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Lindsay Lohan has had multiple run-ins with the law but has served significant time only in rehab. Like Lohan, Paris Hilton walked in and out of prison. Directors Roman Polanski and Woody Allen have had questionable sex scandals and faced no jail time. Even O.J. Simpson was tried for murder and acquitted but then declared guilty in a civil trial. It’s unclear whether the court of justice gets interrupted by the court of public opinion, the legal system is not prepared to handle high profile inmates, or if justice can be effectively carried out with such high profile figures. So does the burden fall on Hollywood to police its own?
Shh! It’s a Secret
One challenge to Hollywood policing its celebrities is that they have high powered lawyers and are very litigious. How can journalists report on crimes if they are subject to high profile lawsuits? Also, if you’re rich enough you may have a built in network of alibis and accomplices. It’s easy to have "friends" (or paid-off bouncers) take the rap, or to have people in your employ sign non-disclosure agreements. But having inequitable legal protection does not allow celebrities to be above the law. Stars like Lindsay Lohan may not serve jail time, but judging from her reality show, the time incarcerated may have served her well. With so many celebrities dying of drug related deaths does this behavior not warrant some sort of action?
The NBA has banned Donald Sterling for life for inflammatory statements he made about minorities. Paula Deen was let go from The Food Network and lost many endorsements because of things she said. But what about the things actors and performers say that get out. During stand-up performances, Tracy Morgan said if his son was gay he would kill him, and Michael Richards used the N-word. Lest we forget the many inflammatory comments by Mel Gibson and Alec Baldwin. And yet, no one is around to fine, ban, or police them.
Shonda Rhimes: Avenger
One of the few showbiz figures policing her stars seems to be Shonda Rhimes. Columbus Short, star of Scandal, has been let go by ABC amid allegations of spousal abuse. It’s sad to lose such a vital character on the show but there are some things you just can’t abide. He may be able to get away without having to do prison time but he shouldn’t appear on a national television show, with major notoriety, about a Washington power player that is a woman. It’s unclear whether it is Rhimes or ABC that removed Short, but Rhimes does have a long history of keeping her actors in line. When Grey's Anatomy star Isaiah Washington engaged in a major physical altercation, used a gay slur, and outed an actor derisively, he was let go from the show. Now this may also be a case of responding to a public outcry but it was a decision based on outrage by the cast, crew, and creators. Regardless of whether it is ABC or Rhimes making the order, letting these actors go sends a clear message: this behavior is not permissible. Look at a show like Two and a Half Men, which kept Charlie Sheen on until his public face became too much to handle. The show was a cash cow but could have afforded to let Sheen go earlier. Clearly, he has issues with drugs and his own hubris. He didn’t start out at rock bottom and had the show intervened earlier his career might have been saved.
No one is above the law but it seems like actors and Hollywood types will not realize until they lose everything. The one lesson from Lohan’s OWN show Lindsay is that you can get yourself ejected from Hollywood for bad behavior. The trip back is an uphill climb. There’s tons of talented actors and directors, beautiful models, and enjoyable comedians… but you only get a few chances.