Thursday, August 6, 2009

guilty for life?

The Article in 7days

"When it comes to celebrities who have committed nasty crimes, why does the world of showbusiness seem to turn a blind eye and still employ them, asks Jane Plunkett
Anyone who goes to see the new comedy by Todd Phillips, ‘The Hangover’, will no doubt leave the cinema with a huge smile on their face - it’s a very funny film. Any woman who has been abused that sees the same film however, may not leave the theatre in such high spirits.
Starring prominently in the film is controversial boxer Mike Tyson, who, apart from biting the ear off fellow boxer Evander Holyfield, is also a convicted rapist.
It’s baffling how someone who has violently destroyed the dignity of another human being, can - because of his celebrity - continue to cash in on his famous name.
Dubai-based businesswoman, Rachel, is one person who can’t fathom this. Rachel was sexually assaulted when she was 17 years old.
“When you’ve been attacked sexually you never lose the fear that what happened could happen again. As much as you move on with your life you never forget how you felt when you were attacked,” says Rachel.
“I can imagine if I saw the man who attacked me continue to receive adoration from fans and land roles in big films I’d be very angry.
It’s almost like rubbing in the fact that they’ve hurt and disrespected you and, as dramatic as it sounds, haunted your life, yet their life hasn’t changed and they continue to be popular when they’re the guilty party.
“Fair enough, you have to forgive people and that person could be haunted by what they’ve done and paid their penance, but it makes you question mankind when fans can continue to idolise a person that’s committed such a heinous crime.”
According to Roghy McCarthy, a psychologist at the Counselling and Development Clinic in Dubai, allowing a convicted rapist to appear in a film gives out the message that if you are a celebrity you can get away with anything - that you’re above the law.
“This is a very bad message for teenagers especially, who idolise certain actors or sports stars. It gives out the message that if you’re famous and you do something wrong - nobody can touch you,” says Roghy.
Reshel Shah, production assistant at D-Seven Motion Pictures in Dubai and co-ordinator of The Scene Club ( feels that everybody, despite fame, should be questioned for their actions.
But she admits that the reality is big businesses, especially in places like Hollywood, only care about making money - not what might be ethically right or wrong.
“When celebrities do wrong they appear in the media even more and this makes their name even more famous,” says Reshel.
“Mike Tyson has been in the papers for 101 things - so for many production companies the fact that he is a household name makes him a viable option for a part in a movie.”
So it’s just a money game? “Remember, it’s show-business at the end of the day - not show art,” she says.
“Of course responsible morals would be great, and I am sure there are some who believe in that - but it’s usually just about bringing in a big audience.”
When asked how he would feel about acting beside a convicted rapist, Dubai-based amateur actor and health psychologist Ron Villejo says it’s a hard call.
“I would want to think long and hard about it. As far as I know Mike Tyson was convicted, spent time in jail and finished his sentence - so he has paid his dues as we say. In that sense I might not have such a strong issue with him being cast.” says Ron.
“If I were a woman however, Mike Tyson is a big guy, very imposing and with a criminal history - I might not be too comfortable around him.”
Having lived in star-struck America for many years Ron notes that people tend to forget crimes very quickly.
“You can commit the most awful crime, pay your dues, and it seems like Americans will be overcome with amnesia and continue to celebrate you as a sports figure or actor, despite the crime,” says Ron. "

While, I understand the sensitivity of the issue from point of someone who might have been abused, what I do not understand is the logic behind this article.
Mike Tyson has served his sentence, which was determined without bias by a US court. The article did not mention any objection to the length of the sentence or the severity of the sentence. So the question regarding whether justice was served does not arise.
The article finds fault with the fact that Mike Tyson after serving his sentence, continues to lead a normal life, with the fact that he is making money as a celebrity, as one of the most popular boxers in recent history. I find that argument faulty. If Jane Plunkett's issue is with the fact that Mike Tyson who as a convicted rapist was able to return to society, then she should have put across her argument against the court judgment.
Much is written about the plight of convicts who are unable to adjust back into society after serving their term. Many people who are convicted of minor crimes are unable to find a job because of their records being black listed by the conviction. We call our jails "correctional institutions" for a reason. If the convicts are not reformed, the issue is with the judiciary system.
Fans have always turned a blind eye towards the antics of their idols. Michael Jackson's death wasn't that long back, was it? Perhaps she has chosen the wrong celebrity to vent upon. Jane Plunkett could have written about someone like Salam Khan who did not spend much jail time even after being convicted, or take another angle to the judiciary system and write about the plight of undertrials in India who spend years in jail without being proven guilty or innocent.