Friday, January 20, 2006

Objectifying celebrities

This sure seems inevitable in this day and age - Michael Axelrod gets in an altercation with the wife of New York Knicks player Antonio Davis, and next thing ya know:

"Axelrod's attorney, Jay Paul Deratany, said he planned to sue Davis and his wife for more than $1 million. Deratany said he was writing the papers Thursday for a battery suit against Kendra Davis and a slander case against Antonio Davis, and planned to file them Friday."

Davis gets a five-game suspension without pay for walking up to Axelrod and his wife and making sure she wasn't being assaulted, and Axelrod tries to win the lottery. Ain't litigious America grand?

"When I go to games, I cheer as hard as I can for the Bulls, and I boo as hard as I can for whoever they're playing," Axelrod said. "I don't feel comfortable if players are allowed to easily jump into the crowd whenever they feel like it's necessary."

What he doesn't feel comfortable with, perhaps, is that he used to think players were inanimate objects he could verbally abuse with impunity, and now it turns out they're human beings who can get angry and/or concerned when they perceive their spouses are threatened. Even if you accept Axelrod's version of the incident, Kendra Davis got mad about something Axelrod bellowed at the referees, and Antonio Davis placed himself (nonviolently!) between his wife and someone he feared could be a threat.

Davis committed the unpardonable sin of breaking the invisible wall between the stage (the basketball court) and the audience. Practical considerations created the wall, but the wall creates the illusion that the performers are separated from us mere humans in many ways. We lose track of the fact that they live and breathe and love and hurt just like we do, and so we feel comfortable verbally abusing them and invading their privacy - until something reminds us of their humanity. I think that's why paparazzi photographers always seem surprised and offended when an actor or actress turns around and slugs one of them.

I'm not sure how much to make of the fact that Axelrod's father is a bigtime political campaign guru, except that it seems appropriate that the situation involves the son of a guy who makes his living objectifying his opponents and trashing their reputations. It makes sense that such a guy would sit on the sidelines and treat an opposing athletic team as if they were enemies of goodness and truth.

Most of the public debate I've encountered is about whether the National Basketball Association's action against Davis is appropriate. It seems to me that he was merely reacting to a situation he didn't start. Maybe Axelrod needs a five-game suspension, too, and if his description of the events is accurate and Kendra Davis really did scratch his face, maybe she should be kept away from courtside for a much longer time. Our obligation to treat one another with respect (or at least without violence) doesn't get suspended in the sports arena.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're missing the point here. The justifications originally offered for Davis going into the stands -- "drunk fan", "touching his wife", "wife falling back" as well as your rant about how Axelrod "objectified" Davis etc. are not supported by the eye witness reports and video.

Axelrod has been slandered in the press for...wait for it...being a sober fan who took issue with a referee's call. That's about all he did. Oh, and beckoned for security to come deal with the unruly Mrs. Davis, the real problem in this whole tale.

4:11 PM  
Blogger B.W. Richardson said...

"I think you're missing the point here."

[sigh] Well, it takes one to know one.

"The justifications originally offered for Davis going into the stands -- "drunk fan", "touching his wife", "wife falling back" ... are not supported by the eye witness reports and video."

... which is why I didn't address them in my "rant."

"... the unruly Mrs. Davis, the real problem in this whole tale."

I'm always baffled when someone tells me "You're wrong to say X, because the real problem is X." Go back and try to read what I wrote without coloring it with the bones you have to pick with what other people have said. I think we agree more than you think.

7:40 PM  

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