Donna Stephen

Popstar persecution

2005-02-04 13:01
<b>Michael Jackson waves as he departs the Santa Barbara County courthouse after the second day of jury selection in his child molestation trial in Santa Maria, California. (Aaron Lambert, Pool, AP)</b>

Michael Jackson waves as he departs the Santa Barbara County courthouse after the second day of jury selection in his child molestation trial in Santa Maria, California. (Aaron Lambert, Pool, AP)

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There's no doubt that we're a celebrity-crazy world. We love our squeaky clean celebs - but those who start getting their parts tainted catapult us into a watchdog frenzy.

From Charles Manson to Jacko and Snoop Dogg, Hugh Grant (that not-so-Divine incident with a prostitute) and Robert Downey Jr (jailed for drug possession), we all love to love and hate them. What we enjoy even more is when they do something criminal.

Some criminals become celebs, and, more rarely, some celebs become criminals. In the case of OJ Simpson I'm not sure whether his celeb status came before or after the crime.

My inclusion of Michael Jackson, in the middle of a highly publicised child molestation case, and Snoop Dogg, recently accused of rape, with the group above is not an assumption of their guilt. It's an indication that they have entered the realm of the Really Bad - not the Cruise/Kidman/Cruz (or the alleged Brad and Jen adultery) kind of bad.

We idolise people for the flimsiest of reasons and then follow every inch of their downfall.

Bad publicity is still publicity

In the case of the more evergreen celebrities, like Jacko, the higher up we put them, the more we seem to relish the demise of their stardom.

But even bad publicity is publicity - it keeps them in the limelight and the fringe benefits include not only more album sales (an offspin of being in the public eye) but also six figure deals for the rights to "exclusive interviews" and book publishing deals. Infamy is lucrative.

But I digress. My point has a lot more to do with why we're so fascinated by how celebrities are discredited or die out.

The question in the Jacko case is still: IS he guilty? Public opinion seems to have convicted him already - especially since these accusations have come up before.

There's no doubt that he is an easy target because of his peculiar tastes and habits and he never has to live in same world as you and I. But the real world has come knocking on the door of Neverland.

His out-of-court settlement in 1993 for the last child-molestation case isn't a great precedent to have set - it made him look guilty then, which has made it easier for us to think he is guilty now.

But even if this wasn't such an easy decision for the general public to make, wouldn't we still want him to be guilty?

Why do we care?

The other question, more to the point, is why should we care?

I've seen TV coverage of Jacko fans in tears, weeping buckets because of this whole case.

It seems most people would like to believe that someone so talented can't be Bad. I'm sure this isn't about us caring for their welfare or the state of their lives. It's about dealing with our own shattered hopes.

The huge disappointment in the Hugh Grant case some years ago was more about all the women (and men) who had to deal with their idea that he was the kind of boy you could take home to mother being crushed.

In the rape accusation case of Snoop Dogg he says that "(she) has chosen to follow the increasingly common path of misusing the legal system as a means of extracting financial gain from entertainers". Is this what is happening?

I think we're less interested in justice and the question of whether money will protect celebrities from going to jail, and more concerned with just how far down they will fall off their pedestals. This is why these stories sell and we follow them so ardently.

It might say about us that we're bored or our own lives aren't interesting enough - but mostly it says that we love to watch celebrities fall. And the harder the fall, the better we like it.

  • Donna is more interested in why we're interested in Jacko, Brad and Jen than in the controversies themselves.

    Send your comments to Donna

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