Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Celebrities Become Asshats

Over at one of my favorite blogs A Year and Change by the amazing Lucy March, the equally amazing community of readers known as the Betties are sort of debating Sean Connery. Several years ago, Connery gave a lengthy explanation on the circumstances when he feels it's justified to slap a woman. There are plenty of places online to watch the interview clip with Barbara Walters. Connery's opinion is not what I'm musing.

I'm wondering if we care disproportionately more when a celebrity or public figure acts like an asshat than we do over some non-famous man or woman down the street. Maybe that isn't the right question. Maybe it should be why, not if, we care.

Hah. Perhaps care isn't even the right word. Seriously, I really don't care about Connery's opinion, or Lindsay Lohan's probation violation; Mel Gibson's drunken tirades or Ashton Kutcher's alleged infidelity.

However, when I hear about these things, I admit that my attention's diverted to the story. It might only be for a couple of seconds, but the information registers. Why does it seem as if we're more interested? Are we more riveted by the public opinion plunge of these people because we're the ones that built their pedestals in the first place? Is it similar to car crashes that are horrific but we can't stop watching?

I think it's more that the celebrity, the household name, is a common point of reference. The mere fact that they are someone whose name is known by the masses appears to rocket up the interest in their words, accomplishments, crashes, and causes.

The degree and spread of the interest increases in direction proportion to the level of their celebrity. If a superintendent's wife embezzles money from the local school district, that news will buzz around your hometown. It probably won't be much more than a blip in the next county.

What if your state's attorney general gets a DUI? You and your friend four counties over will probably see the story in your newspaper or on television. Will it make a fuss in the diners and coffeeshops two states away?

Ramp that up to, say, the Speaker of the House or the Vice President and that same story's going all CNN all the time. The more people who know about a person, the more celebrated he or she is, the bigger the news story, the harder the fall.

If some schmo at the local bar belches after a swallow of beer and says, "Yeah, there's times when it's okay to slap a gal," probably nobody's going to put it up on YouTube. Years late, people who have never met him face to face are not going to discuss his words on a blog.

Hmm. Maybe that's another price that stars pay for their fame and money. They can't hide their asshattery.

Now that I've pondered this, I want to ask myself, "Do I ever want to be that well known?"

Do you?


Hope said...

If someone I knew personally was in the news, that would probably divert my attention the way that a celebrity in the news does. Probably even more so. I think that a lot of us paying attention to celebrity misdeeds comes from name recognition. And from good, old-fashioned schadenfreude.

Sheryl (Betty Magic) said...

I was thinking about this yesterday in relation to Natasha Richardson. Her death was tragic but no more so because she was a celebrity. But her fame brought awareness to an issue of which people were ignorant. In the months following her death there were many reports of people seeking medical attention after ski accidents that they would normally have brushed off. In many cases, the person was fine but in several instances lives were saved.

I don't ever want to be so famous that the world cares all that much what I say or do. We're all human and make mistakes. We usually grow and learn from them but if our stupidity is out there on youtube no one ever sees the internal change, nor believes them

lora96 said...


I have a big mouth.

Plus, where I live, to get on the local news you'd have to be in a bad traffic accident or describe how the big hailstones sounded when they hit your roof.

I am of the opinion that individuals seeking and achieving a moderate or greater level of fame should consider their actions will garner scrutiny and comport themselves in such a way that someone might be aided rather than offended or injured.

And since sooo many celebrities seek my consultation we all know how that's going. :P