Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Some days it just doesn’t pay to be rich & famous

[This has nothing to do with S. Africa; scroll down for that topic]

John. Faith. They had it all. Then they tried to fly just a little closer to the sun…attempting what only an elite few can do well: comedy. Not as easy as Leno and Letterman make it look on TV, is it, folks?

Trouble is, most people are apparently not taught to analyze the evidence before they come to conclusions (I do it by nature and thanks to reading lots of C.S. Lewis, but I’m not claiming perfection in this or any virtue). News and entertainment tend to come to us preconceived, previewed, and predigested. Hence the penchant for the masses to misconstrue raw or partial information...apparently the approach of the general public is “shoot first, ask questions later”...if they ask at all. And thanks to the media & the Internet, molehills become asteroids. It makes me worry how we maintain any traces of a democratic government (or do we?). John & Faith have found this out the hard way, though they should already have known.

Unlike many in both cases, I believe these two were simply trying to be funny...but I also believe there was enough revealed in their attempts at humor that were as offensive as what their accusers claimed.

First John Kerry tried to tell a joke and left out a small but crucial detail that not only ruined the joke but sounded like an insult to our troops. Unless it’s been removed by now, you can see it on YouTube (try not to let the title affect your judgment: ”Kerry Belittles U.S. Troops”
…and if you have, say, a few years of nothing else to do, you can read the 11,000 comments the video generated just on this site alone.

Thanks to a fellow blogger :

According to a “Kerry aide,” he was supposed to say this:
“I can’t overstress the importance of a great education. Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq.”

That’s a clear reference to Bush, who Kerry implies is dumb. But it came out like this:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Kerry's response to the uproar of angry protest was that it was a “botched joke” and that he was insulting the President, not the troops. I accept that explanation (though insulting the guy who beat you is pretty cheap). We’ve all been there, right—you’re telling a funny one, you get to the punch line and get that sickening feeling when you realize that, instead of laughter, you’ll soon be getting looks from your listeners that first say “I don’t get it” then “You’re a dork, but nice try.” Kerry doesn’t think the troops are stupid...he protested that the Republicans were taking advantage of both his mistake and the public’s eagerness to be manipulated by oversimplifications. No argument from me on that. In America we call it politics, and unfortunately it seems to work, as all parties have found.

Trouble is, he also seems to think the fact that we’re in Iraq is directly related to Bush’s intelligence and/or past academic prowess. But no President ever has been a one-man show, and the "leader of the free world" cannot afford not to rely on advisers. So while I admit I cringe a little at things like "nuke-ya-ler" and I do sense we'd all be in better shape if Bush were more analytical, I believe academics are only part--maybe a very small part--of the necessary leadership qualities for President, which include the ability to make an emotional connection with the public and with his staff. So Kerry’s joke-as-intended is kind of an arrogant use of oversimplification, too--"If only he were an intellectual like me...." Right. And who was Kerry's audience? Not hard to get an “amen” when you’re preaching to the choir. But it is kinda hard to make another person look dumb when you mess up a fairly simple jab. Reminds me of the guy in Interpersonal Communication class back at UTK who, in an "honesty exercise" involving notes to every other class member, called me a "dweed." I was more puzzled and amused than insulted ("is this a frat thing?").

As for the CMA (Country Music Assn.) awards on Monday, when they announced the winner of an award she was up for, she behaved on camera in a way that someone might if they a) were upset at who won, namely Carrie Underwood or b) were trying to pretend they were upset, as a joke. Message boards like the one at came alive with a debate over which was correct, and of course YouTube had its part until the video was pulled--it’s on now.
She finally put out a statement that she was just joking around and everyone should get real.

"The idea that I would act disrespectful towards a fellow musician is unimaginable to me," Hill said. "For this to become a focus of attention, given the talent gathered, is utterly ridiculous. Carrie is a talented and deserving female vocalist of the year."

Gary Borman, Hill's longtime manager, added that the singer's reaction was meant as a joke.

"I've worked with Faith for many years now, and the idea that she would ever insult or undermine another artist, let alone another human being's success, is absolutely preposterous," Borman said. "Those who know her know that she's incapable of such actions. She was being playful while the nominations were being read and playful after."

My "humble and correct opinion": she was joking, but that in itself was disrespectful.

Let’s look at the evidence she was joking. First, there’s not much chance she didn’t realize when she was on camera; there are red lights, there are monitors, there are floor directors, there is a certain way the cameraman relaxes when he’s been told he’s done, etc. She’s no novice to this.

Second, they were anouncing the nominees, she looked around as if to say “where’s that voice coming from? Tee-hee.” The attempt at humor begins.

Then, when Carrie Underwood’s name was called, she did what a shocked and horrified person might do…but out of order, and very quickly. In reality, a person told something shocking would 1. drop their smile 2. widen their eyes 3. say something like “what?!” and THEN 4. throw up their arms in angry/helpless resignation and storm off. She did the arm thing first; have you ever seen anyone do that? You don’t give up and then register shock (Faith, pay attention; this could help you in your next movie). I’ve seen the notorious video a few times; I don’t agree that her acting was all that convincing. But I get the joke. It’s just what everyone secretly wants to see at an awards show, right? Like car wrecks at NASCAR.

Finally...why would Faith Hill even care at this point about one more CMA? She makes a bazillion dollars a year as a pop star, has a pop star/cowboy as a husband, has beautiful kids and at least one huge home, makes women cry and applaud every 2 minutes on “Oprah’ (“Oh, she makes her own toast—my hero!”).... Is it possible she’s realized by now that awards are kind of pointless compared to what matters? Is it possible she has had enough experience being treated like a product/goddess that she’s realized stardom is kind of silly? Hey, making fun of it works for Bono.

However, what she did WAS kind of rude was that, even if she didn’t take it seriously, she knew there were people there who did, especially Carrie Underwood, for good reasons or bad. Does she go to weddings and offer bets on how long the marriage will last (out loud)? Also, her statement that she can't imagine that she could disrespect another artist (even by accident?), and then failing to see why other people COULD imagine it, is the very definition of arrogance, which by nature makes us blind to our potential faults. In her profession this seems to be an occupational hazard and a job requirement at the same time. It's the natural result of being unduly worshipped by millions and living the elevated lifestyle she does...and you have to have a high tolerance for adulation to get there in the first place. As with most celebrities, the amazing thing is that she's still, according to people who know her, generally a nice person. In fact, I'm sure in many way she really is still just a “Mississippi Girl”, and I don’t doubt she’s a fine woman...but really, does she think she’s the same person she was 15 or 20 years ago? Not likely, and no reason she should be. But it's hard not to believe your own p.r.

So, Faith, John...nice try, each of you, but let’s leave the comedy to the professionals (Lord knows most of ‘em need the work). Or at least rehearse the jokes a little more. I'll be glad to offer my consulting a price you'll find very affordable.

1 comment:

Mary Anna said...

"For this to become a focus of attention, given the talent gathered, is utterly ridiculous."

Who's her publicist anyway? Obviously, Faith wanted some attention, otherwise she would have smiled and clapped like the other nominees. What did she expect?

Maybe she was kidding around. But did she really expect us all to believe her?

I still maintain and believe that it wasn't a joke. I think it was a gut reaction, and now she's doing damage control. It's not the first time we've seen celebrities freak out on camera, and then come to their senses and realize how deep they've dug their hole.