When asked which jobs I’d likely never try out, a few come to mind: zookeeper, trash collector, PA on Keeping Up With the Kardashians. One that has never seemed an option was Washington, DC gossip columnist. Having grown up relatively close to the nation’s capitol, there wasn’t much about the city that seemed very exotic or exciting, and one would assume that the gossip would always focus on boring old white men with political power who sleep around. (For me, DC gossip peaked when Nora Ephron broke up with Carl Bernstein, not just because her autobiographical novel Heartburn was made into a great movie starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, but because it was more about the woman on whom a man cheated, rather than a bunch of gossipy details of the boring sex that man likely had.) It looks like we’re in dire need of a Beltway sex scandal, because the DC columnists are setting their claws in a much more unlikely subject: Rosario Dawson.
Yesterday The New Republic published a story seemingly all about the politically active Rosario Dawson, whose too-frequent presence in DC has pissed off the leagues of gossip columnists who are hoping for someone more famous — possibly along the lines of Brad Pitt and George Clooney, no doubt. Dawson, who perhaps is best known for roles in the film version of Rent, Sin City, and her film debut, Kids, has been politically motivated for years, participating in organizations such as Voto Latino, and has served as spokesperson for the philanthropic arms of corporate entities SodaStream and Trip Advisor. But her celebrity, of course, is the thing that defines her in this political town.
“She’s always very nice, but we’re sick of having to write the same story over and over again about her organization,” explains Nikki Schwab, the Yeas and Neas columnist at Red Alert Politics. “She’s always good for a quote, but there’s not much new ground.” But is the quote ever good? Schwab sighs big and pauses for a while. “Well.… She sort of talks and talks and talks, so if you don’t mind transcribing 20 minutes of really fast talking, you can usually grab a soundbite.” Schwab thinks about it a bit more, searching for something more charitable to say. She finally comes up with, “She does take the issues really seriously.” Another gossip columnist, who, like several I spoke to, asked not to be named, was less kind about Dawson’s earnestness. “Like, no one cares about Rosario Dawson’s opinion on the Keystone Pipeline.”
I’d be willing to wager that not many people would care about anyone’s opinion on the Keystone Pipeline, nor would the average person know much about the pipeline in the first place. (Nikki Schwab, quoted above, knows this, which is likely the reason she’s covering Amanda Bynes on a political blog. How can Rosario Dawson possibly compete against that?)
The New Republic piece, of course, verges on different territory, possibly because Rosario Dawson’s political activism isn’t exciting enough for them, either. Instead, the author goes on to spotlight several anonymous sources — all DC-based gossip columnists — who rant about the lack of true A-list celebrities dropping into the District these days. “John Legend is another less-than-A-list star whose name sets off instant eyerolling among the D.C. party-reporter set. America Ferrera and Gary Sinise, too. ‘There are just so many randos that I have to interview,’ complained one gossip columinist. ‘The ladies from the show Dallas came for Meals on Wheels, Shaq came for some binge-drinking thing. But I really do think of Rosario Dawson as the worst because she is just … not that famous.” Other targets of these columnists’ ire? Mandy Moore (dubbed “miserably boring”) and Alexis Bledel (considered “the most boring person in the world,” because I bet Orrin Hatch is a real cut-up).
Now DC, the piece suggests, has become a town for Hollywood starlets to rebrand themselves, and it’s hard-working gossip columnists — again, most of them anonymous and likely writing for political blogs — are sick and tired of it. Where are the Angelina Jolies? The Ashley Judds? Couldn’t Gwyneth at least do a book signing at Politics & Prose? Since we’re in the middle of a president’s second term, there doesn’t seem to be much glamor in politics these days, unless you count One Tree Hill star Sophia Bush (no relation) dropping by. The Washingtonians don’t care, and the gossip rags and websites can’t keep up reader interest. And that is, of course, all the fault of Rosario Dawson, who is the center of a New Republic hit piece that only serves to illuminate the insufferable nature of the poor DC gossip mongers, rather than take to task an actress who hasn’t had the movie-star success the political crowd has hoped, and whose years of dedicated activism have been ignored and belittled as too boring for the gossip pages.
The next time you complain about your job, just think: at least you don’t have to reduce yourself to asking a famous actress how she feels about the VRA.