Mug Shots and Pot Shots

3 Nov

It's funny because he's destroying his life! Get it?

When Charlie Sheen went on a bender and trapped a hooker in a hotel bathroom (possibly during a harmless Chilean Miner role play), everyone was quick to judge.  People in the media and in private jeered and made jokes.  Same for whenever perennial party girl Lindsay Lohan ends up in the new.  We all pile on the fallen star like linebackers on a fumbled football.  Why do we do it?  Well, I know why.  It’s fun and entertaining and gives people something to talk about and makes us feel better about our own shortcomings.  Okay.  Good points, straw man I created to argue with.  Well played.

But let me posit this hypothetical situation.  What if you heard that someone you went to high school had that same kind of coke and booze breakdown.  Broke furniture.  Etc.  If it’s someone that you’re aware of, do you still make the same jokes?  Are they as funny?  Maybe.  And maybe.  But what if that person was kind of a dickhead?  Then the answers become Yes!  and Way More Funny!  So clearly, the factor determining how funny someone’s drug-fueled collapse is hinges on whether or not you think that person is a douchebag.  The more douchebaggery that you are aware of, the funnier the fall from grace is.  The other mitigating factor, of course, is whether that person survives the implosion.  Brittany Murphy got a pass on mockery because she had the misfortune to die, which is sad.  But if she had gone into rehab, it would have been “game on!”

So why do we assume that famous people are automatically douchebags?  Is it because Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, and their ilk don’t really contribute anything to society other than Two and a Half Men (Sheen’s sitcom and Lohan’s upcoming sex tape)?  Possibly.  Is it because they have longstanding track records of being not super great people?  That’s definitely a factor.  Is it spite?  I contend that it is.

But here’s the thing, guys.  Spite and fame are both human constructs.  They don’t exist in nature.  At least not to the extent that they do for people.  Like, there are famous animals.  But only to people.  Other pandas are not aware of the renown of the pandas in captivity who are not breeding.  That’s crazy.  Humans care more about pandas than pandas care about pandas.  Sure, there is a queen bee in every hive, but if that bee went on a nectar bender and crashed drunkenly into the honeycomb, the other bees wouldn’t be all up on Twitter (or whatever social networking tool they use, probably Google Buzz) cracking wise about it.

We made these celebrities.  And when they crack under the pressure of constant scrutiny, we curse them and laugh at their flaws.  It’s like setting an alarm clock and being mad when it goes off.  Really, we aren’t mad at the clock.  We’re upset at what the alarm exposes in ourselves: We have jobs we aren’t excited to go to.  We stayed out too late the night before and are embarrassed and upset by the consequences.  It’s the same thing when we tear down actors and singers and whatever Paris Hilton is for their shortcomings.  (Paris Hilton, by the way, is only one letter grade hotter than Ellen Barkin in her prime. What’s the big deal about her?)

Not bad.

Not much better.

Certainly, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle comes into play.  That principle states that you can’t know the exact location of a subatomic particle AND its velocity.  But applied here, it means that you can’t really know how Lindsay Lohan’s life would have played out were it not for the media scrutiny.  But we can probably surmise that even if she developed a similar drug problem, it would be of less national interest.  Also, I don’t really have any understanding of subatomic physics.  That reference was sort of a Hail Mary.  I also don’t understand Christianity, but I do get football.

In conclusion, let’s show a little humanity towards the monsters we have created.  Drug addiction is a serious, horrible affliction for anyone.  Even vapid fame-mongers.  Let’s stop trotting out the same derisive one-liners every time Charles Barkley gets a DUI.  Instead, let’s wait until something truly funny happens and pounce on that.  I’m hoping that Stephen Hawking goes on a meth binge and runs over a drifter in his wheelchair.  But that’s just me.  I’m spiteful because he understands science.




One Response to “Mug Shots and Pot Shots”

  1. suz November 8, 2010 at 3:59 pm #

    just wanted to offer some insights from the world of nonhuman cognition, and let you know that fame and spite may not be human constructs. there’s research showing that other primates treat their leaders in ways that seem a lot like how humans drool over People magazine. and some of my colleagues are currently investigating monkey spite, so stay tuned…

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