The celebrity problem

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 27, 2006

How many more celebrities falling from grace will it take before America’s perverse worship of them wanes?

Michael Richards’ Klan-worthy tirade against black audience members at a West Hollywood comedy club last weekend marked just the latest dissembling of a star shown to be utterly unlike the character that made him famous.

Braveheart Mel Gibson’s anti-Semitic outburst during his DUI arrest came this summer. Top Gun Tom Cruise’s shrill attack against women using drugs for postpartum depression and people everywhere seeking treatment from psychiatrists came the summer before.

Email newsletter signup

The less said about O.J., the better.

For those who place celebrities on pedestals, who mistake what they do with who they are, their excesses and offenses can shock and horrify.

Certainly they’d be disappointed less if they’d come to measure heroes by their courageous acts, sacrifices and nobility of purpose rather than by their achievements in frequently fictitious fields.

But, unfortunately, for many, the appetite for more of the same lingers. And those who stand to make a buck off it are only too eager to feed it. The day after Mr. Richards’ performance, he appeared back on stage. The very same stage.

If only a starry-eyed public would fete celebrities less. Millions last week were buying up tabloid accounts of Cruise’s third wedding.

When Gibson’s film about Mayan culture opens this winter, how many will rush to see it?