on celebrity, entitlement and being grateful
For the past couple days of the news cycle we’ve been bystanders in the saga of actor Alec Baldwin and American Airlines. Y’all heard the story I’m sure…he’s on a plane that’s stuck at the gate, the door is shut so all phones and electronics are supposed to be turned off and, like some of the other passengers, he ignores the flight attendant and keeps his on so he can check messages and play Words With Friends. Finally, when pressed harder to power off, he gets up, goes to the bathroom and slams the door in anger. The pilot comes out and throws him off the flight.
Instead of a minute or two segment on TMZ or Entertainment Tonight, this story has gotten a bit bigger primarily because Baldwin wrote a blog (here) where he explains and defends his actions and chooses to compare the flight attendant to his “50’s gym teacher”. Yeah yeah yeah…9/11 and all that security jazz…but the man flies American religiously, they have always treated him well in the Admiral’s Club, and how could this attendant treat him as if he was traveling on a Greyhound bus instead of first class?
I love 30 Rock, always enjoy Baldwin’s character and comedy, and outside of that I didn’t know anything else about the man. Today I know a bit more and he comes off to me as a smug and spoiled celebrity. A man who clearly has been successful and is paid a significant amount of money and of course he’s in the one percent…you know, those wealthy folks we keep hearing about from the other ninety-nine who aren’t. So is there a thread here between the actions of Alec Baldwin and a political movement? Probably not or maybe so, but still…
Being smug, spoiled and expecting better treatment than others is not exclusive to class and wealth. It can be ugly in a biker bar when another guy grabs your girl, or ugly in a first class hotel when an actor or musician smashes the room up just for fun and because they can afford to pay the damages. But what the latter example shows, and I think Alec Baldwin’s actions and words from the past few days as well, is the inability of feeling grateful for what they got that most of us don’t or won’t. It doesn’t matter if they came from money or crawled their way to the top. They feel entitled to better treatment. And there’s the rub.
If you got this far and wonder where the music is, it goes like this: I spend a lot of time talking to and writing about musicians who have chosen a path that is not so financially rewarding, but it allows them to create and share their talent. Some aspire to achieve more, some are content to just be able to play or write songs. Most are in the roots music genre, meaning a relatively small audience and commensurate compensation. Which means that most musicians and those in the arts are in that ninety-nine percent “wage earner” bracket. That gal who stands in front of a couple hundred people in Amsterdam and sings her heart out in July to loud applause and critical acclaim? She’ll likely be cleaning someone’s toilet to make enough money to pay her rent when she’s back home in August. It’s a tough and hard life, and it’s often done with much care, much grace.
We live in an upside down world where a Kardashian can spend millions and millions and millions of dollars for a walk down the aisle and a night of great food and drink, while thousands and thousands and thousands of families are going hungry, losing jobs and homes, and living in cars or shelters. It’s this dichotomy, this type of separation between the haves and have-nots that are driving people to the streets in protest. And to be clear, I really don’t have a problem with someone who makes a lot of money. But if you do, you can at the very least turn off your cell phone when asked by a flight attendant who is just doing their job, and be grateful that you don’t have to clean other people’s toilets in order to make ends meet.