Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When Rape Crimes Expire


Oh my Lord Hollywood, what is wrong with you?! Apparently every day American citizens aren't the only ones who want to forgive their favorite celebrities, celebrities are doing it too! And in the worst case scenario possible.

Just a few days ago, Roman Polanski was arrested in Switzerland after being on the run from the American justice system for over 30 years. Why was he evading? Because he was convicted of intoxicating, sedating, and sodomizing a 13 year old girl. Though Polanski served 42 days in a mental institution while awaiting trial, he claims he was led to believe his sentence would be reduced to time served, and he would be released. When he heard that he might actually spend a few years in jail, he fled to France.

It is unknown why US prosecutors have decided to finally track Polanski down and detain him for the 1978 crime. Perhaps someone down at the Los Angeles DA office blew some dust off an old file, perhaps it was because they had a guaranteed location to intercept him, a film festival where he would be honored. Whatever the reason, the sudden vehemence to finally pin a sentence on the convicted rapist elicited demands from all over Hollywood for his immediate release.

Celebrities such as Harrison Ford, Debra Winger, Martin Scorsese, producer Harvey Weinstein, and Woody Allen [insert pedophile joke here] all signed petitions and are leading the march in getting Polanski freed. Weinstein argues that he has contacted "everyone he knows and is not afraid to go to the Governor of California himself to fight for Polanski". Even some tabloids are taking it easy on the old bastard. Senior Editor of In Touch magazine couldn't believe the DA would pursue charges after such a long time, arguing that they had trouble "letting it go" after all these years. Let it go? What the hell? Like it was a fight over the last slice of pizza? And really, what would happen to our country, our criminal system, and justice as a whole if we simply let everyone run away because they thought they were getting an unfair sentence? However, thankfully, the Los Angeles DA has made it very clear that the Hollywood heavyweights hold no influence over their proceedings and intend to close this case once and for all.

While celebrities simply seem to be coming to their friend's defense for no other reason than blind loyalty, some people are arguing for the victim, who has publicly forgiven her rapist and asked that the charges be dropped. Though she claims that she is "over" the incident, in letters and interviews she gave years ago, she seemed to be more adverse to the media attention that the matter will bring to her door rather than a proper sentencing. Granted it's not easy to be in the public eye for such a tragedy, and no one wants to make the victim suffer more than she already has, but why should a rapist be excused from his actions? Why should he be exempt from a horrible crime simply to avoid embarrassment for the victim? What if all victims excused criminals to save themselves the trouble? Someone has to have the courage to face their perpetrators, if only to keep them off the streets for everyone else's sake.

Let us not forget: crimes do not have expiration dates. Nearly three weeks ago, a man was arrested in LA on charges of rape and murder 34 years after the crime was committed. Another man in Arizona was recently arrested for the same crime 32 years later. No one is kicking up dust over these two. Perhaps because they involved murder? Well rape has no expiration date either, and the loss of innocence, security, self-esteem, and overall well-being has no definite end for the victim. No matter how many years have passed, you are still responsible for your crime, you still have to serve your time. No matter what your stupid ass celebrity friends have to say.

Currently, Polanski is detained in Switzerland, awaiting extradition orders, but is attempting to fight the order on the grounds that he is concerned he will "be imprisoned upon return". Yeah...that's kinda what we're going for here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

American Media: Feeding the Fear

If there’s one thing we’ve learned from 9/11, nothing quite sells like fear. The fear that this horrible tragedy generated led us into a fabricated war with Iraq, the sacrifice of our personal rights and freedoms with the Patriot Act, the isolating hatred of an otherwise peaceful religious group, and consumption; buying useless products we didn’t need, we bought our way into a false sense of security.

And how does one spread fear the fastest? Through the media, of course! With lightning quick precision and the invention of the internet and internet-access cell phones, we can receive up to the minute news stories at home, work, and even on the toilet for you potty-texters and chatters. The media has been the best device any politician or corporation with an agenda could possibly ask for.

