Narcissist stars: addicted to love?

Seth Rogen the latest actor in full-throttle mode

On a personal level, I’m very fond of Seth Rogen. He’s funny, self-deprecating and smart. But the best thing Seth can do at the moment is run for cover.

Everywhere you turn these days, Rogen is front and center — full frontal and center. Every marquee, every interview show has its Rogen moment: We have the funny, stoner Rogen (or at least his voice) in “Monsters vs. Aliens,” we have Seth the sociopath in “Observe and Report” and soon, Seth the action hero in “Green Hornet.”

“It’s fun to be the guy causing the discomfort,” Rogen said in an interview last week. He’s got a point there, except his sheer ubiquity is now causing himself discomfort.

The shrewd press agents are savvy about that dread phenomenon, overexposure. A year ago, George Clooney and his PR mentor, Stan Rosenfield, decided there was too much Clooney noise in the ether and the star went totally silent. Smart move: Though there’s no more ingratiating a star than Clooney in the movie business, there was just too much Clooney out there.

Clint Eastwood, too, has a keen sense of self-preservation. Given his immense profligacy, Clint simply put “Gran Torino” out there a year ago, packed his bags and flew off to South Africa to start another movie. Despite a PR shortfall, “Gran Torino” nonetheless became a megahit.

Now Dr. Drew, of all people, has weighed in with his thoughts about celebrity exposure. Pinsky’s thesis is that stars become addicted to self-promotion because they are career narcissists.

And Pinsky is not approving. “The behavior of today’s celebrities is much more dramatically dysfunctional than it was a decade ago,” he writes. Hence, what he calls a “mirror effect” takes hold. “Provocative and shocking behavior becomes normalized, expected and tolerated in our media culture,” he argues.

That makes the celebs the bad guys.

Pinsky’s new book, titled “The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism Is Seducing America,” even contains a Narcissism Personality Inventory, a 40-question test that measures egotistical tendencies. Not surprisingly, stars score higher on the test than civilians. But those stars with great native talent (i.e. great musicians) have a lower narcissism quotient than the Lindsay Lohans of the world.

Like other self-styled gurus, Pinsky probably rates high on his own test — he doesn’t give that away . Still, I admire him for actually persuading 200 celebs to take his test. Did he tell them, “Hi, I’m comparing a group of egotistical assholes, and want to see how you rate”?

Irrespective of Pinsky’s data, I don’t agree that celebrity narcissism is “seducing America.” Rather, America’s “seduction” is self-imposed.

Remember, lots of people want to become celebrities — with all those freebies, all that adulation. The few that succeed deserve a little self-love.

But, like Rogen and Clooney, they should also realize when it’s time to find shelter.

* * *

Subhed: Bad news, bad judgment

Troubled times often trigger troubled behavior. That’s been especially true in the journalistic community of late.

It’s hard to explain why the august New York Times would run an op-ed piece that provided a curious rationale for the behavior of Bernard Madoff. Investors weren’t compelled to give money to this Wall Street crook, the piece argued; people actually wanted him — even courted him — to take their money.

The article was written, however, by a Times writer named Daphne Merkin, who would not exactly be expected to have an objective view of this debacle. Merkin’s brother is J. Ezra Merkin, who fed more than $2 billion of clients’ money into the Madoff machine, while collecting some $470 million in fees.

Buried in the fifth paragraph of her op-ed piece, Daphne Merkin blandly acknowledges she has “a sibling who did business with Madoff.” That’s like saying, “I’m a member of the Ponzi family, but that doesn’t influence my views about the family’s business plan.”

The press does not deserve high marks for its coverage of the collapse of the economy, and the Times isn’t helping the cause by running op-ed pieces like Merkin’s.

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