A scathing reexamination of the lives of nine female celebrities in the 2000s, and the sexist, exploitative culture that took them down
Welcome to celebrity culture in the early aughts: the reign of Perez Hilton, celebrity sex tapes, and dueling tabloids fed by paparazzi who were willing to do anything to get the shot. It was a time when the Internet was still the Wild West, and when slut-shaming, fat-shaming, and revenge porn were all considered perfectly legitimate. Celebrity was seen as a commodity to be consumed, and for the famous women of this era, they were never as popular—or as vulnerable—as when they were in crisis.
Toxic tells the stories of nine women who defined the hell of celebrity in the 2000s and explores how they were devoured by fame, how they attempted to control their own narratives, and how they succeeded or (more often) failed. These women come from all walks of fame—pop music, acting, reality TV, and WWE wrestling. Some of them you think you know already, and others will be less familiar, but Toxic reveals these women neither as pure victims nor as conniving strategists, but as complex individuals trying to navigate celebrity while under attack from a vicious and fast-changing media. Their portrayal has shaped the way that all women—famous or otherwise—are viewed today, and their experiences preempted the now-universal condition, especially thanks to social media, of living under the public gaze.
In this book, Ditum brings readers back to a time before second chances and redemption arcs, and traces the ripple effects that came in the wake of spending a decade vilifying our idols. We’ll see how these women’s stories intersect with the birth of YouTube, the rise of Internet pornography, and the emergence of Donald Trump as a political force. It’s time to come to terms with how those cultural events shaped the way we see ourselves, our bodies, our relationships, our aspirations, and our presence in the wider world. We are all products of the toxic decade.
“Top-notch pop-culture commentary—a smart and entertaining look at female celebrity during a decade of immense change.”
—Kirkus, starred review
“Readers will rethink what they thought they knew about some of the most publicized celebrity stories of the early 2000s.”
“A necessary and incisive feminist reckoning with the aughts. Insightful, exhilarating—and horrifying. What were we thinking?”
—Caroline Criado-Perez, author of Invisible Women
“Living through the ’00s, I never realized how casually cruel they were—how cruel we were— to famous women. Toxic is an incendiary page-turner that will make you reconsider the price of fame. . . and your opinion of Kim Kardashian. It’s a Molotov cocktail hurled at the feet of celebrity culture.”
—Helen Lewis, writer at the Atlantic and author of Difficult Women
“Brilliant . . . [Toxic] really made me realize how no one has pulled back and given an overall story to the last twenty years . . . It’s clever because it makes me think about now.”
—Adam Curtis, filmmaker