Crossing the line
Q: Not so long ago, Alec Baldwin called his teen daughter names in a horrifying phone call heard around the world. Now he's co-hosting the Oscars ceremony. Was the decision to spotlight Baldwin a wise one? And after a public figure embarrasses himself or herself so profoundly, how do they regain their footing? Who has managed to overcome such shame, and who has failed to?
The decision to spotlight Baldwin was not unwise. Pairing him with Steve Martin worked very well. They were smooth and entertaining.
Yes, Baldwin embarrassed himself and the phone call that was heard "around the world" was definitely shocking. Was that incident bad enough to blackball Baldwin from hosting the Oscars or any other show-business venue? No.
This was not an ongoing public disgrace where Baldwin's actions indicated longstanding abuse or a case where he lied to the public and pretended to be something he wasn't (like a certain golfer we all know). Rather, this was a drunk father taking out his frustrations on his teenage daughter over the phone. Some folks might relate to that. Others may find it unacceptable but can understand the circumstances.
Upon further scrutiny, there were all sorts of underlying allegations that often happen in a divorced situation. After the hoopla, we all went about our business and forgot about it -- just as we did after Tom Cruise jumped on Oprah's sofa.
As a public, we overlook and forgive such shenanigans. What we have a harder time forgiving is an outright lie or transgression that crosses the moral line, such as Woody Allen marrying the young woman to whom he was a father figure for so many years, Chris Brown physically abusing Rhianna, or O.J. Simpson killing his wife. Those situations feel icky and we don't want those people paraded in front of us.
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