How 9/11, MTV, and Y2K-era movie star tradition proceed to complicate one in all Hollywood’s most infamous flops.
Picture: twentieth Century Fox

In November 2018, one of many extra shocking tradition tales concerned grassroots activism within the type of — what else? — a hashtag: #JusticeforGlitter. The notorious Mariah Carey bomb was 17 years outdated, and as much as that time, its star had largely rebuked it. However Carey’s zealous fan base, the Lambily, wished retribution for what they noticed as an unfairly maligned chapter of their favourite diva’s profession. Because the marketing campaign unfold throughout social media, Glitter’s soundtrack reached No. 1 on the iTunes albums chart and returned to the Billboard soundtracks chart. All of the sudden, Carey’s greatest flop period was up for reconsideration.

It’s possible you’ll or could not recall when the Glitter soundtrack was initially launched — 20 years in the past, on September 11, 2001. The corresponding film, suffering from scathing evaluations and tabloid-propagated gossip about Carey’s current hospitalization, opened ten days later, all however guaranteeing its triviality and ushering within the yr’s weakest box-office weekend. Glitter drew a feeble $2.4 million, outgrossed by ten holdovers, together with Hardball, The Others, The Glass Home, Two Can Play That Recreation, and Rat Race. Two dynamics had been working in opposition to it without delay: Submit-9/11, People merely weren’t going to the films, and positively to not see what had been framed as a slice of movie star fluff.

On the one hand, the notion of “justice for Glitter” demonstrates the way in which so-called stans have assigned themselves authority over pop stars’ reputations, an web phenomenon that tends to reject any criticism, previous or current. On the opposite, it’s a tacit admonishment of Y2K-era pop-culture consumption, when the flashy MTV trappings of the wealthy and well-known made it simpler for the general public at giant to relish  celebrities’ tribulations. The marketing campaign succeeded in resurrecting the infinitely mocked film and its music, however to what finish? Twenty years after Glitter, are we any nearer to understanding its legacy? What actually was it? An ill-conceived vainness mission? A doomed-from-the-start enterprise compelled into the cracks of historical past by tragedy? A last gush of the movie star monoculture earlier than social media rewrote the celebrity recreation? An unlucky case of public rubbernecking? All the above?

To essentially perceive the disastrous post-9/11 rollout of Glitter (initially titled All That Glitters) and the following campaign to revive its fame, one has to again up a couple of years earlier than the flip of the millennium, to when Carey was first longing to search out big-screen work. “When you are coming from another entertainment world, people really wanna hate on you,” she would say of this period. “They really wanna say, ‘Oh, well, I don’t know, she’s going to take us out of the movie.’” In 1998, Carey signed on to a James Bond spoof known as Double-O-Soul reverse a red-hot Chris Tucker, however the movie by no means got here to fruition. The next yr, she cameoed as an opera singer within the middling Chris O’Donnell–Renée Zellweger rom-com The Bachelor.

Round this time, she connected herself to what would change into Glitter, a Star Is Born–esque showbiz drama that Carey developed alongside What’s Love Acquired to Do With It screenwriter Kate Lanier. (Playwright Cheryl L. West earned a “story by” credit score.) “I wrote the treatment,” Carey told Movieline. “It’s a story I’ve wanted to tell for a long time. We start with my character, Billie Frank, as a 9-year-old girl … Billie is sent to live at an orphanage because her mother is unstable. Billie grows up confused, becomes a backup singer for a girl who really can’t sing, and she’s pissed off because she knows she’s so much better. She signs a bad deal, then meets a DJ who falls for her and makes her a star. But he has a very dark side.” (That’s, slightly succinctly, all the plot.)

Nearly as quickly as Glitter entered the general public’s consciousness, skepticism arose. Although Carey insisted it wasn’t autobiographical, the film mirrored particulars from her life, together with Billie’s troubled relationship together with her mom, which seeded a notion that Glitter could be a navel-gazing charade. Rumors in regards to the frenetic shoot itself didn’t assist: She and Lanier reportedly revised scenes on the set; different moments apparently “came from improvisation.” Carey “convinced” herself that cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson was “shooting me on my bad side on purpose.”

