Category Archives: Lifestyle (MC Archive)

Lifestyle-related columns that appeared on Jason Menard’s previous Web site, Menard Communications.

London School Path Could Lead to Death

By Jason Menard

Violence in schools, unfortunately, is nothing new. What people should really be concerned about is how it’s only going to get worse due to the inertia of school officials.

On Wednesday, in Toronto, one student snapped. In retaliation to a prank gone wrong, a student allegedly overreacted and returned firecracker fire with a more lethal blow from a bullet. Those types of incidents are tough to avoid because one way or another that student would have snapped.

It’s not the extreme violence that we should concern ourselves with. It’s the rising tolerance of day-to-day aggression that our school system has come to accept – and, in some cases with its policies, encourage.

The school in London, ON, at which my seventh-grade son attends has a hands-off policy. Unfortunately, it’s a hands-off for the victim, not the victimizers. For students who are being bullied they’re trapped on both sides by fear – fear of the bullies, and fear of the school system punishing them for defending themselves.

Students who are prone to bullying are generally those who are more likely to abide by the rules – and fear the ramifications of disobeying them. Students who bully take pride in flaunting the lackadaisical approach of school administrators, knowing that any punishment certainly won’t match the crime. What’s worse, lying and deception is encouraged – and, in some cases, rewarded.

I turn to a recent example for illustrative purposes. During the course of one day, a student accidentally kicked a basketball into the chest of another boy. That was the extent of the transgression. However, the boy who was hit by the ball then stewed in his own juices, formulating a plan, and building his anger. At the end of the day, this boy walked out into the schoolyard, asked who the ball-kicker was, and – without warning or provocation – assaulted him.

Assault. Violent, malevolent, viscious.

Without giving the unsuspecting boy a chance to defend himself – or even be aware of the fact that a blow was coming – the child who had the ball accidentally kicked into him pounced upon the other boy, punching him repeatedly in the eye, at best oblivious to (or, at worse, completely aware of) the fact that the victim was wearing glasses.

In the end, the victimized boy was taken to the hospital and was told that he was lucky that nothing was broken. He suffered lacerations to the face and back, severe swelling and bruising around the eye, and an unhealthy dose of psychological trauma.

The assailant? One day suspension and a slap on the wrist. How? Because he lied. He told school officials and police officers that it was a mutual fight. Although he suffered some wounds due to defensive injuries, the fact of the matter was this was an assault. The police, in turn, were unable to progress any further.

One day off school. That’s it. That’s supposed to be a deterrent to kids in the future?

What’s worse, a crowd of students stood around watching the assault. No one stepped forward to break it up, or even to help. And then we wonder why school violence is rising?

Bullies will continue to bully until there are serious ramifications to their actions. And those who are bullied will continue to not fight back because they’re actually worried about the “no-touch” policies in place. So we have to get tough now unless we want the next school shooting to take place in The Forest City.

First, longer suspensions for fight instigators. Yes, there will always be schoolyard dust-ups as youth trying to carve their space and identities in this world come into conflict. But there are clear aggressors in most cases and they should be dealt with harshly. One day, three days is not enough. Make it hurt – and make it impact parents who refuse to understand the severity. One month out of school? That’s going to impact parents and child alike and will set the wheels in motion for change.

Punish those who stand around and do nothing. If a fight breaks out, the natural reaction should be to break it up. Two combatants can’t do anything against 30 or 40 kids. So if people decide to turn schoolyard fights into a spectator sport, then they should be sent to the sidelines – detention or suspension. By encouraging interventionist behaviour, schools will be able to prevent these fights from escalating into something worse.

Abolish the “no-touch” policies. They’re great in theory, but horrible in practice. I’ve heard several good kids say they are afraid to fight back because they’re going to get suspended. Where’s the common sense in that? Defending one’s self is a right, but through their policies, schools are taking it away from those who need it most. The meek, the studious, the bullied aren’t going to go against the rules, so why should they be hamstrung against aggressors who ignore the rules outright?

