Pop-Ed: Why We Think Jesse James' Rehab Might Be A Publicity Ploy
By John Mitchell Posted Mar 31st 2010 04:00PM
Pop-Ed: We don't mean to be entirely cynical, but we can't help but question Jesse James' motives for checking into an Arizona rehabilitation facility.
We're not saying he doesn't need professional help; any man who lands Sandra Bullock, a woman of uncommon grace and humility, and cheats on her with women of, to put it kindly, seemingly lesser character really ought to have his head examined. But it seems very convenient that, in the midst of an ever-growing tabloid infidelity scandal, James feels that now is the time to get the help he's needed for so long. No, it feels like an attempt at a public mea culpa from a man feminist Web site Jezebel has deemed "the most hated man in America."
Not only is James' relationship with Bullock damaged beyond repair, his career is threatened. James has starred in multiple hit reality shows for the Discovery Channel and presides over the West Coast Choppers business empire. The Choppers brand is a profit powerhouse that includes a clothing line and custom tools. It's hard not to imagine James' brand will suffer damage at the hands of the scandal, particularly as it expands to include photos of him wearing a Nazi officer hat while doing the seig heil, the Nazi salute.
But James is not the first celebrity, in our opinion, who may have entered rehab more intent on image rehabilitation than getting actual help for a legitimate problem.
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What? We're inclined to believe that rehab should be anything but a vacation, nor should it be attributed to obligation. If you are ordered by a judge to get help for addiction issues, it is likely because you have addiction issues that need to be reconciled.
Lohan first went to rehab in early 2007, during production on the film 'I Know Who Killed Me.' The trip came a few months after Morgan Creek Productions CEO James Robinson blasted Lohan for frequent absences from the set of the film 'Georgia Rule.' In an open letter threatening legal action, Robinson blamed the actress' "hard partying" for her "irresponsible and unprofessional" behavior. A few months later, Lohan publicly admitted to attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. A representative for 'I Know who Killed Me,' told PEOPLE magazine that "[the film], like all films, has insurance."
Keeping herself insurable seems to have figured more prominently into Lohan's decision-making than actually getting better. In order to keep working, she needed to do something to make it seem like she was taking responsibility for her dangerous behavior.
However, that she has not seemed to take rehab seriously has haunted the troubled actress, and she does not appear to have been able to fully recover from her addiction, as evidenced by her recent fall in front of tabloid cameras. Lohan blamed the tumble on her high-heeled shoes. But according to PopEater's own Rob Shuter, movie industry insiders aren't buying it, and the actress remains virtually unemployable, with some news organizations preparing her obituary in case something should happen to the actress. This is all sad and unfortunate, given the promise she once displayed in films like 'Mean Girls' and 'Bobby.'
Richard Levick, of Washington crisis-management firm Levick Strategic Communications, told ABC News that entering rehab is often key to retaining public sympathy. "You want to move from being a Frankenstein monster to become more sympathetic, more human ... as quickly as possible," Levick said.
That's why everyone from model Kate Moss, who was filmed using cocaine, to actor Mel Gibson, who was arrested and charged with DUI after a drunken antisemitic tirade, ran to rehab so quickly after their respective scandals. But this reasoning often works against the principles of successful rehabilitation.
Dr. Thomas Irwin, program director at substance abuse treatment center McLean Center at Fernside, told ABC News that patients need to embrace rehab for what it is, rather than for the positive publicity it can provide, if they are serious about getting better. "Individuals need to ask themselves, what is the motivation for treatment?" he said. "Is it to work on the problem ... or avoid a crisis? Part of ... treatment is to come to terms with what you've done and take responsibility for it."
But actors, models and reality TV stars aren't the only ones who seek out rehab to tend to embattled careers. Politicians, too, have learned of the public goodwill that comes with admitting a problem -- even if they potentially have ulterior motives in seeking treatment.
After explicit e-mails between himself and several young, male Congressional pages surfaced, former Representative Mark Foley entered rehab for alcohol addiction. Similarly, San Fransisco mayor Gavin Newsome sought counseling for alcohol-related issues just days after an affair between himself and his appointments secretary -- and wife of his campaign manager -- surfaced.
There is in no way of knowing if these men really did suffer from these problems, and if they did, we applaud them for seeking treatment. But the timing of their decisions to enter rehab programs, and the fact that their respective scandals seem decidedly unrelated to their addictions, make us question their motivations for seeking treatment. Sure, alcohol will make you do some crazy things; but we'll hazard a guess that it doesn't make you pursue men (boys?) if you were not already so inclined, nor do we believe it to be a catalyst for a long-term affair.
And the very advent of the show 'Celebrity Rehab' emboldens our argument. These people, some of whom appear to be taking it seriously, other not so much, are very literally becoming more famous by airing their addiction issues in the most public forum possible: on a television show. They may be earning public sympathy, but the recidivism of the cast members makes clear that many may be appearing on the show more for the publicity than for Dr. Drew's actual help in overcoming their respective issues.
To end on a positive note, there do appear to be celebrities who enter rehab with the right intentions and succeed in their attempts to better their health. Mary-Kate Olsen dealt bravely and publicly with an eating disorder, which she overcame through professional intervention. Drew Barrymore suffered from multiple addictions at a young age and persevered to become an award-winning actress. Robert Downey Jr. dealt with career-threatening addiction for years to become a clean and sober 'Iron Man.' And Kirsten Dunst quietly went to rehab and has been laying low, but will soon star in the highly anticipated 'All the Good Things' opposite Ryan Gosling.
So there is hope out there for stars who enter rehab seriously and approach it with a sincere desire to overcome addiction. We wish anyone dealing with such issues the best of luck in their recovery, but we request that celebrities stop exploiting public sympathy by making light of something as serious as rehab. We are on to you, and it isn't going to work for much longer.
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