It seems as though the quickest way to get noticed by the public these days is to behave badly. Such behavior oftentimes leads to YouTube and television exposure including one’s own TV show or folk hero status. Recent examples abound including Steven Slater, the flight attendant with Jet Blue who argued with a passenger, got tired of the abuse, and then proceeded to slide down the emergency escape chute with a beer in hand. At first Slater was seen as a modern day folk hero because many of us can relate to dealing with insulting people. There was even some talk of who might play Slater if a movie were made of the incident. (It seems that Philip Seymour Hoffman is the early choice.) But what message does this send to young people? Are people like Slater the real role models we want for our kids?
We all bore witness to the White House party crashing antics of Tareq and Michaele Salahi last November. This came on the heels of crashing the Congressional Black Caucuses Foundation Awards dinner at which President Obama spoke. What happened to the Salahi”s? They wound up starring in the new reality TV show on Bravo, The Real Housewives of D.C.
Notwithstanding its recent legal problems, perhaps the most glaring example of how acting badly pays off big time is the video franchise Girls Gone Wild that dates back to 1998. One video star was 22 year-old Ashley Dupré. You may remember that she is the prostitute who became involved with former N.Y. Governor Eliot Spitzer and that forced him to resign in 2008. Spitzer has been rewarded for his bad behavior by signing a deal with CNN to host a round table discussion program.
It doesn’t stop there. More and more we see video clips of teenagers attacking one another and there seems to be a marked increase in girls getting involved in the mayhem. I suppose such actions were the motivation for the Oxygen network developing a television program called Bad Girls Club that is in its fifth season.
I could give more examples. Lindsay Lohan, Britany Spears, and Paris Hilton have all been arrested for DUI yet they continue to be front and center in the public eye. Terrell Owens, who recently signed with his fifth NFL football team, has engaged in controversial comments and acts that seem to have paid off for him now that he has his own television show on VH1.
The big question is why does society reward bad behavior? Does each of us secretly wish we could do the same thing and have such public exposure? Of course, it’s hard these days to do the right thing and wind up with your own television show. The public doesn’t want to see it and network executives give the public what they want. Or, is it the other way around? People who act responsibly and accept the consequences of their actions typically are not the kind of people who seek out notoriety for their good acts. They do it because of an inner voice or conscience that tells them it is the right way to behave.
Lily Tomlin said it best in her 1986 Tony Award winning performance as Best Actress in a Drama for The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe: “No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up.” I guess not much has changed in the last 24 years. Oh, and by the way, when did the word “sucks” became part of our daily lexicon?