Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Recovering our humanity

The Way Way Off-Topic Blog

Yesterday morning my wife said she was on the verge of tears when Craig Ferguson of "The Late Late Show" on CBS Monday night explained why he wouldn't be making jokes about Britney Spears' weekend. According to AP, an unsteady Spears "grabbed an electrical shaver at a Los Angeles salon and shaved her head bald Friday night," as paparazzi shot photos through the window.

Ferguson explained (watch the video here) that he was "starting to feel uncomfortable about making fun of these people. And for me, comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it. It should be about always attacking the powerful people - attacking the politicians, and the Trumps, and the blowhards -- going after them. We shouldn't be attacking the vulnerable," like Spears or Anna Nicole Smith, who recently died at 39, leaving behind an infant daughter.

"And here is why, here is exactly why," he added. "This weekend she was checking in, out of rehab, shaving head, getting tattoos. This Sunday I was 15 years sober. And I looked at her weekend -- and I looked at my weekend -- and I thought I’d rather have my weekend.

"What she is going through reminds me of, this is an anniversary so you start to think about, where I was when I was doing that 15 years ago.It reminds me of when I was living like that. Now I’m not saying Britney is alcoholic, I don’t know what she is -- alcoholic or not -- but she clearly needs help."

Thank you, Craig Ferguson, for reminding us -- no, for showing us -- how much of our humanity we've lost.

It's been a long, slow slide, and it has slipped away like our youth, unnoticed.

To this day I remember an afternoon television talk show in black and white (at least at our house). Judy Garland -- Dorothy -- was hosting, and clearly a wreck, lolling this way and that, slurring her words. It wasn't funny. It was upsetting. She died not long after of a drug overdose at forty-seven.

I remember the game show "Queen for a Day," where host Jack Bailey would award a washing machine to the woman with the most sympathetic hard luck story, as measured by the "applause-o-meter." Back in the day, that was innocent fun.

Today we enjoy watching people make fools of themselves during "American Idol" auditions, or eating revolting morsels on "Fear Factor", or making public spectacles of their families on "Trading Spouses". And there’s tabloid TV and the supermarket tabloids if we want to keep up with Britney’s breakdowns.

My journalism instructor once said reading about Hollywood stars’ hardships wasn’t without merit. It was cathartic. It allowed people to put their own troubles in perspective. And while it wasn’t great writing, at least they were reading. That opinion too seems to come from a very different time.

Catastrophes such as 9/11 still tear at our hearts, reminding us in the suffering of people like ourselves how fragile our lives are and of our shared humanity. But the less like us we perceive THEY are -- ethnically, geographically, theologically, economically -– the easier it has become in this century to mock THEM as fools and losers, or to fear THEM as enemies. To hate THEM. To kill THEM.

And to forget THEY are people.

Thanks again, Craig.

1 comment:

Dan B (no, not Bennett, think harder) said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. They have ever changing and always ultra rare audio files, great photo's, lively discussions, and the most eclectic bunch of Judy fans you will ever come across. The only thing missing is you.
You should check it out.
http://movies.groups.yahoo.com/group/thejudygarlandexperience/