We Live in a Fucked-Up Culture, Part Wev in an Infinite Series

I (still) have no opinion on Sandra Bullock's and Jesse James's marriage, or its collapse, or its survival, or any of the incidents that have led to a rumored divorce—and I will continue to have no opinion on these subjects.

However, I am interested in the way it's being covered.

Today comes the news that Jesse James reportedly had a predilection for the flagrant use of homophobic slurs, after someone released an email with text that included use of the word f****t and references to cocksucking to insult two men who (it seems) had been in his employ.

[Note to Jesse James: Using f****t and references to cocksucking to demean other men is not acceptable, it is not morally neutral, it is not funny or edgy, and it is not justifiable because you were angry. It's juvenile, hateful, and thoroughly contemptible. Just FYI.]

The thing that strikes me about all this BREAKING! news about James is that the people who are only leaking this shit now aren't exactly covering themselves in glory, given that they were evidently willing to conceal James' abject bigotry until his infidelity gave them the opportunity to sell the evidence to the highest bidder.

That goes double to the bidders, who may well have turned away some of this stuff previously because it seems no one wants to break the news that a famous guy—a real Man's Man, with a reputation for being such a good guy, dude!—is a raging bigot, but everyone's happy to join the pile-on once he gets caught with his pants down.

Either we care about holding people to account for demonstrable hatred, or we don't. Our concern (leaving aside the feigned concern masking gleeful vengeance) shouldn't be contingent on whether they've fucked around on America's Sweetheart.

(Who, by the way, has maintained radio silence throughout all of this, with a single exception: To deny rumors of the existence of a sex tape. I note the exception not to suggest that Bullock is obliged to comment on anything, but because "the reputation of America's Sweetheart can survive having shared a bed with a white supremacist and a homophobe, but not being a SLUT!" [not that I think making a sex tape with one's partner makes one a slut, but large swaths of the population disagree with me] is an interesting—and I'm not sure entirely incorrect—calculation. And that says something pretty fucked-up about our culture, too.)

There were lots (and lots) of people, certainly, who worked with James on one or both of his two television series, or his guest spot on The Celebrity Apprentice, and were aware of his bigotry, given his eminent willingness to photograph it and broadcast it in emails. But if the age of the viral celebrity scandal has taught us anything, it's that there are plenty of people willing to protect celebrities from the "embarrassment" of being held accountable for bigotry, until it's time to knock over the latest pedestal.

And if there's anything else we've learned, the same people smashing James' pedestal into dust at the moment are already writing the stories of his comeback. Because although we hate bigotry (BOO!), we like comebacks even better (YAY!). And second chances don't have to be earned, when there's advertising space to be sold.

[Commenting Guidelines: This post is about media coverage and how it reflects our cultural priorities and shapes the nature of celebrity. It's not about picking apart the private lives of Jesse James and Sandra Bullock, nor about their marriage. Comments that seek to imagine whether "Sandra knew" or wonder "what she was doing with him" or variations thereof will be considered off-topic.]

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