It’s obvious what agendas corporations push: making money, selling products, achieving some self-serving means. And, nothing sells quite like fear. When the world was on the brink of Y2K, people flew into an all-encompassing panic, rushing to the local stores, buying in gross, preparing for Armageddon. After 9/11, the sales of guns, security systems, even pepper spray increased significantly, and products like biohazard suits, gas masks, gloves and boots were flying off the shelves. Even today, we have been frightened and guilted into consumption for a “greener” world. Horrific images of global warming have been burned into our retinas: melting ice caps, surging oceans, dead polar bears, a future of fire and brimstone. These images have pushed Americans into an entirely new expensive market of hybrid cars, biodegradable products, organic clothing, and efficient (albeit poisonous) lighting.

Never mind the fact that technical companies had the Y2K bug under control, or that we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on security products and anti-terrorism gadgets to defend ourselves against terrorists with simple box cutters. Never mind the fact that, despite popular beliefs, only roughly 50% of scientists believe there’s a link between pollution and global warming (all the planets in the solar system are increasing in temperature, and I didn’t see ET up there with a Hummer). Don’t get me wrong, pollution is a serious matter, but is it fair to sell these outrageously priced products on environmental hysteria? Remember, if there’s something to be scared of, there’s money to be made.

Likewise, political groups have their agendas, and nothing could illustrate this better than the last eight years of Bush’s administration. With Americans still aching, devastated and angry over the 9/11 attacks, we were vulnerable and emotional. Rational thinking had flown out the window and Bush took full advantage. Throughout the day of 9/11, the news media aired repeated showings of middle easterners and Muslims celebrating the attacks on the World Trade Centers: dancing in the streets, throwing candies to children, firing guns in celebration. But it was only one video, of one town. This was not the world-wide reaction Muslims had to our tragedy. Unfortunately we never saw the Muslims who held memorials, lit candles, and cried for the victims of our country. Of course we wouldn’t. When America is about to go to war with religious extremists, we certainly wouldn’t want to see anyone from that religion showing compassion or kindness, or any signs of peace.

Supported by the building hatred toward Muslims, false reports of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq riled Americans enough to fully support a full-scale attack on the harmless country, a country Bush had truly planned to invade before he took office. When support of the war began to wane, scare tactics such as new threats of attack, new weaponry, and a lovely color-coded chart were introduced. Playing the American people like a fiddle, once we started to settle down and feel a bit safer in our homes and country, the color code rose to yellow or orange, though intelligence never supported the claims of risk. An official who worked for the Homeland Security Department recently admitted he was pressured to raise the color code when no risks were being reported. Fear of terrorists equaled support for the war. Focus on the war allowed Bush to work on gaining control of oil and natural gas lines without much notice.

Sensationalism, misinformation, and complete fabrications have overtaken our media sources, from television, newspapers, and computer screens, it’s hard to find a report that hasn’t been exaggerated or made up. The problem with this is the obvious abuse of power and trust the media is exercising. With limited sources of information and most if not all controlled by some force (conservatism, liberalism, corporate America), the American people have no choice in what they’re shown, and most media outlets have little choice in what they show. Under the Bush administration, the freedom of the press gave way to government restrictions on war coverage, with news sources falsely reporting successes and a nationwide ban on images of dead soldiers returning home. Likewise, the American people have placed an immeasurable amount of trust in news outlets, expecting the cold hard truth, nothing more, nothing less. Many blindly take information presented to them as pure fact, and why shouldn’t they? It’s the news, not reality television! Their job is to present information, not provide entertainment! It’s not about ratings…right?

While we would like to think news shows are independently run and just there as a source of information, these shows run on ratings and compete with one another. Studies have shown that the more dramatic stories seem, the more people watch. And let’s be real here, we like drama. We like excitement; we’re more likely to watch a story on a shoot-out than a local church fundraiser. Unfortunately, the more drama we like to see, the more fearful we become. Even though we want to see that shoot-out, we suddenly have the image of lurking evil embedded in our minds. Because we’re too bored to see that church fundraiser story, we’re more likely to forget there are still a lot of good people helping one another in this world.

Why can’t the media act more responsibly toward the public that relies on them so much for truth? Like any other business they are slaves to money, ratings, and the need to survive as a corporation. Since we can’t rely on the news and can’t expect an independent news source with a conscience to surface any time soon, it is our responsibility to receive the news responsibly. It is our job to question: What are they trying to make me afraid of? Why? And who will gain what if I allow myself to be manipulated with fear?

