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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reality Blows

by Clinton Fein

Click to Send PostcardTom "I Swear to God I’m Not Gay" Cruise has been making a huge splash of late, movie aside. In addition to the ridiculous public displays of affection that make Lady Macbeth’s protestations seem almost like nonchalant admissions, he appears to have studied psychiatry at the Bill Frist School of Religious Advocacy Medicine.

In a heated discussion with Matt Lauer on MSNBC’s Today Show, Cruise defended his earlier criticisms of actress Brooke Shields who took anti-depressants to counter her post partum depression, and let rip on the drugs Ritalin and Adderall -- the ADD drug that seems to be abused as much as any other prescription drug these days.

I’ll be the first to agree that ADD has become the fail-safe diagnosis by teachers who are already over-amped on their own prescriptions to cope with naturally distracted or bored children. In an earlier editorial a couple of years back I wrote:

We have a pecking order of high society queens – men and women, gay and straight -- based on which brand of antidepressant they’re on, and we have eighty-year-old grandmothers chomping on Oxycontin to take the edge off
We have twenty-year-olds gulping down Viagra and ecstasy cocktails for all-night marathon sex sessions, and we have Air Force pilots seesaw-popping amphetamines in the morning and Ambien at night for precision bomb-dropping with requisite sleep. We have a pecking order of high society queens – men and women, gay and straight -- based on which brand of antidepressant they’re on, and we have eighty-year-old grandmothers chomping on Oxycontin to take the edge off.

We have psychotic, road-raged soccer Moms in SUVs on so many variations their bodies are in a perpetual state of toxic shock, schlepping their irritated, sleep-deprived ten-year-olds who are snoring their way through class unless they’ve gulped down a gallon of Starbucks before school. We have teachers furiously debating whether their Wellbutrin dosage might interfere with their Adipex crash diet, while their students run wild unless they over-amp them on Dexedrine.

In an attack on the nauseatingly groveling Lauer, Cruise claimed to have “studied” psychiatry, and therefore suggested he knew what he was talking about and Lauer had no clue. When Lauer suggested, without claiming any advanced medical degree that his experience of people who had taken anti-depressants showed them to work in some instances, he was scorned by Cruise who called him irresponsible for “advocating” their use by not denouncing it.

"You don't even know what Ritalin is. If you start talking about chemical imbalance, you have to evaluate and read the research papers on how they came up with these theories, Matt, okay? That's what I've done," snapped Cruise, who now feels qualified to dispense his immense knowledge, despite the medical degrees and other more formidable qualifications lesser people are compelled to go through before refuting or denouncing the effects of pharmaceuticals.

Ritalin or Adderall, prescribed by genuine professionals, can indeed work – even though the misinformation and abuse seems to make for better headlines. Just the same ways as cancer patients or others in severe pain can benefit by Oycontin, and should not be deprived just because strung out addicts in the the Appalachias are breaking through pharmacy roofs to get their hands on it, or crushing and snorting it to circumvent the time release and intensify the high.

Nor does playing a hit man for the Columbian drug cartel actually qualify one as an expert on drugs
The presence of military recruiters on school campuses dishing out ultra violent video games appears not to be upsetting enough an issue for the Top Gun star, nor, as my brother added, does playing a hit man for the Columbian drug cartel actually qualify one as an expert on drugs.

Neither does a failure to condemn something imply an endorsement, another tack he used to attack Lauer. By his convoluted logic, Cruise’s failure to condemn the commonly prescribed Dexedrine suggests that this brand is okay for children with ADD. Or does GlaxoSmithKline have a Scientology connection?

Before having branding psychiatry a pseudo science without an iota of irony, Cruise saw fit to say this about Scientology: “You know, Scientology is something that you don't understand. It gives you tools you can use to apply to your life.” Well guess what, Dr. Cruise. ADD is something you don’t appear to understand, so how about sticking to what you know -- say teeth whitening -- and take an Adderall or two before you spout your pearls of wisdom. Or perhaps a Valium before appearing on a particularly unchallenging talk show. From someone who studies Ron Hubbbard, it’s a challenge for many of us to take your pharmacology studies seriously.

