Greta Garbo, The Envy Of Superstars From Madonna To Lady Gaga, Was Born 113 Years Ago Today [Opinion]

How would the ‘Lady of Mystery’ cope in today’s age of over-sharing?

Lady of Mystery
General Photographic Agency / Getty Images

How would the ‘Lady of Mystery’ cope in today’s age of over-sharing?

Greta Garbo never took a selfie, never used social media, never had botox, and never had her butt pumped full of plastic. Chances are you may never have heard of her.

Celebrity fans such as Madonna and Lady Gaga have. And although they’ve both been compared to the ‘Divine Greta’ or the ‘Lady of Mystery’ as she is sometimes known, there is one key and crucial difference between the actress who was once described as “the most glamorous creature in the world” and the publicity craving superstars of today. Here’s the lowdown.

Greta was a Swedish actress who made it massive in Hollywood during the 1920s and 1930s. The silver starlet became extremely renowned for her “luminous and unforgettable screen performances.”

After giving a commanding turn in 28 films, she turned her back on Hollywood at the age of 35 to become a reclusive art collector.

Despite being repeatedly begged to return to La La land, Greta said no and continued to shun publicly and its attendant vultures right up until the day she died in 1990, aged 84.

Even during her Hollywood heyday, Garbo preferred solitude. She avoided industry occasions like the plague, including many an Oscar ceremony where she herself was a nominee.

Publicity for Garbo was something to loathe, and she once famously said, “As early as I can remember, I have wanted to be alone. I detest crowds, don’t like many people.”

On the other hand, publicity for many of todays celebrity clan has always appeared as something to furiously slither after and slyly covet in the sort of no-holds and grasping manner which would make Narcissus blush.

We should, however, bear in mind we are all products of the social media age, where over-sharing and complete abandonment of all sense of privacy are essential requirements in becoming a fully-fledged member of the global village.

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Greta lived in a different time. As Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times when discussing his encounter with the lady who wore “six decades’ worth of well-documented silence.”

“Garbo couldn’t exist in the 21st century. Today’s democracy of technology would, of course, conspire to put a fast and brutal end to the tantalizing demi-invisibility that Garbo sustained so well. Everyone who possesses a cellphone now is a potential member of the paparazzi.

“The world, you see, no longer has any tolerance for — let alone fascination with — people who aren’t willing to publicize themselves. Figures swathed in shadows are démodé in a culture in which the watchword is transparency.

“Increasingly, the perception is that everyone is knowable, everyone is accessible and that everyone is potentially a star. Transparency, of course, is itself an illusion.”

So the take home lesson from all of this, is, if you want to keep an air of mystery keep your mouth shut, your eyes distant and your manner aloof. And for god’s sake, stop sharing nonsense on social media.