Bullying is real. Bullying is getting worse. And it’s only a matter of time until one of our own children lies dead from a bullet. As parents and teachers, we have the ability to affect change, but hiding behind established procedures and policies only serves to hurt those that need it most. School should be a safe refuge for all and the only way we can do that is to get tough on those who prey on the weak.

I refuse to accept that my son’s after-school activities could include a trip to the morgue. But if we keep on following the path we’ve defined, that’s where some unlucky parent will find themselves. And at that point, the community will rise up and the cries to get tough will be shouted from the rooftops!

But why do we have to wait? One dead child is one too many. Toronto and other communities have shown us where school violence can lead, so why must we follow that path? Let’s blaze a new trail – one along which students can feel safe about travelling.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

What Was Actually Stolen

By Jason Menard

Just when you want to hope for the best in this world, someone comes around and makes you question whether good truly exists.

Earlier this week, my wife was robbed outside our home. The thief physically only walked away with a portable Nintendo DS Lite system. But emotionally the toll he took was far greater. To the man who robbed my wife this week, here’s a list of what you stole.

You stole confidence. That woman you robbed was outside her home late at night for two reasons: pain and suffering. Due to the continued effects of a traffic accident almost four years ago, my wife experiences crippling pain that’s barely dulled by significant amounts of medication. As such, sleep comes fleetingly, and discomfort is the norm. Combine that with medicinal side-effects including a feeling of internal heating that’s disproportionate to the actual temperature, and that explains why she – like hundreds of other nights – was sitting alone outside her own home. Yet still, despite being racked with pain, she fought back – unsuccessfully. But in that one brief exchange, she showed more humanity than you will ever know.

You stole security. A home is supposed to be one’s sanctuary, but by committing such a vile act just outside of our home, you’ve robbed a number of people of that sense of security that is one’s right. My wife, my children, and I now are more wary of stepping out our doors. The night that was once so welcome is now merely foreboding.

You stole pride. A woman struggling with an injury that already causes her to question her value now must deal with the fact that you placed her in a situation that rendered her helpless. A man, who slept through the whole ordeal – familiar with his wife’s nocturnal wanderings and no longer fazed by them – feels less of a husband due to his inability to protect his family.

You stole sanctuary. Your act was not just physical. It was emotional. While the robbery only took 10 seconds of your life, it was replayed in my wife’s mind all night and will continue to haunt her anytime she sees someone in a dark, hooded coat sweater. I, sitting at work, no longer can feel as assured that my family is secure – the questions will always linger.

You stole innocence: And this may be a good thing, in the long run. It can be argued that no one should put themselves in a position of risk – but one’s home should be exempt from that. Your act changed that. No place is safe anymore, save for our own vigilance. And vigilant we will be.

In the end, my wife did nothing wrong. In merely trying to live her life and cope with the side effects of another person’s mistake, she became the victim of someone else’s malice. You spoke no words, but your actions speak volumes. You disappeared into the night, but remain ever present in our thoughts and minds. To you, my family meant nothing. And you, who once meant nothing to us, are now an unwelcome part of our lives.

That system you stole was worth $150 at most. In the end, was it worth it? You’ve mortgaged your soul for a cheap toy. But the cost to us is immeasurable. What we’ve lost physically is nothing. What we’ve lost in terms of hope for the world, trust in our fellow man, and belief in the future is priceless.

That’s a debt you could never repay – even if you were so inclined. But for one to be so morally bankrupt as to take advantage of an injured person, then the concept of honouring one’s debt is not one that comes to mind. But who knows, maybe you’ll read this and the faint beating of that cold heart will start pounding through your callous exterior. Perhaps knowing your victims had faces, names, and feelings will stop you from believing that your actions have no lasting impact. Maybe, just maybe, you can repay the debt you owe us by becoming a better person and not putting anyone else through this torment.

Forgive me, however, for not holding out hope.

We will come out of this stronger, eventually. The one thing you cannot steal is our family’s bond and love for each other. We will be more vigilant and we will protect each other better because you’ve stolen more than just a video game – you stole our belief in a better world.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

What’s the Point?

