A few hours after my post on Maude Apatow went up on Friday (click here if you missed it), The New York Times posted a story on her:
“She’s 14, Going on 140 Characters.”
The article is supremely annoying (as these types of articles in the Times can be), but this one is especially patronizing and glib. No fault of Maude or her family or the people that are quoted in the article (like Judy Blume), but the piece is an exercise in celebrity ass-kissing.
Why is it in the Fashion and Style section? OK let’s disregard that. The piece begins by saying Maude “is not a celebrity” yet “not a complete nobody.” Come on! If she weren’t a celebrity (or very tied to one), would she be getting a profile at 14? No, of course not. They also wait until the third paragraph to mention that Maude is the daughter of Judd (and 4th paragraph, Leslie Mann). Please. The writer knows exactly what’s up, slipping it in oh-so-casually, as if it is just a happy coincidence.
And this is where it really started to grate, because yes she is exceptional, talented, insightful and smart – none of that is negated by the fact that she has famous parents -- but the treatment of her rise as a both a popular Tweeter and fledgling writer is credited to her “Larry David observations” (come on!), which is half the picture. Her Tweets are funny and do capture the weariness of teendom. But she also met and wrote about One Direction for Teen Vogue (her uncle is a producer on X-Factor which gave her access to the band). To think they just “connected” with her out of thin air – think of how many sweet 14-year-olds would love a “happy birthday” tweet from Harry Styles - is ridiculous.
I get the feeling that she’s become something of a pet for a specific group of cliquey, hip industry types. My biggest annoyance with the piece is how relationships are portrayed as totally organic. Like oh how cute Hello Giggles wanted her to write, as if Sophia Rossi (co-founder of HG) didn't know Leslie and Judd beforehand (or at the very least, know of them). Or how Lena Dunham just wants to hang with Maude - yes, of course you would take your very powerful boss's daughter to a concert. (Judd Apatow produces Girls.) Not to say these relationships aren't genuine, but they are not plucked out of nowhere, either. Every relationship is part of a larger, complex social circle, so I don’t know why the Times is treating these as adorable little Twitter friendships.
This narrative is probably more dangerous than being torn between the internet trolls and the adoration which is what she wrote about for Hello Giggles; I hope she avoids hanger-on friendships where it's kiss-kiss-hug-hug you're so cute and smart - what has your dad been up to? Because if that happens, how will she ever learn to differentiate between "friends" and friends?
And I’m sure the sycophants are now dying for some face time with the coolest teenager since fashion blogger Tavi (who is still a teen, and still unbelievably cool). Maybe they will team up and take over the world for a minute, like Gwyneth and Winona. The parallels are there, if you think about it.
Click here to read the Maude Apatow profile in the NYT.