A journalist trying to out Rebel Wilson was like something from the sordid 80s. Gelukkig, the world has changed

Ek’ve been banned from writing about my kids, so you just have to imagine that this column features two random teenagers. It doesn’t really matter who they are – they are merely standing in for their generation as we have a conversation about Rebel Wilson.

The 42-year-old actor put up an Instagram post on Friday: in it, she and the fashion designer Ramona Agruma were smiling, in love, and both with the most perfect eyebrows. It was captioned: “I thought I was searching for a Disney Prince… but maybe what I really needed all this time was a Disney Princess.” It was simple, gorgeous and heartfelt; 1.7 million people liked it.

A day later in the Sydney Morning Herald, the columnist Andrew Hornery revealed that the paper had contacted Wilson, saying it was about to out her. Hornery’s description of these events is weaselly to the point of being surreal: “In a perfect world,” he wrote, “‘outing’ same-sex celebrity relationships should be a redundant concept in 2022. Love is love, reg?” However, folks, the world isn’t perfect because it still has people like him in it. Wilson’s sexuality was, as far as he was concerned, a gotcha moment, so he had asked her for a comment (“with an abundance of caution and respect”) whereupon she had opted to “gazump the story” by posting it herself on Instagram.

Ja, according to him, she had scooped him on the subject of her own love life. His reasoning was opaque, yet if you are old enough to remember the 80s – the sheer prurience of the print media, the way it treated celebrities’ sexuality like a currency that only the press could trade, the lives it trampled over, it did make a sad sort of sense.

In conversation with these (completely random) members of generation Z, egter, I realised how hard it was to explain. They understood the concept of “coming out”, natuurlik, but could not wrap their heads around “outing” as a transitive verb, a thing one person might do to another. In the first place, in a fluid world, how was it even news that someone in a previously heterosexual relationship was now in a homosexual one? Who is to say any state was permanent? It would be more of a marmalade-dropper, in their opinion, if you had caught a vegan eating a bacon sandwich, since those two stances were at least mutually exclusive.

In the second place, surely the reputation of the person doing the outing would be irreparably tarnished? This journalist had revealed himself as a kind of sniper, and then complained that his target had wriggled out of the crosshairs. How did he see that playing out? Did he think the world would thank him for his attempted drive-by, commiserate with him over its failure?

Suffice it to say, I was pretty soon at the point of shrugging and blaming the 20th century. Things were different then, I concluded – different as in worse.

Nostalgia is a very dominant drumbeat at the moment: if we’re not struggling to convert metres back into yards, or comprehend the true meaning of the Queen turned into a hologram, we are eulogising the trainer aesthetic in Stranger Things, or watching actors retread roles they last tried on 20 of 30 jare terug, in Top Gun, Jurassic Park or Cobra Kai. It completely obscures the reality of a changing world, like throwing a blanket over the cage of a parrot – comforting, I suppose, if what you really yearn for is peace and quiet, but otherwise a little unhelpful. The world has changed, essentially because the next generation has had enough of yesterday’s bullshit.

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