By Jason Menard

Mar. 13, 2007 — Stop it. You know who you are. You’re the ones sucking the fun out of life with your incessant obsession over food. You want to diet, fine – but don’t ruin my fun just because you’ve decided to swap living for counting.

You’ve seen the people – so obsessed with counting points/carbs/calories that they can’t look at food in any rational way any longer. For them cooking is no longer a culinary art, but rather a branch of mathematics. And the only healthy serving they’re receiving is self-imposed guilt.

While trying to get healthy is an admirable cause, what’s the point of living longer if you have to take the fun out of life?

Now, let me state that I’m not advocating an all-out, hedonistic, eat-what-you-want deep-fried fat fest. But nor is this borderline-obsessive, neurotic zeal for counting the right answer. As it continues to be proven in most aspects of life, balance is the key to long-term and sustainable health and happiness.

You counters aren’t happy and you’re bringing the rest of the world down with you! Sure misery loves company, but you’ve chosen to wrap yourselves in these miserable caloric and fat formulas so why punish me for your folly? Take, for example, the party. Whether at work or in social settings, invariably a relatively unhealthy snack or dessert will be presented. Unfortunately, and also invariably, one of these counters will pipe up and throw a wet blanket on the festivities.

At best, they’ll decline a piece of cake but not without explaining why, “Oh, that’s 10 points and I can’t do it.” At the worst, they’ll eat the thing and then spend the next few hours in a pathetic – and annoying – display of self-flagellation. But instead of suffering in silence, they’ll let everyone know what they’ve done – lamenting about the lost points and the catch-up they’ll have to do!

And it’s constant. The obsession dominates their lives: mornings are spent recounting how many points were wasted the previous evening; evenings are spent discussing the temptations succumbed to during the day; and weekends are spent not enjoying the time off, but obsessively watching out for potential pitfalls.

I admit that I’m not in peak physical condition. I’m an average weight for my height, but could probably stand to lose five to 10 more pounds. I was on one of these point-counting programs in the past for a few months and lost a fair bit of weight – and over the past three years I’ve been able to keep it off, but not through obsessive counting but rather common sense. I’ll indulge here and there and not feel guilty about it, but overall I try to eat right. And if someone’s celebrating a birthday at work, I’ll enjoy a piece of cake and not get too stressed over it.

Ironically, most of the people I’ve met that fall into this counting obsession are unable to lose weight. They deprive themselves so wholeheartedly that they end up feeling the need to cheat. Restricting their pleasure so much causes them to binge on an increasingly frequent basis. Yet, instead of enjoying their food, they end up wracked with guilt – again, what’s the point?

Instead of enjoying their day and all the wonderful experiences that are present to us, they’re blinded to the joys of life by the self-imposed fog of their own self-denial, self-reproach, and fear. And when you’re afraid to live, then you’re not really living at all.

Unfortunately, that dark cloud that’s permanently over their head ends up covering those around them. I’ve avoided starting conversations with people because the topic always comes back to food – or their lack of enjoyment thereof. And there are few things worse than trying to enjoy a meal under their pathetic gaze – with a look like a hungry dog begging at the table, they can’t contain their misery and feel the need to reproach you with nutritional information.

I know what I’m eating, thanks. And I’m a big boy, I’ll make my choice. And if I find myself becoming a bigger boy, then I’ll watch what I’m eating a little more. The thing is I’m keeping my weight management strategies and efforts to myself – so stop sharing yours.

Food is an experience to be shared with others. It is one of the great joys in our lives. Personally, I love nothing more than to savour a perfectly cooked steak. At that moment, I’m thinking only about the exquisite flavour and relishing every aspect of its texture. I couldn’t give a wet slap about fat content, arbitrary points, or anything else but maximizing the experience.