Off set, Carey’s circumstances had been extra troubling. She was coping with the stress introduced on by two breakups: her 1998 divorce from hypercontrolling Sony Music Leisure chief Tommy Mottola, adopted by her 2001 cut up with singer Luis Miguel. When Carey left Motola after 4 tumultuous years of marriage, she signed a reported $80 million contract with Virgin Data. Her first album underneath that deal was the Glitter soundtrack, a mix of originals and covers that matched the film’s clubby early-’80s setting. Whereas engaged on the lead single “Loverboy,” Carey and producer Clark Kent included a pattern of Yellow Magic Orchestra’s 1978 digital jam “Firecracker.” Mottola realized of their interpolation and rushed the pattern to Sony darling Jennifer Lopez — “thievery,” Carey known as it. And since Carey had recorded a duet with Ja Rule, Mottola recruited producer Irv Gotti to arrange a collaboration between the rapper and Lopez. Out of that got here their megapopular “I’m Real” remix, which was launched forward of “Loverboy,” successfully forcing Carey to take away the pattern. With out the kicky “Firecracker” beat, “Loverboy” turned pretty bland. After endlessly catchy hits like “Honey,” “My All,” and “Heartbreaker,” “Loverboy” paled.

No matter sympathy existed for Carey’s behind-the-scenes ordeals seemingly dissipated, nevertheless, as Glitter’s press blitz kicked off. It began with a July 17 look on BET’s 106 & Park, the place she described herself as “exhausted” however appeared principally upbeat. Then got here Complete Request Dwell. Glitter’s evaluations in all probability wouldn’t have been any extra favorable had Carey not made her quasi-scandalous TRL look on July 19 — the film actually isn’t good; don’t @ me — however the broadly seen spectacle virtually assured its punching-bag standing. When her microphoned voice rang out mid-show and he or she emerged pushing a Popsicle cart, a bamboozled Carson Daly known as the looks “unannounced.” (Enjoyable truth: J.Lo and Ja Rule’s “I’m Real” video had simply aired when Carey walked onto the set. Coincidence? Unclear.) In her 2020 memoir The That means of Mariah Carey, Carey says Daly could have been caught off guard however the present’s producers weren’t — even earlier than 9/11, there was an excessive amount of safety at MTV’s Instances Sq. constructing for her to really crash the joint.

Rewatching the clip today, Carey does appear a bit of unhinged. “You’re my therapy session right now, Carson,” she tells him. “You see, every now and then, somebody needs a little therapy. And today is that moment for me.” However it hardly feels just like the jaw-dropper it was made out to be. TRL, with its screaming teenage crowd, usually had a chaotic aura anyway. Daly makes a fuss about her “striptease,” nevertheless it’s actually simply Carey eradicating an oversize T-shirt that has the phrase “Loverboy” airbrushed on it. Beneath, she’s sporting a halter high and tight shorts, a typical uniform for younger stars circa 2001.

Assumptions about Carey’s erraticism started to take maintain anyway. Carey had been working nonstop on restricted sleep, too drained to make a second video earlier than the soundtrack’s launch. “She was visibly being pulled in a million different directions,” Daly told Entertainment Weekly shortly thereafter. On July 20, Carey attended a Q&A at a Lengthy Island mall. Whereas rambling about “haters,” Carey’s publicist, Cindi Berger, pulled the microphone from Carey’s hand and shuffled her away from the media scrum in opposition to Carey’s protests. On July 25, two alarming audio messages surfaced on Carey’s web site. One discovered her saying, “I just want you to know that I’m trying to understand things in life right now and so I really don’t feel that I should be doing music right now. I just can’t trust anybody anymore right now because I don’t understand what’s going on.” They had been swiftly eliminated, and hours later, Carey checked into a hospital. “She has suffered an emotional and physical breakdown,” Berger told the Associated Press. “She is under psychiatric care.”

Each juicy story has a villain, and Mottola’s childish duplicity led to — amongst different issues — Carey and Lopez’s alleged feud. The New York Submit particularly had a discipline day. “The blow that sent Mariah Carey to the hospital in July with a nervous breakdown was learning that Jennifer Lopez had ‘stolen’ part of her song ‘Loverboy,’” the paper reported, to the extent that the aforementioned sentence constitutes reporting. “A source said, ‘It literally drove her crazy.’” In The That means of Mariah, Carey stated Mottola sought to “sabotage” Glitter as revenge for his or her breakup and her Sony departure. (Gotti corroborated Mottola’s crooked methods throughout a 2017 Desus & Mero interview.) “Tommy and his cronies went as far as taking promotional items, like my stand-up advertisements, out of the record stores,” Carey wrote. “Loverboy” managed to peak at No. 2 on the Billboard Scorching 100 regardless of weak radio play, buoyed by Virgin’s decision to low cost the CD single to 49 cents. However it didn’t make an enormous dent on MTV.