For some children, Ritalin is a lot more helpful than a Daddy with commitment issues and delusions of grandeur. Further, if he truly doesn’t care what people say about him, as he told Lauer, Cruise should stop suing anyone and everyone challenging his heterosexuality and use the money for genuine medical research by professionals who have actually studied pharmacology.

With his over-produced, fake Hollywood laugh masking his increasing bitterness and anger, (where the hell, by the way, is Maureen Dowd when one actually needs her) he virtually bit Lauer’s head off telling him how “passionate” he is about life. And how happy. As happy, it seems, as Maureen Orth, following Michael Jackson’s acquittal.

You wake up every morning looking at Tim Russert lying next to you looking like the aborted love child of Miss Piggy and runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks
Yes, Maureen Orth, who one would guess has to be on anti depressants if you wake up every morning looking at Tim Russert lying next to you looking like the aborted love child of Miss Piggy and runaway bride, Jennifer Wilbanks. Not that Orth is an oil painting either. And why, you may wonder, would I lower my standards to cast judgment on such surface things as the looks of others? Only because Maureen Orth owes her entire career and renown to three men – Tim Russert, Andrew Cunanan and Michael Jackson. Who wouldn’t be bitter? And for ten years, she’s been writing about Michael Jackson with a ridiculous, bitchy and irrelevant focus on his physical appearance.

Sure, she’s not the only one to have taken this cheap route, but she takes herself seriously in a magazine which declared irony dead post-September 11th, and remains obsessed with celebrity and the worship of the superficial. She’s certainly not the best writer at Vanity Fair either, but her delusional sense of self and failure to spot hypocrisy, let alone irony, is best reflected in this gem from her latest hatchet job on Michael Jackson:

"During a break the judge took for a conference at the bench in the middle of Francia’s testimony, I was alarmed at the indifference of the jurors. The young man sitting in the witness-box before them had just gone through one of the most humiliating ordeals of his life, but they did not exhibit the slightest sign of empathy. They ignored him as they laughed and talked together. I suddenly wondered if we have not all watched so much Dr. Phil and Oprah that we can no longer distinguish between real pain and entertainment."

Or read one too many of Maureen Orth’s books or sensationalist magazine articles, like the very one from which I’m quoting -- conveniently on the magazine stands during the jury deliberations. Dirty. Lucianne Goldberg style. Most of us have been wondering as much since the O.J. Simpson trial, if not years before, but Maureen Orth had an epiphany in May 2005. Can a woman truly be so switched off and oblivious to whom she is and what she does? Could Tom Cruise actually have a point? Might this be medication related? Her grinding axe all but destroys the legitimate questions she poses regarding the Jackson pedophile accusations.

Oh, the fragility of the truth,” said, of all people, disgraced columnist Maggie Gallagher, in response to the Michael Jackson verdict
Oh, the fragility of the truth,” said, of all people, disgraced columnist Maggie Gallagher, in response to the Michael Jackson verdict. No, I am not making this up. "Now, as social norms have faded, as tolerance and diversity become the new watchwords, a bedroom full of porn and young boys is not in itself a reason to believe the boy, not proof beyond a reasonable doubt," she opined, probably after Jackson prosecutor, Tom Sneddon, paid her. This woman cheaply whored herself, and her profession, to the Bush administration, by taking money to promote their agenda by cheerleading marriage in her atrociously written columns. Maggie Gallagher is as qualified to comment on truth as Tom Cruise is to comment on Aderall. Stick to discussing sexless, loveless marriages, Ms. Gallagher. One would imagine it’s the one issue for which you’re eminently qualified. And you can bill the White House.