Now, knowing my love of steak, does that mean I eat red meat everyday? No. I try to balance – get the fruit and vegetables I need each day, restrict my sugar intake, and avoid old pitfalls like chips and salty snacks. And you know what? Over the past few years, I’ve been able to curtail my desires for the less-than-healthy foods, but not through exclusion, but sensible inclusion. Every once in a while, I’ll indulge a craving and not feel one little bit guilty about it.

What’s the point of eating if you don’t enjoy it? If that’s the case, why strive for variety – just eat the same thing with the least amount of points and be done with it. The thing is, variety is the spice of life. And food is one of the key things in making life worth living. There’s a place in life for weight management programs, but they have to be a complement to your life – not the defining focus of it.

Being healthy and happy is about balance so what happens when the pendulum swings too far towards obsession? What’s the point of obsessively counting points if you’re only trying to prolong a life that you’re not enjoying? And if you’ve made that choice, stop dragging the rest of us down with you!

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Music for the Ages

By Jason Menard

Sometimes it takes a new set of ears to remind you how powerful music can be – and how it can move your soul.

That new set of ears came from my five-year-old daughter. On the weekend, as I was cleaning the basement – that new mess, of course, also came from my five-year-old daughter with a healthy assist from her 12-year-old brother – I decided to break up the monotony by putting on a CD.

Compounding the fact that I was dating myself with that aging format – I find the MP3 format seems so cold – I decided to delve into my personal archives for a long-lost friend. The band doesn’t matter, but it’s safe to say that I haven’t heard them in over a decade. But as the first ballad on the CD played, my daughter perked up and came to me, arms extended, asking to dance.

As we danced, I thought about how powerful music truly is. How it can create such a heartwarming memory, and how it can literally help define who we are. That night, my daughter asked for that same CD as her nighttime music – and, with just a few chords, our common bond was strengthened again.

My daughter loves music. She sings all day. Whether it’s the songs she’s learning at school or the latest hits on radio, music is a big part of her life – just as it was for me.

But as we age, that passion for music seems to fade. As a youth, in my teenage years, my friends and I used music to define who we were – and, more importantly, who we weren’t. While others were listening to the Top-40 songs that saturated the airwaves, we were delving into our past to find music with meaning. I suppose, in a way, we were looking for depth in our music to make up for our relative lack of depth in life experience.

While others were listening to dance and pop, I was delving into Elvis, The Beatles, and Bob Dylan. Some were content to Fight for their Right to Party, while I was reliving a counter-culture youth I never experienced with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. I chose The Cure, The Clash, and The Smiths, over The The.

I was deep. Even if growing up in a middle-class, suburban environment left me as deep as a puddle in reality, my music showed the world that I got it! I understood the world and wasn’t going to conform.

Then something funny happened. I grew up – and I started tuning out.

That same syntho-techno dance crap that I would rail against actually turned out to be pretty good. Those 80’s cheese songs that I thought were the bane of my existence actually turned out to be pretty damn fun to sing along to. And I stopped defining myself by what I listened to, choosing instead to define myself by who I am.

In essence, music no longer defined who I was. It was simply a part of my life. I didn’t need to be the tortured poet or the whimsical bard. I could simply be Jay. And if I find the new Avril Lavigne or Nelly Furtado song catchy, then who am I to second-guess? There’s no Sex Pistols’ credibility card out there – and it certainly wouldn’t be revoked if I’m caught bouncing my head to pop radio. Grandmaster Flash, NWA, and Public Enemy won’t turn their backs on me because I’m singing along with the flavour-of-the-month Hip Hop artist today.

Heck, even Parliament/Funkadelic wouldn’t begrudge listening to Justin Tim… well, on second thought, not even I’m ready to go there.

Looking back on it, the depth that I was conscribing from my music has been displaced by my life-earned knowledge and wisdom. Before I was searching for music that I could relate to, that I could play as a calling card exclaiming to the world “Here I am, here’s who I want to be.” Now, I am who I am and I’ll let that speak for itself.

We spend so much time in our adult lives searching for pleasure, it seems like such a waste when we deny ourselves a full range of musical enjoyment in our youth. But that’s just a fact of life, I guess. It’s a part of maturing. As youth, we define ourselves by those with whom we associate – for better or for worse.