Plans for Carey to headline the community’s starry 20th-anniversary special had been scrapped, as was the Glitter press junket. A box-office analyst said the film was “tracking very poorly” primarily based on prerelease buzz. As if these occasions didn’t present sufficient pandemonium, paparazzi had been chasing after Carey when she left the hospital on August 6. That week, Virgin delayed the soundtrack’s drop date to September 11, and twentieth Century Fox pushed the film from its August 31 launch to September 21. Carey flew to Los Angeles to go to her brother, who, in line with Carey’s memoir, duped her right into a stint at a “hard-core detox and rehab center,” the place she was fed “heavy narcotics.” She had agreed to shoot a 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters about her preliminary hospitalization, however Berger said she wanted “more time to rest.” Carey bought discharged on the day of the World Commerce Heart assault. “So I was magically ‘good to go,’ because terrorists had attacked America and a ‘cracked-up diva’ wasn’t interesting anymore? (Hello?!!),” she wrote. She would later search estrangement from her brother and different unreliable kinfolk.

Mariah Carey in Glitter.
Picture: twentieth Century Fox

Nobody must be reminded that September 11, 2001, was not the perfect time to launch an album. However Jay-Z’s The Blueprint, Nickelback’s Silver Aspect Up, Bob Dylan’s Love & Theft, Fabulous’s Ghetto Fabulous, and P.O.D.’s Satellite tv for pc additionally got here out that day, and every of them fared higher than Glitter. Carey was one of many best-selling artists in music historical past, but Glitter offered a small fraction of her earlier work. (One other enjoyable truth: “I’m Real” topped the Scorching 100 that week, as if Carey’s wounds wanted extra salt.) Her well-chronicled struggles — documented on the duvet of Us Weekly, in MTV Information bulletins, and past — had satisfied spectators that the entire thing was doomed. Critics’ evaluations confirmed these suspicions. They panned Carey’s stilted efficiency and the film’s broad, hammy plot, which accentuated Billie’s chemistry-free romance with the DJ (Max Beesley) who introduced her fame. “This star vehicle for singer Mariah Carey is primarily a showcase for her breasts,” the Washington Submit’s Megan Rosenfeld wrote. “And if they gave out Oscars for body parts, this pair would definitely be contenders.” A New York Instances critic said viewers members “erupted repeatedly into laughter at scenes intended to carry emotional weight.”

Nonetheless, Carey rallied, making her first public look on September 20 at a Glitter screening, sporting a black shirt with a shiny American flag on it. The subsequent day, Glitter bowed in roughly 1,200 theaters; that night time, Carey carried out “Hero” on the George Clooney–organized TV profit America: A Tribute to Heroes. By the tip of its theatrical run, the movie had collected $4.3 million domestically — lower than 20 % of its reported $22 million price range. However the drama didn’t cease there. Presumably fearing that Carey wouldn’t rebound the way in which so many pop idols have, EMI — Virgin’s mum or dad firm — paid Carey a reported $28 million to dismiss her contract, leaving her with out a report deal at a time when digital pirating was slowly eroding CD gross sales. ”It goes like this. One thing like, ‘Industry Rule No. 480: Record-company people are shady,’” she told the New York Times, summoning an A Tribe Referred to as Quest lyric.

Carey spent the start of 2002 writing her subsequent album, Charmbracelet. That January, she attended the Sundance Movie Competition on behalf of the mobster drama WiseGirls, which she’d shot the earlier Might. (“This is a person that never, ever relaxes,” producer Anthony Esposito said.) The next month, she performed the nationwide anthem on the Tremendous Bowl. In Might, after fielding competing gives, she signed a $7.5 million-per-album take care of Common Music Group. And in June, her 72-year-old father died of most cancers. Charmbracelet’s torchy lead single, “Through the Rain,” detailed Carey’s perseverance. “I can stand up once again / On my own and I know / That I’m strong enough to mend.” She mounted a full-scale promotional bid, together with appearances on Larry King Live, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, 106 & Park, and the Today show, and launched into an eight-month world tour that typically suffered from sluggish ticket gross sales.

