Saturday, May 05, 2007

Baldwin vs. Hasselhoff

I was surprised by own reactions to two intimate, though definitely not positive, celebrity father-daughter moments exposed to the world.

The first one was actor Alec Baldwin’s vicemail, err, I mean voicemail. The worst parts of the voicemail to his 11-year-old daughter included “You are a rude, thoughtless, little pig, OK?” at the end of a long tirade about how he feels stood up by her for not making a telephone appointment.

The second incident was actor/singer David Hasselhoff, caught on tape by his own 16-year-old daughter Taylor-Ann, lounging shirtless in a hotel room, drunk to the point where he can barely pick up a hamburger. Taylor-Ann’s imploring questions to him “Are you gonna stop [drinking]?” are heartbreaking, and so is Hasselhoff’s response: “'Cause I’m lonely.”

Watching the “news” about Baldwin left me disgusted with the way NBC milked this non-story. When it was aired on the Today show, Matt Lauer said “This is so disturbing on so many levels.” I wanted to know, where? As far as I can tell, Baldwin was trying to parent his daughter. He was audibly upset and angry, but he was reasonable in the literal sense of the word: In his message, he explained his reason for being upset at her, how she made him feel, what he would have expected of her. We may disagree with the method of parenting, but this voicemail is a far stretch from abusive or destructive. Any snip of argument between family members would have seemed contorted if aired like this.

So when NBC steps into a parenting situation, a private moment, milked the story for its celebrity value, made it look like news with two experts chiming in (TMZ’s managing editor and NBC’s chief legal correspondant), and then itself became a conduit for a nasty divorce, and possibly, a pawn for one of the sparring ex-spouses, I think it has definitely lost some credibility points as a respected news organization.

Now…having vented about NBC, it’ll be difficult to explain why I felt that The Insider and other television magazines were right about airing Hasselhoff’s drunk moments. But I’ll try.

Hasselhoff really was at a low when he let himself be filmed like that. Contrary to Baldwin’s inadvertent public display of disaffection, however, Hasselhoff was no longer in control of his own actions while in the presence of his underage daughter. Hasselhoff was not parenting, more than that, he was setting a horrible example as a supposed role model. What if he hadn’t just been intoxicated from alcohol, but from weed or worse? Although I felt sorry for him, I didn’t feel that this scene was exploited or dramatized – the human drama spoke for itself.

So why would this drunken scene merit public airing when Baldwin’s rant did not? Well, besides the fact that one was about real misfortune (alcoholic dad) and the other was not (angry dad), what the viewer takes away from Hasselhoff’s video is the tragic implications of alcohol on a child, who has been forced to become the reasonable voice to beg her parent to stop drinking. Fame has to do with it to the extent that alcohol and drugs feature prominently in certain lifestyles. In cases like Hasselhoff’s, it may take some extreme action, like the one committed by his daughter, to sober up the person.

As for Baldwin’s voicemail, what I took away from it was that parents should be extremely cautions when “handling” their children, using only gloves and cotton candy, even when they are out of line.

Maybe this discussion is not so much about journalism as it is about parenting. Unless of course, the media influences the way we parent, as NBC did when it chastised Baldwin for yelling at his daughter.


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