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?"
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