C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

Let's put celebrity disgrace in its place

Ours is a world in which truly important things are happening: the fall of tyrants, new brands of terrorism, climate change and the melting of polar ice, many species disappearing while human numbers increase exponentially, the threat of famines …

In such a world, in such times as these, how can one account for our relentless fascination with the lascivious misbehavior of the powerful and the famous?

John Edwards’ love child.

The Terminator, aka The Impregnator.

Mark Sanford’s romps on the Appalachian (oops! the Argentinean) Trail.

Eliot Spitzer’s pricey appointments with professional women.

Tiger Woods’ multiple shots out of bounds.

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s alleged demand for room service.

And now, Rep. Anthony Weiner’s admission that he sent racy photos over the Internet.

Not that these episodes should be entirely ignored. But is it really necessary to devote miles of newsprint and endless hours of broadcast time to public persons undone by their ungovernable libidos?

Is the national appetite for prurience really that insatiable?

With rare exceptions, the scripts of these little morality plays have taken on an almost ritualistic sameness.

First there are whispers. Then heated denials. Then someone – it can be the temptress, a victim or an outraged spouse – spills the beans. Then the humiliation and heartbreak evolve into a media spectacle.

A press conference is arranged, the offending party – sometimes with the betrayed wife gamely (though inexplicably) at his side, but more often not – admits to having exercised “bad judgment” (not exactly the exercise in question) and asks us to accept at face value the sincerity of his remorse, though nothing about this conduct inspires belief.

The cameras roll. The reporters’ notebooks fill up. For the next week or two – longer if it turns out the infidelity was not a single episode but part of a pattern of serial romps – we will be treated to ongoing details of the shipwreck.

What does the mistress have to say? How is the wronged wife bearing up?

How’s the division of property proceeding? What are they saying at the rascal’s office? Who gets custody of the children? Who gets the dog?

Rather than inflating them into something passing for print and TV fare, it seems to me about time – past time – to put these tacky little betrayals into some kind of sensible perspective.

Why not just list them the way some publications list engagements, weddings, bankruptcies, foreclosures, garage sales, and dogs and cats and rabbits available for adoption?

Just a little box in the classified section, under the headline “Celebrity Philanderers” – followed by the names in alphabetical order, with the option for inclusion of a photo at a small extra charge.

That ought to about handle it. Then we could get on with presenting the news for people interested in knowing what’s really happening in the world, suitable for reading and viewing by children of tender years.