In a pre-ejaculatory promotional tag that dubbed the show, "so fast - it's changing the pace of news," MSNBC would be better served packaging it as an antidote to insomnia. About as quick as Robert Novak coming clean about his exclusive journalistic privilege
The spectacle of MSNBC’s new Tucker Carlson vehicle, The Situation, is even more embarrassing than the moment Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, appeared on CNN’s Crossfire to tell Carlson what a prick he was. In a pre-ejaculatory promotional tag that dubbed the show, "so fast - it's changing the pace of news," MSNBC would be better served packaging it as an antidote to insomnia. About as quick as Robert Novak coming clean about his exclusive journalistic privilege.

It started off badly enough, with a bitchy catfight on, gee surprise, the Don Imus show. The bow-tied chump angered the dried up crack whore by taking the side of Contessa Brewer, who Imus recently called an idiot/slut/moron because she called him an old fool unable to relate to beautiful women, and mocked his ranch for a very special few kids for a few days a year with cancer. Following a typically childish tirade, Imus told his son, Wyatt, "You’re not a sissy in a bow tie, you’re a cowboy." While wheezing, cocaine-addicted alcoholics are not the first image one conjures when imagining cowboys, Don Imus -- in his cowboy hat, tussled hair and Wranglers -- is as deluded as Michael Jackson believing he’s Peter Pan. The only upsetting thing is that if Carlson’s show fails, or rather when it fails, Imus will be stupid enough and arrogant enough to take the credit.

In the endless MSNBC promos, Carlson says, "You have to be dead to be a legend." You, Mr. Carlson, need to try a lot harder. The thought of Tucker Carlson torturing America for twenty five years, until he sits hunched with osteoporotic shoulders in bow tie and braces like Larry King, is enough to induce sudden death embolisms. Or worse, watch Nancy Grace, the treacherous blend of Anne Coulter, Tammy Faye Baker and Kathy Lee Gifford with a hint of Linda Tripp.

For those of you not yet sick enough of Paris Hilton, her mother’s reality show, I Want to Be a Hilton, is enough to simply make you even sicker. At the expense of sounding like a pseudo-psychologist like the rest of them, (I only majored in Industrial Psychology) it looks like Kathy Hilton can finally live out what she manically constructed for her wanton daughter. The show would make far more sense if it was named for what it is, I Wanted to Be Paris. How much collagen, Botox and liposuction will it take before we see the first sex tape “stolen” from one of the Hilton homes just in time to convince the arbiters of taste at NBC to renew the show? (As an aside, in an informal survey I did among my straight male friends, I was horrified to learn how many of them genuinely thought Paris gave a decent blowjob, poor things.)

in an informal survey I did among my straight male friends, I was horrified to learn how many of them genuinely thought Paris gave a decent blowjob, poor things
Between the Trumps and the Hiltons and their obsessive desire to parade their money as a form of entertainment, the tasteless vulgarity of the nouveau riche will continue to provide ample sport for the snobbish, older-moneyed variety, or subject matter, if distastefully ironic, for the Maureen Orths and Maggie Gallaghers. Reinforcing that no amount of money can buy breeding or taste. America is looking more and more like a gaudy, Liberace-inspired, palatial trailer where plush and lush and cash and trash are one and the same and where a culture war seems to be tirelessly waged in a cultureless society.

When will we stop confusing roles? Why do we care what Mel Gibson thinks about euthanasia or what Jessica Simpson thinks of the presidency, if capable of thinking at all?What horrible abuse have our kids suffered that would result in them giving a shit about Britney Spears’ pregnancy or the Gastineau Girls -- a cheap, tacky show on E! about a shallow mother teaching her daughter how to dangle her vagina like a carrot to secure diamonds from men (as opposed to Kathy Hilton who taught her daughter the same thing even though they already had the diamonds)? Why do we insist on seeking clarity from the worn, scorned, pawned and uninformed?

With shills pretending to be journalists, columnists pretending to be psychologists, celebrities pretending to be doctors, drug addicts masquerading as cowboys, mothers trying to be daughters, bitches in bow ties and babies in bedrooms, we have reached a point where no one knows who the hell they are anymore, what role they should be playing or what the hell they should be doing.

With its strict elimination process at the core, perhaps Survivor wasn’t so bad after all.

Clinton Fein can be reached at clinton@annoy.com


 
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