What do you do when everyone thinks you’re A) washed up at the grand ol’ age of 19 B) a notorious dog killer or C) somewhat unlikable? Why, you take Kathy Griffin to the Teen Choice Awards, beg for forgiveness on the “Tiffany Network’s” most pristine and well-aged show or learn the paso doble with the other also-rans. It’s time to rehab those careers, even if you’re poor Levi Johnson and you don’t even have a career to ruin yet.
You can’t even knock up your teenage ex-girlfriend in peace anymore. Now you need a lawyer and an agent to negotiate the media minefield. Most kids get by with a job at the McDonald’s and college correspondence courses.
But young Levi Johnston has it easy compared to his fellow media-rehabbers, Tom DeLay and NFL quarterback Michael Vick. He’s only killed moose, not the dogs you hunt the moose with. And he’s not so awful that even Newt Gingrich hates him. It’s just the Palins who don’t like him and they don’t like a lot of people. If anything, he might make five or five million friends based on that fact alone. Heck, Kathy Griffin went on a faux date with him and he’s not bad looking. If anything HE should be on “Dancing With the Stars” instead of former House juggernaunt Tom “The Hammer” Delay. Johnson could be the rugged teenheart throb for fangirls who read Field and Stream. Or watch Ice Truckers.
Michael Vick probably has the biggest media mountain (molehill?) to climb. It’s not like he got drunk and killed a person with a car or something, a la Donte Stallworth, Leonard Little or Laura Bush. He killed dogs. The only think worse than dog killing is being apparently lying about steroid use in the majors. Or, in the eyes of sportswriters and negative media coverage those are the worst things you can do. Meaning: Unless he starts winning in Philly he’ll neva live it down.
Unless you’re from Texas or a political junkie there’s a good chance you don’t know who Tom DeLay is or why people dislike him so. Maybe it’s because of his reputation as a bully. Maybe it’s his reputation as a manipulator. Maybe it’s because you’re former Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts, a fellow Republican, who had to deal with DeLay being a royal pain, then backing another Republican, not Watts, for your seat during reelection. Maybe it was the indictments. Whatever it was, some people just don’t like Tom DeLay. And he wouldn’t be the first conservative Republican to give it the ol’ college try on Dancing With the Stars. TV’s Tucker Carlson and former vice president Dan Qualye have all tried to two-step their way into America’s cold, black, cynical heart. Again, I can think of several Republicans I would rather see on DWTS who are NOT Tom DeLay (Cindy McCain, Meghan McCain, John McCain, anyone named McCain, Ann Coulter, all the Palins, even the babies, Levi Johnson and former First Lady Laura and second President Bush, etc.) But obviously, I’m not getting my way on this one. I’ll still hold out hope for Cindy McCain though. I bet she secretly knows how to throw down. She used to be a cheerleader.
Anyone is capable of a little media makeover these days and there are a plethora of internet columnist, political pundit, reality show houseguest gigs to get you started on that road to redemption. Sometimes it could help with a little carefully tailored documentary (yea for Britney Spears’ not quite tell-all For the Record, nay for Paris Hilton’s documentary, Paris Not France. I don’t think that thing even put in a dent.) Eliot Spitzer has managed to take his whoring of legend and turn it into a column for Slate, a regular pundit spot on MSNBC and, oddly, some cred as an economic authority. But the greatest way to rehab via media is to actually be successful. There’s nothing our cold, black hearts love more than a comeback kid (see Clinton, William Jefferson). We secretly want to see all deadbeats, also-rans and loathed ones become loved ones and ride high in the saddle again. So work hard, study hard and film at 11.
Danielle Belton has been writing the popular “The Black Snob” blog since August 2007. She has contributed to the American Prospect, NPR, the Huffington Post and has been featured on Nightline. This column originally appeared on The Black Snob here. Learn more about Danielle here.
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