In the end, I’ve found that those who are most prone to criticizing things that are popular or, even worse, not obscure enough, are usually those who are most apt to define themselves by their influences. Instead, I’d prefer to define myself by who I influence – and that starts with raising quality, generous, intelligent children.

Of course, if I can start them off with a few solid bands to help them find there way, well then there’s no harm in that? After all, eventually they’ll just tune them out and be themselves – defined by who they are, not what they listen to.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

My Pocket Picked by a Mouse

By Jason Menard

Mar. 2, 2007 — Call CrimeStoppers, I’ve had my pocket picked! The culprit? A short, dark male with a propensity for wearing red pants and no shirt. He has overly large ears and a high-pitched, squeaky voice.

Aiding this crime were his female accomplice, an unintelligible duck – who should be approached with caution because his frothing at the mouth may indicate rabies – and a large, clumsy dog with an aw-shucks countenance and limited cognitive abilities. Amazingly, these clever bandits made off with my money while I was sitting in the comfort of my own home, as the real scene of the crime took place when my wife, daughter, and mother attended the recent Disney on Ice spectacle at the John Labatt Centre.

But let’s not blame Disney alone as this gang wasn’t alone in perpetrating the crime – the management of the local arena was more than a willing conspirator.

There is an expectation, at any event, that you will pay a premium for items and memorabilia. Like at amusement parks and sporting events, people are more willing to part with their hard-earned money once they’ve become caught up in the atmosphere. But the combination of over-the-top pricing and preying on small children is something that, while it fills the company’s coffers, should leave the recipients with an empty feeling.

In the end it may have been cheaper to take my family to Disneyworld , especially after considering the $15 program, the $20 wand, the $4.50 beverages, and the $10 popcorn — $10 for something that probably costs 30 cents in kernels. And we complain about movie theatre prices!

Now, the argument will be that you don’t have to buy these things, and that a simple no is enough. And we, as parents, do our best to show our kids what can and can’t be done on limited resources. Although all children will ask for everything, we try to show that you can’t have everything, and that things need to be saved up for or budgeted. We say no far, far more often than we say yes.

But at a celebration, specifically targeted to young children, you can forgive any parent for wanted to maximize the enjoyment. What seems like a cheap piece of plastic with flashing lights to an adult is, in essence, a magical experience for a young girl. To us, it’s a toy wand, to her it’s the embodiment of her dreams and a tool to use to create future memories and experiences. They say there’s no price you can put on those memories, but these cash-grabbers are certainly doing their best wring out every last dollar.

Unfortunately, the prices charged are only reflective of what the market will bear. If people weren’t willing to shell out these exorbitant rates, then they wouldn’t charge them. But there’s a subtle difference between fair market value for a product that’s targeted towards an adult, and what’s considered fair when your demographic is under the age of 10. And while parents have a responsibility to their own budgets, marketers abdicate any responsibility towards not exploit the dreams and imaginations of the youth that propel their product.

It’s not a matter of parents feeling that not buying something for their children makes them lesser parents, but rather it’s a desire to accentuate the experience by having something tangible to take home with you (or, in the case of the $4.50 Diet Coke, having something to ward off dehydration…) It’s a matter of helping to make memories last and being able to afford to do so.

The thing is, there is no legal obligation for producers and venue owners to change their price structure – it can be argued that there is only a moral one. If they can justify charging $20 for $3 worth of cheap plastic and circuitry, then so be it – they’re not alone in the market for inflating the value of their products. And, yes, adults should take a stand and fight back against price gouging. But must that stand be taken upon the foundation of our children’s imaginations?

And let’s not just base this argument on the consumer end. There are plenty of reasons why shows like this – and the venues that host them – should re-evaluate their pricing. First, the tangible: by lowering your prices, you would increase consumption. There have been many times I’ve heard people walk away from concessions and booths without spending a dime because the prices are too high. By lowering the prices a bit, while still respecting the margin, you would increase the number of consumers taking action. The key is to find that right balance to maximize profits – the same type of math we learned in high school.

