We’re all guilty of it at one time or another. Our favorite actor, sports star or politician finds himself or herself in a bad place. Perhaps it’s an affair that stuns, domestic abuse that horrifies or – worst of all – murder to another human being. We, the fans, are burdened with the task of either choosing to condemn this celebrity with the media bandwagon or defend them.
Don’t underestimate the power of pop culture. We may have never met some of these folks in our lifetimes, and yet we can’t help but feel attached to them. We’ve spent a great deal of our time binge-watching their performances on Netflix, seeing them play on the field on the weekends or talking about their political agendas over dinner discussions.
Regardless of how heinous the accusation is, we slowly find the words slipping out of our mouths, “Well, we don’t know the full story. For all we know, the accuser could be lying. He’s so nice on TV; I just can’t imagine him doing that.” There’s also the tried-and-true excuse of “the media’s always been out to get him!” Somehow, we attempt to lessen the crime of our star.
And then, a video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice surfaces, and it makes us reconsider our often-misguided defenses. Because it’s so easy to excuse disdainful behavior of any kind when it’s undocumented. Pundits can yell about molestation, beatings and bigoted slurs all they want, but if there’s no video footage or audio recording of an occurrence, it becomes one screaming person’s words against another.
That’s exactly what happened with Rice prior to this morning. Despite the loud outrage over the NFL’s lenient punishment for his horrid punch to his fiancée, I still heard a number of Ravens fans in my life and online attempting to defend Rice and downing the media’s handling of the case as an exaggeration.
But that was before this morning. When TMZ debuted footage of the attack, the naysayers quickly shut their mouths, and a few hours later, the Ravens terminated Rice’s contracted to little argument.
What’s the lesson here for not just media pundits, but for all of us? Despite the intense connection we may feel with a personality, be they associated with our entertainment, sports or political lives, we should take accusations of illegal and immoral behavior seriously and not be so quick to defend them.
Remember when Whoopi Goldberg attempted to defend Roman Polanski on The View for allegations of a violent rape the director was involved in years ago? Or what about when Diane Keaton ran to fellow star Woody Allen’s aid following talk of molestation? A considerate question to these celebrities: did they ever stop to visualize the details of these crimes in their minds? Perhaps had they viewed the actions through the lens of footage similar to what we had on Ray Rice, they wouldn’t have made the same statements.
This doesn’t just go for the folks of Hollywood or D.C., though. It goes for all of us. I’ll admit I’m guilty of occasionally sticking up for a media personality I enjoy who’s had a claim brought against him or her. And it’s not to say that support may not ultimately be justified if the claim is proven to be false.
However, the next time I hear serious charges brought against a popular figure I know, I’m not going to be so quick to open my mouth and speak up in their defense. Let’s let this brief, terrifying video that emerged today be an example of what could be happening behind all the television punditry. Cases absent of footage or audio proof shouldn’t be taken as anything less serious. The video of the shamed Baltimore Ravens star is a reminder of how brutal the hidden side of fame can be.