Et tu, Dave Chappelle and George Michael?: Why it hurts more when talented celebrities engage in bad behavior
Image Credit: Paul Kane/Getty Images; Lee Roth/RothStock/PR Photos; David McNew/Getty ImagesWe can’t even get through a nice, hot holiday weekend without hearing about some widely reported celebrity shenanigans: This July 4, it seemed that if Dave Chappelle wasn’t allegedly forcing a private jet to make an emergency landing by engaging in “erratic behavior” deemed a “safety risk” (that is, according to TMZ), George Michael was once again being accused of crashing his car into things. That’s not to mention the seemingly daily, ongoing courtroom saga of Lindsay Lohan — interminable thanks mostly to her inability to show up for scheduled meetings.
But, for me, Chappelle and Michael are different. The hijinks that come courtesy of someone like Lohan or reality stars of the Heidi/Spencer/Jake/Vienna ilk have become the unfortunate wallpaper of our information-infested lives — they are the fuel on which Twitter thrives. And that’s because those particular people offer their lives up, to a large extent, for our consumption and amusement — their personal lives are the reason they’re famous, essentially, and making themselves available for our harsh mass judgment is bullet-point No. 1 in their job descriptions. It’s a particularly sad state of affairs for Lohan, who started out trying to be an actress, and a good one; but her Mean Girls cred has long since worn out while she documents many of her own foibles on Twitter for the world to see.
But Dave Chappelle and George Michael are another story, at least for me. Neither of their alleged actions shocked me particularly. Anyone as brilliant as Chappelle could conceivably be prone to sometimes acting a little off-the-wall, especially under duress. And this is hardly a new pattern for Michael, who went through a similar incident in June 2007. But as these kinds of random “scandals” seem to pop up ever more frequently — I blame an insatiable celeb gossip machine powered by the blogosphere — they seem to assault us even when we’re not seeking out salacious news (thanks, Facebook feed and Yahoo News, among many others). And that’s exactly the problem: I don’t want to know about Chappelle’s or Michael’s bad day; I want to enjoy my fond memories of Chappelle’s Show and pine for the days of Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1. I want to believe in the possibility that Chappelle will someday bring his brilliance back to television; I want to believe in the idea of great music still to come from Michael. (Where is Vol. 2, George? I’ve been waiting breathlessly since college. College, George.) In this way, the never-ending barrage of gossip, amplified in the online echo chamber, slowly kills our good memories of good pop cultural artifacts — and erodes our faith in our stars. Not that they should get a free pass on life just because they’re famous — I simply miss the days when I didn’t have to hear about their missteps if I didn’t want to.
How about you, PopWatchers? Do celeb scandals make you more sad when they involve stars whose work you’ve admired?