Recognizing that sensationalism and lies are an automatic part of the media and being more objective with the stories they present, we will be able to regain control of our perceptions of this world and our own existence within it. Feelings of fear and insecurity will not completely disappear, but why should we let politicians and corporations decide for us when to be afraid?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Just to Add...

Nothing is bigger in Hollywood scandals right now than Kanye West's behavior at the MTV Video Music Awards when starlet Taylor Swift won her moon man. Kanye, who jumped on the stage at the beginning of Taylor's acceptance speech, declared Beyonce's video the best of the year, thereby not only stealing Taylor's moment but virtually slapping her in the face by stating, in essence, that she did not deserve her first MTV award. Taylor stood by shocked, MTV hurried to move on to the next clip, and Taylor was escorted off the stage to cry on her mother's shoulder while the audience attempted to mend the moment with a standing ovation.

Now in fashion with my previous post of America forgiving too easily, this is not Kanye's first public embarrassment. From

2004: West also stole the spotlight from country singer Gretchen Wilson at the 2004 American Music Awards when she won Best New Artist of the Year by storming out of the auditorium with his entourage during her acceptance speech. He claimed he was robbed and deserved the award, but he later apologized to Wilson.

2006: He crashed the stage at the MTV Europe Music Awards when he lost Best Video to a foreign band. He stole the mic, cursed and declared himself the rightful winner because his video cost one million dollars to make and had Pamela Anderson in it.

2007: At these MTV VMAs he lost five nominations and threw a tantrum backstage, shouting and cursing because the award show wouldn't "give a black man a chance". He vowed never to return to an MTV show...good thing he held to that.

After a massive backlash from the music world and fans alike (Pink attempted a physical confrontation with him the night of the incident before being escorted away by security, and other celebs tweeted with various obscenities toward him), Kanye is feeling the heat to apologize. While some chalk it up to the large bottle of Hennessey he brought to the show and was seen chugging, others know its just Kanye with his usual fashion of martyrdom and superiority complex. He spewed out a quick apology via his blog shortly after, but in a manner of written Tourette's, in the middle of the apology blurted out the declaration of Beyonce's video still being the best. Then he offered up a more emotional apology on Leno, somewhat alluding that his behavior is related to his pain of losing his mother. Loss of mother does not equal being an asshole two years later to a 19-year old girl. Taylor announced on The View this morning that he had not called to personally apologize to her, and magically, shortly after the show, the call came. She claimed his apology was genuine and she accepted it.

Now let's review: Biggest blunder of the year: embarrassed a young aspiring singer and moved her to tears, everyone, EVERYONE in the music industry pissed at him, MTV, the main supporter of his videos, forced him to leave the show, and his nominations, which he all lost, were booed by the crowd as his name was read. Oh yeah, I'd say its time to squeeze out some tears and make an apology. Is he sorry? Of course not. Kanye, who once compared himself to Jesus Christ, cannot handle anyone outdoing him, and apparently, his friends either. He's done this time and time again, and it's a wonder people keep loving him. No more, Kanye, you've made your bed, now lay in it. I have no doubt he will move on and continue to be successful no matter how much of a bastard he is, and this is what makes me sick about America and their unfailing love for their celebrity heroes.

P.S.: Don't think we forgot about you, Serena, and your spotlight stealing tantrums and delayed half-assed apologies...they were so in sync, I wonder if she and Kanye planned this weekend.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

We're Not Ready to Make Nice

OK so granted the fact that Chris Brown battered his girlfriend Rihanna is not exactly breaking news at this point, so why bring it up? Well, besides the fact that its not "new" news, its on-going news with constant new developments. One being his sentencing (Brown received 5 year probation, 1400 hours of community service, and a 50 yard restraining order, which is reduced to 10 yrds if they need to attend the Grammys at the same time). The other being Chris' carefully planned road back to his success. With a new album release just on the horizon, Chris has already issued a public apology (more than 5 months after the incident), has shown his pathetic "I'm so sorry" face in court, and has even posted images of himself in a youthful fantasy room painted up in a comic book decor with a child's skateboard and bike (all that was missing was the training wheels before we puked at this failed attempt to capture his childlike innocence).

