Well, the Kobe Bryant hearings have begun, and the media, when not gratuitously flashing pictures of ultra-sexy Vanessa Bryant and her carpal-crushing apology gift, are busy disclosing to the public all of the visceral details of Kobe’s affair.
Predictably, the moral critics have followed, citing Bryant’s responsibilities as a worldwide role model and his subsequent failure at this charge.
This allegation, I submit to you, is not entirely true. After all, one would think that to unfaithful basketball players around the world, Kobe is the ultimate role model.
You see, the difficulty in discussing role models is that we lack a model role. Indeed, to those possessed of conventional morals, Kobe’s acts may be appalling. To others, though, they represent the ultimate in infidelogical achievement. Take, for example, the Cheaters Opposing the Condemnation of Cuckolding Kobe – C.O.C.C.K. – a fictional not-for-profit organization founded in Cheyenne, Wyo. to support Kobe during his trial. Kobe, it would seem, is not the only adulterer in our fine country.
Perhaps cheating isn’t your vice of choice. Whatever it may be, then, rest assured that you have plenty of pop-culture company.
The Portland Trailblazers, who have been known to occasionally play some basketball whenever five team members are simultaneously paroled, are oft criticized for their irresponsibility and criminal engagements. And yet, there’s an entire culture of marijuana-using ballers who not only share Portland’s knack for un-evading police, but would also leap at an opportunity to play for the team. There are so many, in fact, that Portland’s management is thinking about officially dropping the “Trail” prefix from the team’s moniker.
Likewise, Shawn Kemp may have 67 illegitimate children, but dammit, he’s an icon to all those family-oriented fathers out there who just can’t be bothered with a wife. Hugh Grant has earned the esteem of pay-by-the-hour backseat lovers worldwide, while just about every rock band has helped to perpetuate the phrase “party like a rock star,” which has little to do with backstage games of Risk.
Even a U.S. President has joined in the act. By inadvertently demoting Elian Gonzalez to second place on the list of the ’90s most controversial, misplaced Cubans, Clinton immediately endeared himself to cigar aficionados everywhere. Sure he cheated, and yeah, I guess he lied, but if a Rhode Island chapter of the Cigar Connoisseur’s Confederacy were to actually exist, I assure you they’d cite Clinton’s discerning taste and creativity in their petition for his canonization.
Surprisingly, though, there remains a sizable lynch mob of citizens who are seemingly blind to the duality of role modeling. These naysayers maintain that while a celebrity is in the spotlight, they have an unwritten responsibility to the rest of us to uphold a life of irrefutable virtue.
To this idea, I immediately query – who the hell gave them that responsibility? Where was, say, society, when that election was held? It would seem to me that most of these magazine mainstays that we’ve elevated to celebrity status are there because they possess a particular passion or talent, not out of some benevolent desire to show children how to live properly. Whether or not they want to remain upstanding or immerse themselves into the lifestyle that their successes and exposure afford is their choice.
Now, I’m not out to defend Kobe here. After all, lacking both a slammin’ young wife unto whom to cheat, as well as any semblance of a mega-pro basketball lifestyle – though proudly boasting an immaculate pair of ’89 Reebok Pumps, thank you eBay – it’s hard for me to empathize with Kobe’s plight. Rather, my goal here is to offend – for is there any truly nobler cause? – those in our society who get their balls in a blender whenever a celebrity transgresses, yet reinstate their faith just in time for the next big-name infraction.
When it comes right down to it, celebrities are no different than any other person – except that they’re really wealthy and surrounded by lots and lots of hot people. Thus, while such behavior shouldn’t be condoned, it should come as no surprise when one of our stars indulges in his lifestyle.
Hell, I consider myself a fairly upstanding young fellow – a role model, I’ve been told, to a great number of my pre-school-age readers – and yet, I can tell you that if I were put in a McDonald’s ball pit with Shakira, Britney and a tanker of pheromonal aphrodisiacs, the result would be – aside from embarrassingly brief, I fear – not something of which Mom would approve.
The difference would be, however, that my encounter – ignoring the fact that it happened with Shakira and Britney, which it did – would be of no interest to the media, whereas it’s more of a challenge for celebrities to elude the camera. One would hope that they would realize this heightened exposure and act accordingly, but ultimately, they can’t be faulted for engaging in the same vices as are everyone else.
Meanwhile, maybe those quibblers who remain discontented with their supposed role models should re-evaluate the criteria by which they select the people they deem role models, perhaps seeking individuals who remain under the radar of the front page. For example, maybe the ninth page is a good place to start. If I must, I, as prestigious campus satirist and aspiring rock star extraordinaire, will accept the responsibility of redefining the model for the ideal role, finally giving the kids – and it’s all about the kids, isn’t it? – someone they can look up to.
Until I get famous and wealthy, at least.
Janowitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.