I have long been a fan of Alec Baldwin and Paula Deen. In my (and Baldwin’s) younger days I swooned over his matinee idol good looks, and since then I’ve enjoyed his comedy on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. With Paula Deen, I’ve appreciated her down home charm, humor, and food. I became an even bigger fan of hers when my daughter, Annabel, and I shared a flight with her and she was a total sweetheart, complimenting Annie on how cute she was.
But they have both disappointed me.
As you undoubtedly know, Paula Deen admitted in a deposition that she’d “of course” uttered the n-word in her life, then went on to botch the fallout by canceling an appearance on The Today Show, releasing a bizarre apology video, and finally sitting for an interview with Matt Lauer where she never really apologized (but awkwardly chastised young people for using the n-word). As a result, she lost her show on the Food Network, and her endorsement partners have been dropping her and her products.
Baldwin, meanwhile, went on a Twitter tirade where he hurled homophobic slurs at a British reporter who (incorrectly) accused his wife of tweeting while attending James Gandolfini’s funeral. Though Baldwin’s incident was more recent than Deen’s, it doesn’t appear that he will experience the same fallout. While the tide could still turn on Baldwin, there seems to be less immediate outrage, something personified today by Billy Bush on Access Hollywood Live. Bush, who for days has seriously discussed Paula Deen and her use of the n-word, giggled his way through a discussion of Baldwin’s situation as if he were thinking, “Baldwin, that old son-of-a-gun! Doesn’t he know you can’t do that?”
So why has Baldwin been let off easier than Deen?
Is it because Baldwin’s anger was caused by his wife being falsely accused?
Is it because Deen is a Southerner and automatically assumed guilty of racism while Baldwin is let off easier because he’s a progressive New Yorker?
Is it because Baldwin’s transgression was written on Twitter and not said out loud?
Is it because, for all of our progress as society in knowing that the n-word is not okay, we still tolerate slurs toward gays?
I asked my husband why he thinks brands fired Paula Deen but likely won’t do the same with Baldwin, and he said, “I think it’s because brands are afraid of what he’d do to them.” Mike was joking, of course, but he touches on something disturbing about Baldwin. He has been known for years to have anger issues – remember his phone message where he snarled at his eleven year old daughter that she was a “rude, thoughtless little pig?” – and I can’t help but wonder if we’ve become desensitized to his rages at this point. Taking that point one step further, do we as a society sometimes excuse anger in men as simply being machismo, or part of being a man? If so, that’s disturbing. There’s nothing cute about men with anger issues. Male violence is an epidemic that affects far too many.
Whatever the reason, Baldwin won’t be getting a pass from me.
Personally, I’m equally disappointed in Baldwin and Deen. Regardless of how the rest of the nation reacts to each situation, I don’t condone hate language no matter who it’s aimed at.
If I were asked to advise Baldwin (don’t worry, I’m not waiting by the phone), I’d tell him it would be wise to proactively apologize (and not say “I is what I is” as Deen did), and agree to take both anger management and sensitivity training. The good news for Baldwin and Deen is that they still have a chance to use these unfortunate incidents to become better people – and I hope they do.