Everybody loves a comeback, and Carey would land hers finally, however Charmbracelet wasn’t an enormous hit both, its plodding R&B ballads missing the hooks for which she was recognized. “Through the Rain” stalled at No. 81. However whereas selling Charmbracelet in late 2002, Carey started to reclaim the Glitter narrative. What occurred to her was a “meltdown,” sure, nevertheless it was not the “nervous breakdown” that many had known as it. When Matt Lauer requested her on Dateline in regards to the hospital’s therapeutic strategies, she portrayed herself as a bastion of psychological well being: “Well, first of all, I ended up running the group therapy session and solving everybody else’s problems.” And he or she decried Glitter as one thing that defied her intentions: “It started out as a concept with substance, but it ended up being geared to 10-year-olds,” Carey told USA Today. “It lost a lot of grit. It was gritless, in fact. I kind of got in over my head.”

A number of years later, throughout interviews forward of the discharge of 2009’s Precious — wherein she delivers a efficiency so pure and affecting it makes you marvel what brought about her spiritlessness in Glitter — she’d claim that Glitter had opened on September 11, an approximation that nonetheless helps to light up its downfall. “It was a horrible couple of years, and then I had to get my momentum back for people to let it go,” Carey said on Watch What Occurs Dwell in 2013, disclosing that nobody in her camp is allowed to say the movie by title, and once more citing 9/11. By this time, she’d launched The Emancipation of Mimi, an all-time-great pop renaissance that birthed “We Belong Together” and “Shake It Off.” Till 2016, she didn’t sing something from the Glitter soundtrack on her many excursions.

So when #JusticeforGlitter sprang up in 2018, it appeared foolish. Possibly the film and album aren’t as heinous as their preliminary reception implies, however they’re actually not deserving of the restitution that Carey loyalists demanded. The flat dialogue, uninspired pacing, and goofy use of gradual movement haven’t improved with time, and a lot of the songs heard within the movie — barring, arguably, Carey’s model of “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” — are forgettable at finest.

The hashtag in the end has much less to do with the precise materials of Glitter and extra to do with the tradition round it — the late-’90s and early-2000s movie star worship that would so rapidly flip to movie star loathing, one thing that has change into ripe for relitigation a long time later. Increasingly folks have come to the conclusion that Janet Jackson shouldn’t be blamed for her uncovered breast throughout the 2004 Tremendous Bowl halftime present when Justin Timberlake was the one who uncovered it. Denigrating supposed “bad girls” like Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton merely for present has grown outdated. Not too long ago, one other, extra environment friendly hashtag proliferated: #FreeBritney.

Once we look again at Glitter, we revisit probably the most uniquely energizing durations in pop-culture historical past — and one in all its most disconcerting. It was a time earlier than the web monopolized the mechanics of fame and celebrities seized enough management over their public pictures, all however guaranteeing there would by no means be one other second fairly like Glitter. Hollywood grew to become risk-averse within the aftermath of 9/11, too, and much more so following the 2008-09 financial recession. The business stopped prioritizing mid-budget, star-driven stand-alone originals focused at mature audiences, as Marvel and its franchise ilk upended the enterprise, rendering Carey’s complete fracas a bit quaint. Right now, pop vocalists needing to behave gained’t conjure the identical gasps within the age of Mary J. Blige and Woman Gaga’s Oscar nominations.

The post-2018 reappraisal of Glitter is when Carey’s “shit happens” method to divadom (see: her disastrous performance on Dick Clark’s New Yr’s Rockin’ Eve With Ryan Seacrest in 2017) actually took maintain. After #JusticeforGlitter, Carey tweaked her complete tune: “It’s actually a really good album,” she said on Good Morning America. “I can say it, now that they got it to number one.” She might rewrite her self-perception, not anxious to shove her erstwhile ardour mission into some corridor of disgrace. Ultimately, Glitter was all types of issues: a troubled endeavor additional imperiled by Carey’s private trials and a nationwide tragedy that wasn’t even the wildest facet of its rollout. We needn’t fake that Glitter is a masterpiece in an effort to really feel that justice has been served. Just a little empathy for its progenitor will do effective.

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