Secondly, the intangible – and, by far, the most important. In large part, people aren’t offended by the total they spent, they’re irate at the individual prices. By providing better value-priced merchandise, you’ll stimulate spending, while leaving people with a better feeling about their purchases. They’ll feel they’ve received value for their dollar and will be more willing to return for subsequent events, thereby creating a self-perpetuating, steady source of reliable income. If morality doesn’t sway you, then cold hard business should.

In the end, yes, I was robbed (and thank goodness for generous grandparents – who were also robbed), but it’s an inflated price I – along with many other parents – am begrudgingly willing to pay to help my children live their dreams.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Losing My Appetite for Destruction

By Jason Menard

Which will come first the Guns N’ Roses album Chinese Democracy or the actual advent of true Chinese Democracy in the communist nation? But perhaps the better question is while we all care about the latter, does anyone care about the former.

I mean, really, Guns N’ Roses? I’m 33 and my memory of them is fading, so how can they compete in a market that’s already focusing on finding the next thing – not resurrecting the ghosts of fading rockers. Or should we say fading rocker? Because, in truth, the new Guns N’ Roses is nothing more than an Axl Rose vanity project. Slash is long gone… the other guys that you also don’t remember are gone, and in their place are a couple of guys who seemingly have no shame – or at least don’t mind appropriating the name that someone else built.

Yes, to no one’s surprise, the album Chinese Democracy, which was scheduled to be released in March is, once again, off the schedule. At this point, it’s probably safer for all involved just to flush the recordings down the toilet and call it a night, because nothing’s going to live up to 10 years of expectations.

Well, maybe we should qualify the term expectations. After all, is there anyone out there who thinks this album is going to be any good? Most memorable records – and I know I’m dating myself with this terminology – are reflective of a certain era or moment in time. They capture the cultural zeitgeist and translate it into an aural experience that transcends cultures, beliefs, and styles. Memorable music is such that it allows individuals to feel that they’re sharing a common experience, in the here and now, which allows them to find something to which they can relate in the music.

So when an album takes over a decade to record, can there truly be any cohesiveness? Will tracks on this new album already be dated due to the fact that, perhaps, they were penned three or four boy-band cycles ago?

Oh, by the way, did I mention 21 members? A quick search of the Wikipedia – admittedly, not the most reliable source of information, but certainly au courant when it comes to pop culture – shows that there are and have been 21 current and former members of the band. When that many parts have been interchanged, can it even be considered the same entity anymore? Or is Guns N’ Roses nothing more than Lee Majors’ Steve Austin with an amp?

Admittedly, I’m not the biggest G N’ R fan. I enjoyed Appetite for Destruction as a high schooler and will still sing along to some of the standards from that album like Sweet Child O’ Mine. And I liked the next couple of albums. But that was then, this is now. I don’t feel the need to find out what Axl thinks right now – I didn’t even care much then.

Over a decade’s worth of expectations have been built up. Even if Chinese Democracy was a modern-day White Album, there’s no possible way that it could live up to the amount of time it took to bring it to masses.

So what’s the alternative? In this case, perhaps the music not heard could grow in stature until it reaches the status of urban legend. If the band burned the masters now, then stories could start circulating from those privy to the studio sessions who could say that the music was unlike anything ever heard. Axl Rose could become the musical equivalent of J.D. Salinger! After all, many myths exist about the one great book that Salinger is sitting on in his self-exile – one that will never see the light of day after his death. Really, even if gold drips off the pages while you read it, no printed word could leave a more indelible imprint on one’s mind than what your own imagination has crafted to fill the void.

So too should it be for Chinese Democracy. Instead of releasing what’s sure to be a disappointment and staining the band’s legacy (kind of like what’s happened to Paul McCartney with his recent string of less-than-memorable releases) Axl and the boys should take solace that they were big once and not tamper with those memories.

