Friday, September 10, 2010

The Wond'rous Fall of Dirk Goodteeth

There are few things as mystifying as the joy that children take from building with blocks and then knocking them down. They clap joyfully as their hard work crumbles loudly down around them. Then they get building again and do it all over. The clops and clacks of plummeting pinewood and gleeful chuckles in concert are, well, kind of scary, if you think about it.

We like to build and we like to destroy, instinctually. We can agree on that. What is unsettling is that we seem to like to do this with people as we mature. So it goes from pine to flesh -- but not just any flesh. Movie screen flesh. Athletic field flesh. Reality TV flesh.  (Fortunately, most of us are slightly less sadistic than to do this to people we actually know.  We are not as savage as the warrior with the ax, all covered in gore -- we are the far more civilized sniper deftly picking off his target from a thousand yards out.)  Stars. Celebrities. We build them up. We put them up on a flatboard Olympus by purchasing the tickets, snacks and merchandise that pay their astronomical salaries and then we watch those celebrities try to "fill 'er up" with adulation and material baubles, which of course just doesn't work. Then we sit back, rip open the chips and enjoy a good tragic fall.

So far, so good. Leading man, Dirk Goodteeth, gets caught testing the shocks of his Land Rover with a highly-skilled girl named Snowy in central park. (Nice!) The Vicar of the Church of Happy Angels lifts his mitre and child pornography tumbles out around the feet of his flock. (Even better!) The beloved host of "Family Rocks!" turns up on video, in bed with seventeen naked women (that his wife doesn't even know) at a motel in Akron. (Sublime!) The media is abuzz with chattering energy . . .

Then, things settle. The crickets chirp.

Now what? You Tube hits drop. The last news magazine report has been aired. No one cares any more. So we do what we must: We let our fallen heroes say they are sorry and we restore them to their former glory.

"But the guy is a sex addict, Myrtle -- try to understand . . ."

"He has taken responsibility for his actions . . . that's noble . . ."

"She admitted she lied under oath. That took courage . . ."

I’m not saying we shouldn’t forgive. Philosophically speaking, forgiveness is good stuff. (A whole handful of guys in robes and sandals have said so for millenia, if you need verification.)  I’m just a little afraid of why we do it so easily. Could it be that if we take a moral stand and tell our icons we won't support them anymore that we face the risk of eventually running out of block towers to push over?

CRASH. Hee-hee-hee . . .


  1. You could very well be right on target Chris, however, I believe that the humorous truths you speak of are only one dimension of the visual you paint with such flourish. I myself am an unapologetic optimist : ) Maybe a child’s glee in knocking down those blocks comes from the fundamental comprehension when they realize that “Hey, I’m out of blocks… if I demolish the tower I have the opportunity to create it all over again… and again… and again.” Not so sure??? Ever notice how many times you can hide behind your hand and say peek-a-boo to a baby with the same wondrous startled belly-laughing results? Who knows? Perhaps it’s a little of both.

    As for the tragic falls of the famous (or should I say infamous : ) Maybe we are so ready to forgive because we see a little too much of ourselves in the “sins” of others (“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”… uhm, hmmm I think I might have heard that somewhere before : )

    Then again what’s the first thing everyone says when 11:00 PM rolls around and mostly happy stories fill your television screen? Yup, you’ve got it… “Slow news day”… so what do I know???

    Congratulations. Great blog I can’t wait to read (& of course comment some more : )


  2. Patty -- People like you are the reason the world can tolerate people like me! A very cool optimistic take . . . thanks! And thanks for the kind words . . .

  3. Isn't all the hypocrisy you mentioned just a bit of a caricature, though?

    I mean, who decided Mr.Goodteeth is any more culpable than anyone else? Nevermind culpability, even- What the hell else does one do with all that time on Olympus? Can we really blame him, or anyone, who is given that much access to so much excess? At least Snowy isn't his half-sister or daughter, or something. That's one-up on the old Olympian gossip-fodder.

    Anyhow, I really think you're giving the general public way too much credit, imagining they put that much thought into forgiveness. Further, celebrity is manufactured. It's a funny thing, the way the public craves its stars and can be sold them, and yet, how much power does the consumer have over the media machinery that generates them? The chosen ones are arbitrary.

    The point, I think, is that, whether it be gods, kings, stars, or blocks, we just want to see something elevated highly enough that the collapse will provide a sufficiently distracting spectacle. The process of forgiveness, redemption, or reconstruction be damned.

    I do apologize for such an entirely disagreeable comment. But, really. This is the internet.

    And I was totally looking forward to the post using the kids-toppling-blocks thing in some more interesting, universal way. Celebrities? Meh.

  4. Think of this possibility:

    Underneath it all, don't we all like to see it when celebrities fail? Their seemingly charmed lives (which I think is bogus) take a hit and we laugh a little like the kid in the Simpsons. Perhaps we forgive so easily in guilt of our secret jealousies.

    I choose not to forgive so easily. And I want to start a movement against the adoration of celebrities. I like it to the entire world being in high school, wishing they were the popular kids. It's misguided and not fulfilling in the least. I repeat as Pete did: "Meh!"

    I also think the problem is that we need to separate admiring their work from admiring them personally. How can we truthfully admire anyone as a human being when we've never known them personally? Think about how you get to know the character of a new lover. It takes time and much consideration of their actions more than what they say to you or what people say about the person.

  5. I meant "liken" it to the entire world... ;) Sorry. It's 2:02 AM.

  6. Oh, and Pete -- the toppling of blocks can definitely be applied to a myriad of social issues, which I would love to hear about from anyone so inclined.

  7. Pete and "spotcolors" -- excellent points, all. Pete --as to giving the public credit, my point was that is is all instinctual, though I see how it can be seen as a conscious decision by my astute readers. In short: my bad.

  8. My issue with "forgiveness" in the public conscious is that it's often driven by the media moreso than the community's opinions.

    I don't have an issue with people choosing to forgive celebrities; I have an issue with our for-profit industry making that decision for us.

    It's much more profitable for golf to present the image of a remorseful Tiger Woods than it is for them to let us make up our own minds about it.

    I think the problem boils down to the balance between media objectivity and journalistic responsibility, as it does with almost every facet of our society. Where do the op-ed commentators play in this? Eh.

  9. Or could it be that we're afraid if we take a moral stand, no on else will follow - people will just turn their stones toward our glass houses and then that painful fall will become painfully intimate. It's much better to build and break with the rest of the crowd than risk one's own safety net in the name of something selling as cheap as integrity nowadays.

  10. Well said, Kara. Sometimes I think we are so hell-bent on being forgiving that we actually end up cruel.