Now, our concern is that he might actually succeed in burying this tragic incident and go on to make millions of dollars on this new album and continue living his life as if nothing had happened. Personally, I don't quite feel he's ready for a comeback, I think he needs to spend a little time crawling on his belly before he gets back on his feet, to know and understand true shame. However, I lack faith in the American people, or more specifically, his unfailing fan base, which consists of mainly ignorant teenage girls whose mothers haven't taught them better, countless young men who don't care which woman he hit because he's still rich and they still want to be him, and the numerous celebrities who came to his defense when he bludgeoned his girlfriend in his car.

America yearns to forgive its celebrities. After all, they seem like good people, right? What with all those charities they write checks to, and that one song or film they made that really spoke to you. We forgave Bill Clinton for getting that lecherous trouser-friendly kiss from intern Monica Lewinsky, we apparently forgave Mel Gibson after his infamous "blame the jews" drunken rant (we must've, the man made over $300 million on Apocalypto, which came out shortly thereafter), and we'll forgive this woman beating bastard too. Many forgave him before we knew what happened. Most celebrities pulled out the "he's young" excuse, insinuating that the 19 year old singer didn't know any better. My 5 year old nephew knows better, how old do you have to be to grasp the concept of "no hitting"? Others tried the "he made a mistake" route, rapper T.I. explaining that we're "all human, all make mistakes, so what right do we have to judge?" Granted we are in fact, human, and make mistakes, but when was the last time any of us made the mistake of beating our girlfriends to hell? I'm sure Charles Manson simply "made a mistake" in ordering his followers to slaughter 6 innocent people. He's human too!

Fact: domestic abusers don't simply make sudden mistakes, and you can bet your ass this wasn't the first "mistake" Brown made, it was simply the first time he got caught. Court documents cited an incident a few months prior to the beating where he got into an argument with Rihanna and threw her into a wall. Domestic abusers do not suddenly explode without warning or any signs. They cannot become successful abusers this way. Abusers must build their way up to beat downs, this is how they slowly break their partners down in order to keep and control them in the relationship. They begin with smaller, manipulative psychological blows. Perhaps they're a little controlling, or possessive, maybe they get jealous easily. Slowly they begin to isolate their partners from their friends and family. Then there might be short bursts of anger, and then small physical incidents; perhaps a light push or a grabbing of the arm. The next stage is probably light blows, harder pushes, a slap across the face, and then finally a graduation to straight up beat downs. By then the abused partner has been so worn down mentally they've come to believe they don't deserve anything better and will never get it anyways, so they stay right where they are.

Unfortunately, such was the case for Rihanna. Shortly after the incident, she was reported to be secretly meeting up with Brown again in various locations, one being P. Diddy's house. He claimed he was "doing the couple a favor" by opening his home to them where they can rejoin and possibly reconcile (Brown was photographed jet-skiing at the Miami mansion, above, appropriately flexing his muscles for the paparazzi). Diddy added he was "being a friend" to the pair. What a great friend, reuniting a woman beater and his girl for a hopeful future of more bruises and perhaps broken bones. As their reunification became more public, Rihanna withdrew from the singer, and consequently, after the restraining order was placed, she claimed she "never asked for" the order. Thank God the courts are in place to protect this woman from herself. Such willingness to continue this horrific charade and return to her abuser without hesitation only indicates exactly how long this abuse has gone on and how much time Brown really had to convince her to stay, no matter what.

Chris continues his campaign, claiming he's ready for counseling, prepared to take responsibility by cleaning up trash on the highway, and even enlisting his mother to speak out for him. Mama Brown, who ironically was also a victim of domestic abuse by Chris' father (transgenerational cycles at best?) claimed her son had never shown any signs of violence before, that he was her "little angel". She obviously didn't know about the incident three weeks before the famed dispute when her little angel got into an argument with Rihanna in a rented car, stepped out of the car, and smashed the windows with his fist.

We need to ensure that, for once in America, the bad guys don't finish first. There is no reason for this "child"'s career to continue at this point and time, and what with all those hard labor community service hours, I sincerely doubt he'll have the time to promote or tour for the album anyways. Domestic violence is no joke, and forgiveness doesn't come after a far too late apology and a little graffiti washing. You need to learn, my little friend, and methinks the best way to learn this lesson is to lose everything, if only temporarily. America, don't support domestic violence and don't support the bastards who commit it. When you walk by Brown's new album in the store, keep walking. When you spot his video or an interview on TV, change the channel. No matter the circumstances, no matter the excuses, he beat a woman, and beat her badly.