And if absence truly does make the heart grow fonder, then the band – and its never-to-be-released album – could reach icon status just by doing what everyone else in the world has done – give up on the album ever seeing the light of day.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved

Are We Losing Our Appetite for Celebrity Schadenfreude?

By Jason Menard

How much is too much? And when does our penchant for engaging in schadenfreude take a back seat to our base level of humanity? Will Britney Spears be that test case?

As we all know, Britney’s been on a one-way slope downwards. From the heights of a pop starlet career to her current Hare Krishna-inspired hair style and guest appearances at rehabilitation clinics, the meteoric descent of her career has been evident for all to see. In fact, we can’t even blame her much maligned ex-husband for this fall.

It’s all Britney, all day, and we’re watching. But our perspective, slowly, seems to be changing.

Normally society loves nothing more to build people up for a fall. And if this person is raised artificially – whether it’s artificial talents, artificial looks, artificial breasts – we seem to love nothing more than watching them plummet back down to reality. Yet this time there’s something different.

Dare I say it? We actually seem to feel sorry for Britney. We actually seem to care.

Well, some of us do. There are the hyper-cynical bloggers and commentators who get off on being insensitive. But that’s an immature reaction to a problem with maturity. We’re watching a little girl lost and that seems to have resonated with people who normally wouldn’t think twice about watching a starlet fall.

Take, for example, Craig Ferguson, the host of the Late, Late Show – better known to many as The Drew Carey Show’s Nigel Wick – put a moratorium on Britney Spears jokes. “ I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about making fun of these people. And for me, comedy should have a certain amount of joy in it. Attacking the politicians and the Trumps and the blowhards, go after them. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable people.”

Wow, a heart. And you know what, he’s right. There’s nothing wrong with celebrity bashing or comedy when it’s perpetrated against those who are on top of their game, but it’s something different when we all stand around like spectators watching someone who is so evidently crying out for help, and instead of lending a hand we heap further scorn upon them.

Maybe it’s an addiction, maybe it’s post-partum depression, maybe there are issues to which we’re not privy. But the main thing is that there’s something obviously wrong with this girl and to derive pleasure from it is no better than mocking someone for a mental disability, their skin colour, or their religion. All it does is send the person further and further into despair – and the way the end game plays out could be tragic.

Take, for example, Anna Nicole Smith? Anybody surprised she met an untimely fate at a young age? What about the skeletal remains of people like Nicole Richie or Kate Bosworth – do we need a Karen Carpenter redux to see the problem?

Ultimately, the responsibility lies with the people themselves foremost, then with their friends and family. Unfortunately, these celebrities often find themselves surrounded by sycophants and yes-men, looking only to leech of their star-power and suck them dry before moving on with their lives, leaving only a spent shell of the person in their wake.

But we, as a consuming public, need to take our share of the responsibility. The good works that some celebrities undertake are shrouded in ignorance because we care more about the latest bedroom scandal or display of nonsensical behaviour. We’re so focused on the negative that we completely disregard the positive – so is it any surprise that these attention-starved people are willing to threaten their lives in return for public notoriety?

Maybe we need to take a cue from the stars of yesteryear, or more appropriately, the fans of the past. Sexual orientation, bedroom antics, personal habits weren’t a matter of daily consumption and discussion. What mattered were the work and the talent. We appreciated what they could do on vinyl or on the screen and the rest was ancillary information. Shockingly, we cared more about our own lives and those around us than we did of these stars with whom we had no personal involvement.

Of course, those days are long gone. The proliferation of tabloid magazines, television shows, and even full-scale channels dedicated to feeding our ravenous hunger for celebrity scandal shows that the market for schadenfreude is good.

But how many crashes, how many failures, and how many deaths will it take until our taste for this wanes? Or, as evidenced by our new-found sympathy for Britney Spears, has that already started to happen. We can only hope because any joy we get from watching these people crash doesn’t only impact the stars, but reflects horribly on us.

2007© Menard Communications – Jason Menard All Rights Reserved