ever manage to write that memoir you can be damn sure I’ll buy it.
As you’ve probably gathered, this post isn’t going to have a conclusive ending. I find the Cat Marnell saga repellant, fascinating and confusing in equal measure and it brings up a lot of interesting questions about how much one can, or should, share in the name of journalism… What’s your opinion?
Love Ella. X