Judge Not, Lest Ye Be...
Ha ha. Just kidding. What kind of blog would this be if I weren't judging everyone who caught my attention for a split second? This means you, Emily!!!!
But, like everyone else, I've been thinking about Balloon Boy.
In case you had not heard, the Sheriff of Larimer County, Colorado has deduced that the entire balloon chasing production on Thursday wasn't just a hoax, but one intended to land the family involved a television contract. And apparently scrambling the air force, shutting down the Denver airport, involving a massive portion of the police force and untold numbers of public servants isn't exactly legal. Thus, the Sheriff is throwing the book at the Heene family.
Marshall had a post on this, responding to an article on gawker.
My own brother had this to say.
Mostly, I'm admiring the entire scenario as a perfect encapsulation of how I believe a portion of the populace has viewed the post-Survivor/ Richard Hatch era of pointless celebrity. And, as countless other navel-gazers have concluded in regards to the sort of Z-level fame and meritless notoriety sought by the those such as Heene: this isn't actual celebrity.
There's no word for what this is, but if eskimos have a few dozenw ords for snow, for the number of fame-seeking jack-asses there are in the world, we need a word that better describes the Z-Level fame via reality show. You know... the kind of famous that earns you a life being known as "Juice-a-Licious" from your run on "Flava of Love" or assuming people will know or care who you are because you were a jackass on Survivor six years ago.
There's no real name for that kind of fame. Please send in your ideas.
What's so beautiful about the Balloon Boy story is how jumbo-sized hubris, ineptitude and counting on a six year old to keep a story straight spun out into a yarn that, if you made it up, people wouldn't buy it... And now, when and if the tale is folded into someone's TV movie of the week or Oscar winning picture, what with charges filed, nobody actually needs to pay Heene for his side of the story. And Papa Heene may well wind up in jail (and will most certainly go broke on legal costs).
Sounds like a Coen Bros. project to me.
The Gawker article blames "us", which I don't buy. If we hear a kid is pilotlessly drifting across the Colorado sky in a runaway balloon, we're going to tune in every once in a while to see if that kid is okay. The dimensions of our displays don't matter. Yes, "we" watched a balloon floating across the landscape (well, I didn't. I saw the headline and then walked into a two hour training presentation, and by the time I was done, it was all over). That's like blaming "us" for Baby Jessica falling down a well back in the 80's.
Yes, it was something exploited by Heene, but there is more than voyeurism in this, or guilt the media should feel for breaking a live story. "We" don't need to feel shame for clicking on a hyperlink to understand a headline in bright yellow at the top of CNN.com. I understand that because Heene fooled us, Gawker is trying to turn that into a "we should have known better" story of personal shame, but... I'm not buying it this time. There are a lot of things "we" should have known better than that nobody has bothered to shame anybody about.
Reality TV isn't what created someone like Heene, but it did make the myopic pursuit of fame-by-any-means-necessary seem like it may have a greater likelihood of success, once you realized you may lack any actual talent. And, it cut out the middle-man of asking people to love a character, and let them get right to the business of loving you directly. Had Heene's grasp not over-extended his reach, no doubt he would be cutting a deal with somebody right now to feature his wacky family and their exploits. Unfortunately, in believing he and his brood were smarter than, apparently, literally everyone in Colorado and/ or America, he screwed up. (Not to mention appearing twice before on TV, pitching shows about his family to basic cable networks, and leaving a trail of videos seemingly demonstrating exactly what sort of jackass he was molding his children into).
If any of the Heene kids wanted a chance at not ending up in the fail column, maybe humiliation and a little jail time for their old man on a national scale will give them a moment of pause before they decide they, too, can outsmart laws of physics and a background check.
Heene's actions weren't harmless (all the resources that had to be brought forth to deal with the situation), and had he succeeded, if he was willing to exploit his kids in this situation, what would have been next? If the book is thrown at him, so be it. And if it gives the next idiot inflating a balloon and actually sticking his kid into the balloon a moment of pause, all the better.
I think Jason posited that people were mad at the Heene's because they had become invested in the gripping story of danger that turned out to be false, but I'd suggest that was only part of the story. That may be true, but its also possible there is a population out there who doesn't buy the E! channels narrative, or that of the Insider, Entertainment Tonight, etc... and who have grown quite tired of the cult of celebrity and the past decade's insistence that we know about people like Richard Hatch, Kardashians, the awful New York woman of VH1, any Real Housewife in any city, Jon & Kate and a thousand just like them. And seeing someone cut down before they had an opportunity to pop up on our Yahoo News page, in our headlines on CNN.com, etc... that they somehow managed to take care of themselves sits okay with many of us.
Sorry your dad is going to jail, Balloon Boy. God bless you for doing what kids do so often and telling some part of the truth. Lord knows CNN barely bothers with it anymore. Heck, Wolf Blitzer was so baffled he didn't even have a line of questioning he could follow immediately when the cat was out of the bag and wandering around the table.