Pop-Ed: The Public Image of Jesse James is Toast
By Joel Keller Posted May 27th 2010 03:36PM
Pop-ed: If you watched the 'Nightline' interview with Jesse James this week, you probably came away with the impression that James is not the mouth-breathing idiot the tabloids have made him out to be. Indeed, the man that broke Sandra Bullock's heart seems like a sensitive, intelligent man who knows that he ruined the best thing in his life and is trying to take steps to -- at least partially -- repair what he broke.
That doesn't mean that the public is going to let him off the hook, though.
No matter how well-reasoned James came off in that interview, he is still the guy who sat at a number of different awards ceremonies this spring listening to his wife say that he had her back, all the while knowing in the back of his mind that he didn't. It's a big reason why, when news came out of his affair with Michelle "Bombshell" McGee, his treatment by the public and the tabloids felt even more vicious than what the much-more-famous Tiger Woods received.
Don't believe me? Check out the anger coming from this brief New York Daily News article about the 'Nightline' interview. In the span of about 330 words, writer Corky Siemaszko calls James "Sandra Bullock's horrible husband," derides James' assertion that cheating on Bullock was his way of "self-sabotaging" his life as "what passes for self-analysis in the demented mind of a 41-year-old heel," writes that Bullock is "not going to be married to this dope much longer," and rounds out the piece by describing James as "sniveling."
Wow. Even Woods hasn't had that much invective spewed on him, and his marital transgressions were at least as bad (and numerous), if not worse, than James.'
So why is there such invective towards Jesse? A few reasons come to mind:
1. The whole "America's Sweetheart" thing: Unlike 90% of America, I never thought Sandy and Jesse were a mismatch. Bullock always came across in interviews as a bit of a tomboy, someone who could ride a motorcycle or build a house and look beautiful doing it. So it made sense that she might be attracted to a smart guy who could put together a kick-ass custom bike.
But to the rest of the country, Bullock felt like a girlfriend or sister, that person you know that seemed to finally find the true happiness that had eluded her for years. Remember all the "why is she still single?" stories about Bullock in the '90s and early '00s? There seemed to be a lot of public teeth-gnashing that this beautiful, talented, funny woman couldn't find a date (see any Jen Aniston tabloid story nowadays). So everyone was rooting for Sandy to settle down, and were happy to see her in marital bliss -- even if it was with Jesse.
2. Jesse's excuses are poor: In the interview, he somehow connected cheating on Bullock with his past abusive relationship with his father, claiming that it made him feel that he wasn't good enough for her. While the fact that he opened up about the abuse was admirable, it feels like the words of a man who was fresh out of rehab, using events in the past as a crutch.
Everyone has baggage, even heavy baggage, but they don't let that baggage dictate their behavior. If James truly felt strongly enough about not wanting to hurt Bullock and his kids, he would have been able to fight his impulse control more.
3. He ruined Bullock's moment in the sun: If the revelations about James' affair with McGee happened when Bullock was starring in 'Miss Congeniality 2,' steering the sinking ship that was 'Speed 2' or even promoting her by-the-numbers rom-com hit 'The Proposal,' there would have been a much briefer outcry.
But the timing of the story was perfect from a tabloid perspective: Bullock, after the aforementioned teary awards-season speeches, her Oscar and the career respect it garners, didn't even have a week to enjoy her marvelous accomplishment. And it's all the fault of this guy, who many of Bullock's fans thought of as some tattooed jerk she should have never married in the first place.
Because of all these reasons, there's a high probability that James is never going to get the chance to rehabilitate his public image. Then again, if he gets the help he needs and is able to take care of his kids as well as the baby he and Bullock adopted, he may not care about that much, which is probably the most normal thing to come out of this mess.
Sandra Bullock and Jesse James Pics
Just days before the explosive cheating story broke, Jesse James and Sandra Bullock were on top of the Hollywood world, thanks to Bullock's Oscar win. Then, things imploded. See photos of Sandra and Jesse post-Bombshell.
Sandra Bullock and Jesse James Pics
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