June 02, 2013
This week it’s all about
INT. THE DOGHOUSE.
Yes, we know it well. And some better than others. I”m familiar with the place. And so are”let’s see”Lance Armstrong, O. J. Simpson, Lindsay Lohan…to name a few ne”er-do-wells. What is it, I”m wondering, what is it about people who habitually end up in the doghouse? What’s the qualifying character trait?
In Lance’s case, his crime was to win, again and again and again. In O. J.’s case it was providing millions of voyeurs with the best live car chase on TV ever. In Lohan’s case it was to be young and beautiful and to keep going despite vicious claws swiping you from all sides. Such antiheroes are the heroes of the doghouse. O. J. makes me hesitate. His was close to a perfect crime, and it was a perfect defense, but my feeling is that O. J. will remain in the doghouse for the rest of his life. Only he knows.
While looking at beaches for my trip to Brazil in July, my eye was caught by a paparazzi image of Lindsay Lohan sitting under a table, allegedly in a nightclub in SÃ£o Paulo. Now that’s style. When she travels she brings the doghouse with her! LiLo’s defensive ploy is a classy canine move. If I was her I”d do the same; having no choice but to keep dancing while the music’s playing, to borrow the phrase of Citibank’s ex-CEO Chuck Prince. It’s not like moving to Montana is an option for Lohan. The woman’s an actress. She needs a full-time driver and better management. She needs protecting, not punishing.
You see, she’s one of us: She’s a top dog in her brittle way. And when I say dog, I mean the noblest of creatures. Man’s best friend. When the heat gets too much, LiLo gets under the table. And that’s what real dogs, in real life, do. Look closer the next time you see a spaniel at a dinner party. They know where to be. Under the table is a great way to be at the party while avoiding the riffraff. Let’s all get under the tables.
While we”re on the subject, I”m taking this opportunity to let Lance Armstrong out of the doghouse once and for all. God knows it’s time. No more apologies. “Live a day like a lion or a lifetime like a mouse,” goes the saying. Don”t let the haters berate you.
To hell with them. To hell with all the shame those in the doghouse must endure. In the end, the only way out is to embrace your shame. Shame can even lead to fame. Just don”t humiliate yourself, that’s all I ask. Lance overdid the mea culpa and, while I admire Oprah’s charisma, I outright reject two of her shows: the James Frey and Lance A. interviews. She rinsed those guys! What were they thinking, complying so easily? Who advised them? When did Oprah receive the divine right to judge?
If they”d called me beforehand I would have sorted out their PR. It’s what we do. The doghouse is full. The incarceration business is booming. Private prison companies are planning IPOs. Demand for escape is correspondingly strong.
Escape is an indispensable skill set for each of us who gets trapped by the snares of everyday life. It should be taught in school. Don”t forget Papillon. Escape is more than an occasional necessity, it’s an art form when performed with skill. There comes a day each of us will need the skills required to flee the doghouse.
Michel Foucault said this of the juridical system in Discipline and Punish: “A system of rights that is egalitarian in principle is supported by…all those systems of micro-power that are essentially non-egalitarian and asymmetrical that we call the disciplines.” These “disciplines” being the keepers of the dog pound.
And the “micro-powers” being today’s Oprah. The powers are routinely punishing us on daytime TV and this disturbs me. This isn”t Iran! There’s no room to put a foot wrong. The safest seat is indeed under the table.
We all carry shame. It’s part of the human condition. It takes coercion to exhibit it in public. It’s grotesque. His was the most uncomfortable interview I ever had the misfortune to see. I writhed in discomfort as I watched the athlete beg the American public for absolution. And Oprah drilled him to bits. It was a scene from the guillotine, only with lucrative commercial breaks providing some relief between the bouts of vicious verbal head-chopping.
Lance was bullied into his apology by those disciplines Foucault warned us of. It concerns me because, while Oprah is a great American institution, saying sorry for succeeding is an inherently un-American gesture. Tony Blair semi-apologized for invading Afghanistan. Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bush did not. It’s not the American way.
Why, then, apologize for winning? Consider how Charlie Sheen handled his most recent comeback. He appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN a couple of months back. Now if you”re seeking a master class in reputation management, take a look at Sheen. He’s the chairman of our board! He’s one of the few to get out of the doghouse with his pride and principles intact. He understood he doesn”t owe the public an apology or a retraction of his opinions. His position on the “AA Nazis,” for example, hadn”t changed. “I don”t miss them…I”m no part of a team whose success rate is 4%,” he jibed. Micro-powers cannot cow Charlie. That’s why we love him: He’s a free spirit.
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