It's a rock-solid fact of life that fame and fortune can do strange things to people - primarily because the first perk that surfaces is the freedom to make heinous personal choices. The worst thing about this phenomenon is that these famous jerks are the role models that young people admire and seek to emulate.
Last week, the Los Angeles Lakers re-signed their star guard Kobe Bryant to a seven-year, $136 million contract, the maximum allowed by the NBA. Bryant is going on trial soon for rape, but that doesn't stop the Lakers from rewarding him with a massive new contract. Didn't they wonder if they might be paying millions to a convict? Is there a clause voiding the contract if he's sent to the slammer? Doesn't anyone find this a bit...odd? His Lakers jersey is still one of the hottest merchandise items in the NBA - evidence, I guess, that people aren't bothered after all.
At least that news has some novelty in it. Now comes pop tart Britney Spears, who is at it again, embarrassing the institution of marriage for the second time this year. First, she tried the two-day Las Vegas wedding publicity stunt, which ingloriously backfired on her. Now she's on the cover of People magazine nuzzling with Kevin Federline, a dancer. She's declared she's now really, really ready for marriage and eventually a brood of four or five kids.
That might sound nice. But now look deeper, which requires reading beyond the silly celebrity glossies that are already skipping right past the children who are going to suffer because of them. Federline already has a two-year-old daughter with "Moesha" actress Shar Jackson - and their second child was born just as Federline announced he was leaving. Federline does not exactly look the rock of future marital stability as he walks out the door.
Jackson said of Britney: "She can't wreck a home by herself, but if you're a real woman and you find out someone you're seeing has extra baggage, you say, `Go home and take care of your business.'" Jackson insists she's personally fine with her breakup with Federline, but can't explain it well to their daughter. "Hearing her ask for daddy and he's not there...That's the only part that hurts. That's it." Eventually she'll have to explain that Daddy took off with the lady who sells sex on MTV.
For his part, Federline is telling People magazine that he loves his children "more than life itself." For her part, Britney insists she'd love to meet his abandoned daughter: "I love little ones. I think the situation is good."
Then there's the movie star and singer Jennifer Lopez, who at age 35 has married for the third time, now to Latin-music star Marc Anthony. Not only has J-Lo developed a reputation for dumping husbands (after 10 months and 16 months, respectively), Anthony dumped his wife five days before marrying Lopez. His spurned spouse, Dayanara, a former Miss Universe, will be left with sons Cristian, 3, and Ryan, 11 months. The divorce settlement also has a gag order, demanding that the rejected Mrs. Anthony say nothing critical about the new Mrs. Anthony. Oh, and Marc Anthony also has an eleven-year-old daughter by another woman.
How does People magazine see all this? It raves in a caption under a picture of Anthony and his daughter that a friend says he "is an amazing dad."
If this all seems ripe for satire, rest assured it's under way. Deadbrain.com was joking that the Lopez nuptials were already falling apart: "The final straw apparently came when they completed opening their wedding gifts. 'Opening these gifts was such a great experience for them, they knew it could only go downhill from there,' reports Lopez's shoe closet maid." But this Internet comedian takes the next natural satirical step in this marriage-go round. "Lopez might have already set her sights on her next beau...the ample-bottomed temptress is infatuated with Britney Spears fiancé Kevin Federline. 'She's completely taken with his provocative moves, and loves the fact that he's a family man who is ready to make a commitment.'"
Misbehavior from our richest pop stars and movie stars is so predictable a pattern that it ought to be an easy lesson for every parent - about how fame and fortune can cause people to lose all their moral bearings and act as if they are Hollywood gods, accountable to no one. But you still have to regret how celebrities and celebrity journalism have great potential to mislead the young into anything-but-glittery emptiness, with a trail of abandoned children as the ultimate victims and monuments to their unbelievable selfishness.