Deccan Chronicle| Uttara Bhattacharya
Many iconic showbiz personalities enjoying extended time under the spotlight have been shown to have feet of clay.
Being in the limelight is a desire that nobody can switch out of, at least not subconsciously. Everyone wants to be a part of the world that promises all the glitz and the glam, the roaring fans, the unapologetic paparazzi and the almost blinding camera flashes. This is a world very different from a teenager sitting in his room with poster clad walls of his favourite hero - his idol. He is definitely not a part of the madness but he sure is crazy about the celebrity he looks up to with great admiration and would even go to the lengths of inking his idol’s name on a body part.
Well, why not, because the person he looks up to is not just a celebrity or a star. He/she is the character that they play on screen or on stage, an underdog in most cases and thus an inspiration. But is everything about a star ‘God like’? Does their ability to be impeccable with their craft make them perfect in real life too? The recent times have exposed the almost embarrassingly dark side of a lot of these celebrities.
The #MeToo movement last year is an example of how ugly their real faces can be. Biggies like Harvey Weinstein, Brett Cavanuagh, Sylvester Stalone, Morgan Freeman, R. Kelly, Christiano Ronaldo, M.J. Akbar, Nana Patekar, Chetan Bhagat, Kailash Kher, to name only a few, have been accused of alleged sexual harassment by hundreds of women who came out in the open shedding all fears and inhibitions and unleashing a war against these celeb predators.
R. Kelly, the R&B star who has been trailed for decades by allegations that he violated underage girls and women and held some as virtual slaves, was charged recently with aggravated sexual abuse involving four victims, including at least three between the ages of 13 and 17 after episodes of a six-part lifetime documentary named ‘Surviving R. Kelly’ detailing sexual abuse allegations against the American singer aired over three nights, from January 3 to January 5, 2019.
Over the past two decades, he has been sued for reported sexual contact with minors, was accused of making a sex tape with a minor (he was eventually acquitted), and, according to a Buzzfeed report which alleged he’d created a "cult" where women were reportedly "held against their will." (Kelly has denied all accusations.) Activists, joined recently by groups like Time’s Up, launched #MuteRKelly back in summer 2017, a campaign to call attention to the allegations against Kelly.
In May 1971, Playboy magazine published an interview with American actor-filmmaker John Wayne which snowballed in to a firestorm of controversy over his homophobic and racial slurs. Wayne expressed his support for the Vietnam War and made staunch comments for his resolute opinions about social issues and race relations in the United States.
"I believe in white supremacy," he said, and spoke negatively about African Americans, saying, "We can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I don’t believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people."
Of slavery, he said that he didn’t feel any guilt about the U.S. history. "I don’t feel guilty about the fact that five or 10 generations ago these people were slaves," he was quoted saying in the interview.
Matt Williams, a Tennessee based screenwriter and a Twitter user posted excerpts from the interview that went viral and people debated all over the world and the social media platform was flooded with angry messages in no time. "I think a lot of people recognise that those are views that are still pretty common today, even if people aren’t as blatant about it, and he’s kind of held up as this ultimate American hero," Matt was quoted saying to an U.S daily.
The controversial actor has been widely celebrated and has an airport named after him in Orange County, complete with a nine-foot statue that people are now demanding to be renamed.
Back at home, Malayalam actor Dileep of the Ramaleela fame is one of the 12 accused in the Kerala actress abduction case. The Pulsar Suni- Dileep-Malayalam actress case seems to be straight out of a Kollywood thriller where the actress is allegedly molested in a moving car, but this time sadly it is a real life incident that has left fans in a state of shock and disbelief.
Pulsar Suni attempted to abduct the Malayalam actress. The seven member gang led by Sunil Kumar also called Pulsar Suni to intercept the actress’s car while she was travelling on the national highway 544, near Nedumbassery. The accused allegedly followed the actress in a Tempo Traveller and hit the car which further led to an altercation with her driver.
Pulsar Suni is said to have forced the driver to take him and the actress in an unknown direction and while doing so molested the actress and clicked objectionable pictures and videos of her. Once they approached an area called Palarivattom, Pulsar Suni got off the car and fled from the scene in the Tempo Traveller that was following them. The actress then reached the house of a film director, who helped her file a police complaint.
City activist, Sudha Ramalingam is of the opinion that while all celebrities don’t exhibit criminal behaviour, it is also true that their fame and status helps them get away with a lot of their misdeeds resulting in the delay of justice. "If a celebrity commits an offence the presumption generally in the minds of people is that it may not be true. Being well connected and wealthy, celebrities are able to abuse their contacts and hire best of defense lawyers. This helps them escape from prosecution and even if prosecuted from punishment. But all celebrities don’t have criminal tendencies. Each issue has to be handled separately. But if there is unbiased and diligent inquiry / investigation and prosecution no criminal can escape. Sitting ministers, cinema actors, corporate giants etc. have been convicted. Faith in the criminal justice system ought not to be eroded for peaceful coexistence," she stated.
Psychiatrist Dr. Vivian Kapil echoes the above saying that celebs do have the leverage to hide their wrong doings so as to maintain the celebrity image. "Celebrities and crime behaviour aren’t associated with each other. But people who indulge in crimes often tend to exhibit traits like emotional callousness, lack empathy, being egocentric, hardly regret their misdeeds genuinely, tend to have low frustration tolerance with inflated self esteem, engage in thrill seeking behaviours like reckless driving, drug misuse, gambling. And when people with such traits become a celebrity it offers them a better cloak wherein they can gather the means to conceal their misdeeds so to as to preserve their image from being tarnished," he says.
Malayalam actress, Divya a.ka. Kaniha feels that proper moral values when imbibed at an early age pave the way for a good character human being in any profession. "There are a lot of criminals out there in the world pursuing various other professions. But because the celebrities are under the spotlight, and have huge fan following, things are out in the open to be debated and discussed. The celebrities that are accused have indeed misused their freedom that comes with the fame. They have an existing base of audience for them who treat them as God and this might have gotten them carried away at some point of time or the other because of lack of guidance and lack of moral values. So independent of one’s profession, one’s moral values need to be inculcated starting from their childhood no matter what profession they grow up to pursue," she explains.
It can, however, be disappointing that so many idols have been shown to have feet of clay, as we saw in John Wayne, a hero in the eyes of many of the older generations for being an upstanding hero in films invariably portraying the triumph of good over evil. But even his radical views expressed nearly 40 years ago seem forgivable when given the sexual misdemeanours of many, including Bill Cosby, and an endless number of icons who have fallen in our estimation.