Et tu, Dave Chappelle and George Michael?: Why it hurts more when talented celebrities engage in bad behavior

Celebrity-Bad-BehaviorImage 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?

Comments (42 total) Add your comment
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  • Ceballos

    It absolutely bums me out more when talented celebs get involved in scandals because there’s a sense of an actual skill being wasted.

    Unlike the unholy crop of celebreality stars, the most interesting thing about Dave Chappelle is NOT/shouldn’t be that he freaked out on an airplane. He actually has something to offer other than getting his names in the headlines.

    That makes it all the more sweeter when someone does turn it around (like Robert Downey Jr.)

    • BFD

      It’s about time the judge threw the book at her. If it were you or I, we’d have been in jail long ago.

  • Rebecca

    By posting this article – on a website who often contribute to “…the never-ending barrage of gossip, amplified in the online echo chamber” – aren’t you just as guilty as everyone else?

    • Mo

      Agreed! While I get and agree with the sentiment put forth, it’s kind of like the pot calling the kettle black in this instance.

      • Desiree

        my thought exactly!!

      • Lola

        To be fair though, the people who decide to click on these headlines (myself included) are ultimately at fault for the content. So really it’s us who are hypocritical pots calling the kettle dirty bottom.

  • Madd

    I’m especially disappointed in George Michael because I have an unabashed love for his music (the other day I sang along to One More Try).
    Robert Downey Jr always gives me hope that talented celebs will somehow turn their lives around…but at this point I think Lindsey Lohan is too far gone. From what I’ve read RDJ’s father wasn’t exactly a saint, but he wasn’t Michael or Dina Lohan. Plus, RDJ had his friends and his future wife to push him to get help…does Lindsey Lohan have any friends?

    • so so sad

      nope. she apparently only has greedy sycophants. real friends would tell her that lip injections always look awful and mismatched to the person’s face. lindsey looks like the character goldie hawn played in first wives club. not everyone has (or needs) huge luscious lips. she looks ridiculous and a true friend would tell her so! also, true friends wouldn’t be enablers and join her in places that risk probation violation. (yes, dina, that includes you going to club/restaurant/bars with your daughter AFTER an alcohol ed class! i mean, really? and the industry excuse? celebs have to go to industry functions to keep relevant and make contact with other industry types. LL is so infamous at the moment, she doesn’t need to go to ANY industry events to be “remembered”. She needs to prove that she is a serious talent and insurable. Staying in the limelight at hollywood hot spots isn’t helping her acting career at all. playing a troubled porn star (repetitive much?) isn’t a great career move, linds, no matter what sicko told you it was. trust, you got the gig, cause noone else’s agents would advise them to take it.

  • Boof

    If people stopped worshipping these “celebrities”, they wouldn’t be so disappointed when they prove themselves to be actual human beings with faults.

    • Erica

      There’s “faults” and then there’s putting the lives of others, as well as one’s own, in danger. Sure, the higher they rise, the harder they fall, but when I watch a movie I’d prefer not to have my experience marred by my knowledge of what its star has done.

      • @Eric

        then why are you on this site? you are the only one to blame for your knowing the same crap you claim not to want to know. if you didn’t want to demand to know the gossip you would simply act like an adult with free will and not come here. So your point is nonsense and a typical cop-out. No one not even the idiot celebrities is forcing you to know the bad styuff, you demand the knowledge by coming here.

  • Mandy

    I totally know what you mean!
    When I heard that David Boreanaz had cheated on his wife, all I could think was that I really wish I didn’t know that.

    • Marcia

      When I heard that Boreanaz cheated on his wife, all I could think of was, “How do I get him drunk and back to my place?”

      • Dominic

        Marcia, I like how you think!

  • jen

    I have thought of this recently, when I was watching a Tom Cruise movie. The whole time I was wishing he wasn’t such a wacko in real life. It has changed my preception of him. Why can’t he just shut up and be in movies? The same with Mel Gibson. I want to watch Braveheart and think of William Wallace as this romantic heroic figure, but instead I bring to mind the barrage of insults he spews on everyone around him.

    • so so sad

      blame the 24 hr entertainment media cycle. they need filler for their programming, so they tell us every stupid nitpicky invasive thing about celebs lives. that’s also why the paparazzi are breeding like rabbits. back in the day, celebs images were controlled with interviews and photo ops carefully controlled. you’d find out the dirty secrets years after their celebrity had faded. i think many of us wish it were still like this. but with sites like these and tv channels like E and TMZ etc… i don’t see a return to this form anytime soon if ever.

    • SilentRage

      It’s a good thing that i could care less what goes on in a “celebrity’s” life or what they say/do outside of acting. Thanks to this I still enjoy Kramer on Seinfeld, the TV Show Angel, hell even dog the bounty hunter and that’s one racist pos…maybe if more people stopped judging everyone else they’ve either looked up to or felt were beyond mere mortals like us then we could all enjoy out respective outlets of media.

    • erin

      so true. i’ll never be able to watch Braveheart with any type of innocence or pure movie-loving magic again.

      • amanda

        I know what you mean. Now, when I watch it, I am actually going to enjoy watching him get disemboweled!

    • musica1

      Yeah, I thought Knight and Day looked pretty good, but I just couldn’t bring myself to pay to see a Tom Cruise movie. I just kept thinking about how much I dislike him as a person and decided to save my money for Inception.

  • daisyj

    To me, what’s discouraging here is not so much that they are drawing attention for these things, it’s that these are the only things they are drawing attention for. Everyone you mention here has done good stuff in the past, but for whatever reason they are all in the middle of long dry spells, either by choice, by luck or by the damage they have done to themselves. If Dave Chapelle was still making brilliant TV, his acting up on a plane would just be a footnote, not the only thing anyone had heard about him in the last year.

  • Stacie

    I think I agree. I just don’t have any clue how to fix it. This type of thing can happen in any field: politics, business, other arts like theater or literature. I guess you just have to pick and choose who you will not worry about.

  • jd

    times and technology changed what it meant to be a celebrity. i always use this example. tiger woods was blasted for cheating on his wife.
    in the 50’s and 60s, mickey mantle was a notorious alcoholic. yet he is revered and celebrated. if he played today. his dui’s wouldnt be ignored and would be covered by espn, tmz, aol, etc.

  • sparkle the gym bag

    in just the last 60 years we have gone from most of the world (including Americans) not knowing our President (FDR)had a severe physical impairment to knowing what type of drawers the Prez wears (Clinton-boxers)..yuck…need a comfy middle

  • sparkle the gym bag

    opps 65 years FDR checked out April 45

  • Stephanie T.

    George Michael thought that he had “Faith” in his car but then he ran it into a store. Look some performers do crazy things because perhaps they are crazy or are just seeking press even it is bad press. We should not glorify their actions but it gives tabloid journalists something to report.

  • Finch

    I don’t care about any celebrity scandals. Neither should anyone else. Worry about your own lives, people!

  • Jenna

    Lohan would benefit from a stint in jail. It would force her to sober up long enough to realize that laws DO apply to her. I hope the judge hits her with no less than 30 days; 90 would be even better (and no ‘time off for good behavior’ either).

  • Jennifer

    Along with Robert Downey Jr., Drew Barrymore is an example of being able to turn it around. It gives me hope for the others.

    And lets not forget in the past there were celebrities doing things all the time that would have gotten them in the 24/7 internet press if they’d been in their prime in today’s world.

    Todays celebrities have the misfortune of the times they live in. The only celebrities that DO benefit in the “we’ll report on everything” atmosphere are the ones only known for their scandals, not actual talent. The talented ones get dragged down too.

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