- wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain
- a person or thing intended to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities.
We are in the middle of awards season, or as I like to call it - The Time of Year When Critics Show Just How Unconnected They Are to the Rest of the World. At least one time during all of the award shows, one female celebrity will have the misfortune (or fortune, depending on your level of cynicism) of wearing a dress that appears to be perfectly normal until it gets hit by the bright lights of the red carpet or stage. When those lights slam into that dress, it will become transparent - revealing everything underneath. It happens every year.
This is what just happened to Alex Rodriguez. And Michael Phelps. And Christian Bale. When the bright lights hit them, they took away all the glamorous and attractive and heroic outer coating and showed us exactly what was underneath. And in each case, we are left to look at those guys a little different.
Rodriguez was the Chosen One. He put up unbelievable numbers at a very young age. He actually had a legitimate chance to break every offensive record in Major League Baseball. There had rarely been such a combination of power, speed, defense, and marketability. He was voted one of People's 50 Most Beautiful. He signed the richest contract in baseball history. 10 Years, $252 Million. And he labored in smaller markets and generated an enormous amount of goodwill. He was seen as a good guy with so much potential.
Then he went to New York. And the bright lights shined harsh and fast. We began to see the warts that were under the facade. He was a lousy clutch performer. He was a diva with thin skin - affected by criticism. He was a poor teammate. He was greedy. He had a thing for 50 year old pop superstars. He got ridiculed for everything, because every time you turned around he was doing something else stupid. And then we found out that he cheated. From 2001-2003 he was using steroids. Ignore the fact that this information NEVER should have been made public and that it violated so many agreements. The fact is that he is a cheater. He had used drugs to prove he was worth those ridiculous contracts. And now we are supposed to believe he's clean?!? He has done nothing by lie and spin since he went to the Yankees. Why believe him now? He will always be a fraud.
Phelps was the Chosen One. He was going to restore hope in the Olympics. His incredible performances in China riveted the world to the television. Eight gold medals! World records! Photo finishes! 10,000 calories a day! Son of a cop with an adorable mom who followed him everywhere - and that he respected and loved. My kids know who he is and still talk about his races. Sponsors swooped around him. What a great kid, a real American hero.
Then he had nothing to aim for. And the bright lights of being a celebrity shined harsh. And they never shut off - even for an instant. They watch every girl you date. They see you everywhere you go. Even when that means lighting up a bong at a college party. Who knows why he did it. Apparently he didn't learn from his DUI after Athens. He likes to party, likes to have a good time during his non-practice time. But everyone is watching now. People wanted to defend him - saying so many people do it. It is still illegal. And it is still stupid. And it is still reckless. Who knows if it was intentional or not - Michael hoping to get some harsher edges. Trying to buck the golden boy image. If so, it worked. He's not a golden boy any more. He is a fraud.
Bale was the Chosen One. He was the finest actor of his era. He brought a legitimacy and power to every role he filled. Dragon hunter. Magician. Weird skinny guy. Psychotic killer. Superhero. He was the perfect combination - women loved him, men loved him. And he was filling out the suit on one of the biggest franchises in the world. In addition, he was trying to relaunch the Terminator franchise. And he was cast opposite of Johnny Depp in another sure summer hit. He was Hollywood's superhero.
Then it all became too much. And the lights shined bright and harsh. And someone left a camera rolling too long. And now, we all are able to see that Bale has a wee bit of an anger problem. It started to surface last summer, when he was arrested for verbal assault of his mom and sister. We wanted to write it off - who hasn't gotten in a fight with family? But now, there he is ripping into a highly respected cinematographer. Going off his rocker. And he gets defended again - he's passionate, intense. All good actors are like that. Maybe it was even intentional - drumming up far more press for his movie than a 30 second Super Bowl ad. But the fact is that now he's no longer seen as a superhero to Hollywood. He's a risk, a loose cannon, a bad tempered malcontent. He's a fraud.
My favorite part of all of this is when people can't accept that a fraud has been revealed. They try to make excuses and cover for the person. They say the laws should be changed. They blame the cameraman for taking the pictures or the movie company for not destroying the tape. They point their fingers at the others who are doing it wrong. It is kind of pathetic. Sure, it is hard to accept it when someone you admire lets you down. I never liked A-Rod, but I liked Phelps and Bale. But there are lots of people who associate those guys with their images. A-Rod is a MVP. Phelps is a Golden Boy Medalist. Bale is Batman. The fact is, those are all roles. Those are things that they do. But it isn't who they are. They are normal people who make mistakes. Their mistakes are just much, much more pronounced. I think it is hard for average people to accept it when guys like this mess up. "They have everything. Why would they risk it? Why would they do something to lose what they have going for them? I would never do that." But in reality, maybe we realize that we actually would. Maybe we realize that in their shoes we would do the same thing. We want to believe that someone else is above that - because we know we aren't. Maybe we know that deep down inside, in our worlds and in our own ways, we are all frauds.