My first celebrity encounter was when I was a little kid (about 7-ish?) and the Happy Days cast was doing a charity softball game not far from where we were living at the time. We were fans of the show and got tickets to see the game. We were sitting near the front of the outfield stands right behind where Potsie was playing. I remember thinking, “Cool! It’s Potsie! And he has a softball glove! And the girls are all screaming at him!” I never thought of him as more than Potsie from Happy Days, though. Nor did I ever care to.
While I was very young during that encounter, I’ve never been one who flips out over celebrities. Oh sure, I appreciate them for whatever talent it is that makes them celebritized, but I really don’t care about them as a person. By that, I mean I don’t want to acknowledge them as real people. I want my TV and movie characters to remain as such in my mind. Simply entertaining characters on some screen. I want my rock stars to make great music. Nothing more. I want comedians to make me laugh. I don’t want to know anything about their real personal lives (unless it contributes to their funny-making, a la Richard Pryor). Not only does it spoil the fantasy of them being somebody they’re not, but it usually taints that fantasy. Because most of these entertainers are assholes. I bring this topic up in light of the most recent Mel Gibson melt down. Holy hell, talk about an asshole!
Mel Gibson was first introduced to me as Mad Max in the classic post-apocalyptic series of movies. The movies were awesome, but my strongest memory is of the weird boomerang kid and the dude who lost his fingers trying to catch it. Gibson is much more memorable to me in the Lethal Weapon series. In these movies, he plays a crazy police guy with nothing to lose who throws the cop manual out the window and uses insane, unorthodox methods to get the job done. The most memorable scene to me is probably the one where he goes up to talk the guy down from a ledge and essentially says “Screw it, let’s jump!” It perfectly encapsulated the character. Braveheart is a movie that many men consider classic. It features Gibson as a Scotsman named Will trying to live a quiet life whose wife and fellow Scots were messed over by the Brits and William Wallace became a leader of men with blue face paint and took on the superior English and then died. It was a great movie and my stomach still turns and my eyes well up when I think of the image of his wife getting her throat slit. Brutal.
Mel Gibson’s characters are ones that I very much enjoy. And now it has all been spoiled by me having to know that he is a despicable human being. All I can think of now when I think of Sergeant Riggs is “Did he hate Danny Glover then?! I mean, he seems to have very few types of people that he does NOT hate, and Danny Glover does not seem to fit into that select category… hmph.”… I just want to watch Riggs and think, “Wow. This crazy sunuvabitch might do anything right now. He has a bullet that he saves for his own brain. He is a bad ass that just doesn’t give a damn.” But no. I have to know that the man who plays him is a Nazi prick, thus ruining the fantasy.
Maybe it’s wrong for me to think this way. I mean, he IS an asshole, right? I shouldn’t watch his movies, right? But I’ve been down this road before. And it has cut deep.
My favorite show growing up was Little House on the Prairie. I lived in the boonies during the mid-late 80’s in upstate New York and we only had one TV station. Whatever it was ran reruns of LHotP (haha!) all summer long and I would watch them with my ma (I have to say ‘ma’ because I’m referencing LHotP (haha!)). Anyway, Charles Ingalls was my hero. He was everything I wanted to be when I grew up. Firm but compassionate. Ruggedly hard-working. Friendly and fair. Usually even-tempered, but capable of
blowing his cool. He was awesome. Charles Ingalls was awesome. As it turns out, the actor who portrayed my favorite role model was apparently a complete douche bag. I was still a teenager when this was revealed to me and it seriously scarred me. I know that sounds ridiculous. I am capable of dissociating a fictional character from a real person. But in this instance, to see this man who was Charles Ingalls to me shown in this light was heart breaking. It was the first foothold cynicism gained in the threshold of my innocent, naïve mind as a youth.
And yes, I blame the media! I can’t stand the entertainment shows that reveal and discuss every aspect of celebrity’s lives. Or the stupid tabloids that show pictures that say “Celebrities are just like us!” and then feature pictures that show such mundane things as someone buying a coffee with the caption “They buy coffee!” I can’t believe I haven’t seen a picture of Brad Pitt on a toilet with the caption “They take shits!” People care about this?!
I’m not saying that it’s not cool to dig a celebrity. I think it’s neat to see one when I go to a concert, sporting venue, or whatever. But I don’t want an autograph. I don’t need a picture. And I definitely don’t want to know what they’re really like. If it’s a character on TV or movies, I don’t even care if I know their real name! Just the other day, my wife was trying to tell me a story about some actress and she recognized the blank look on my face and said, “The girl from the Twilight movies who won an Oscar for Up in the Air.” I knew who she was talking about then. Actually, not only do I not remember her real name, I couldn’t tell you her name in either of those movies. And I have no idea why she won an Oscar. Her performance and that movie were decent, but totally overrated. But she is pretty cute.
There are so many examples of media spoiling my image of an entertainer that I just wanted left alone:
Harrison Ford hitting midlife hard and piercing his ear and leaving his wife for young bean pole Aly Mcbeal.
Pee Wee voyeuristically unzipping in a movie theatre.
George Michael giving it a shot in a public restroom.
Michael Jordan committing adultery and gambling away disturbing sums of money while giving none back to the community.
News about any athlete, really.
Athletes tweeting?! Really?! And their writing looks as stupid as their talking sounds.
Cosmo Kramer heckling black hecklers by joking about lynching?! Seriously?!
This ridiculous, ongoing story about The Terminator being governor of California.
I’m sure there are many other examples. I would have been perfectly content living in a world in which Pee Wee Herman continued talking to his furniture and trying on gigantic underwear without the knowledge that he likes to dirty jerk it in nasty, sticky theatres. Am I alone on this?
Skewing slightly off topic- my wife was watching the stupid bachelor guy’s tiff with the chick he picked the other night, and I walked in about half way through or so and couldn’t help but immediately notice how totally perfect for each other they are. He is a complete jerk, and she is a complete nut. I also couldn’t help but think about how twisted it is that these people are now celebrities. They are two people who went on a ‘reality’ show and basically pretended to be ‘real’ people and then found out who the real ‘real’ person was and discovered they didn’t like it. I thought it was ironically hilarious. Non-celebrities who became celebrities and revealed their assholism to the world. And now that is what they will be famous for.
Anyway, I want to live in a world where I can ‘wanna be Mike’. I want to cherish my make-believe role model, Charles Ingalls. I want to watch Sergeant Riggs do crazy stuff without feeling guilt for enjoying his character. And I want to pretend that I can have side marriages with both Tina Fey and Julie Bowen, and I will not care which of them ‘wore it better’!… that last is only slightly related to this topic, I suppose.
Entertainment Tonight, Entertainment Weekly, E Channel, Us, Stars, etc… please go away!!.. so that I may live my blissfully ignorant fantasy life. Oh, and Mr. Mel Gibson? Go ahead and load that bullet you’ve been saving. Dickhead.