Besides, he's "so sorry" for what he's done, he spent time reflecting on his mistakes at the local club the night of his sentencing. Yeah, he's remorseful.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Kids Aren't Alright

So little Tallulah Willis is growing up a little too fast, and whose to blame? Why, Perez Hilton of course! Yet again, one (sorry, two) celebrities are lashing out at the gossip glutton, this time for posting photos of Demi Moore's 15 year old daughter wearing too less of something that shows too much, and Demi (along with her partner in crime, Kirstie Alley) are hopping mad.

Little 15 year old Tallulah (yes, she's only 15, as Demi will let no one forget) was photographed at a night club wearing a very revealing top that showed an extreme amount of cleavage, but nothing else. Hilton posted the photo on his site, prompting Demi to throw slanders at him via Twitter, calling him a pedophile and accusing him of violating child pornography laws. Kirstie quickly followed suit threatening to have him "followed" and calling him a child molester.

Now, I really, really can't stand Perez and I am beyond annoyed that Demi has placed me in a position to defend this monstrous media whore, but here we go. Asking all the obvious questions that many seem to be doing lately, #1) Why is 15 year old Tallulah in ANY night club? #2) Where were you, Demi, when your 15 year old was walking out of the house wearing that shirt that showed too much? #3) Why is Demi so quick to blame Hilton for her child's and inevitably her mistakes?

Though this is not a new trend, parents in today's society seem less and less likely to accept blame for their children's mistakes. Perhaps this is the backlash of a time when mothers were blamed for everything (whether or not they were indeed, responsible). However, much like a swinging pendulum, we never quite find the healthy median we need, we simply sway from one extreme to the next, and we are currently in "Its not my fault" mode. Children have seemed to develop from lumps of clay molded by their immediate caregivers to mindless drones influenced purely by outside forces designed to victimize our children and make them do dumb, irresponsible, terrible things.

Case in point: recently a 13 year old boy and a group of friends saw a video on YouTube of a man setting himself on fire for a stunt. Finding this entertaining, the boys decided to mimic it. If you believe the victim's tale, he was an innocent bystander who made a stupid mistake. If you believe your gut, he and his friends concocted a moronic stunt a la Jackass and didn't think it through. All in all, this boy ended up with second and third degree burns. Who was to blame? You bet! YouTube! While the boy's mother chalked it up to lack of parental supervision at a friend's house, some pointed the finger at the popular video hosting site for publishing videos that influential young minds may imitate without comprehending the consequences. I blame idiotic parents who spawn dumb teenagers that can't seem to figure out gasoline and a lighter don't go together. But you can bet, in television interviews and news articles, never was the finger pointed at the victim or his mother. Why would anyone pass up a golden opportunity to blame the media and push for harsher censorship?

Now I'm not going to argue that kids are not influenced by pop culture or the media, but to a certain extent, all it takes is a little parental intervention and a dash of common sense for children to understand that what they see on TV and in movies is not real, and what they see on Jackass and YouTube is not safe. I would love more than anything for real consequences to be shown in these contexts, that children see the broken bones and blood and even death, but since its not bound to happen any time soon, it would be my job to sit down as a parent and explain to my child the reality of these things.

Likewise, when your 15 year old daughter is hanging out at a night club for any reason, it is your job to ensure she is properly dressed. If you don't want her breasts shown off all over the internet, you need to buy her clothes that cover them. If she buys it on her own, you need to be there before she leaves the house to send her skanky ass back upstairs to change, as our mothers have all done to us. If she shows up at the club wearing what she chooses, and gets photographed in it, you need to sit her down and talk to her before you start the mudslinging tweets blaming everyone else for essentially "outing" your slutty daughter. Take responsibility for your own child and your lacking parenting skills. Remember Demi: she put the image out there, someone else just captured it on film.

And I would like to add, I, as many of us do, take pedophile and child pornography claims very seriously, and to extraneously accuse someone of such crimes is horrific, scarring, and downright irresponsible, even if it is Perez Hilton. I hope Demi and Kirstie get their asses sued off for libel.