There is such a thing as too much information. Readers of the celebrity gossip site Bossip.com discovered this yesterday after the site posted a photograph of an aborted, bloody embryo resting in a toilet before being flushed. Allegedly, the embryo belonged to video model Esther Baxter, ex-paramour of New Jersey rapper Joe Budden.
The pictures accompanied police evidence and a video interview with Baxter in which she, and the reports, described the abuse she suffered at the hands of the “Mood Muzik” rapper. Immediately after the image was posted, Twitter and the hip-hop social media blogosphere, rightfully cried foul. Several hours later, after receiving many hits, Bossip took the photos down.
What Bossip’s and Baxter’s actions reveal in posting the graphic images was an exercise in poor judgement, as well as the lengths gossip mongers would go to create news and pageviews.
While some may argue that the image is no different from the Bin Laden death conundrum faced by our President, we say no, they are two completely different things. One, the American public and our international supporters in the war against terrorism and religious violence, are owed those photographs because we have a right to know whether or not a mortal enemy has been eliminated. Two, those photographs could be evidence that the public is not being manipulated by a clever machine intent on winning political favor or approval. Showing a photograph of a bloody embryo created by two dysfunctional people on the margins of hip-hop accomplishes nothing except to reveal how “class” has disappeared from American culture.
You do remember what class is, right? Class is the triumph of intelligence over emotion. It’s choosing the right word, the right dress, the right and compassionate way to do things, instead of succumbing to the Ego, that destoyer of lives, the little imp deftly portrayed by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis in “Black Swan.” Class is the high road, the choice we make in whether or not we choose to hurt or elevate someone, whether or not they hurt us. It is a way of carrying oneself when one is confronted with circumstances beyond our reasoning or control. Ultimately, it elevates and nourishes us. Class may be something that can be taught explicitly, as in the case of our parents telling us when we were children, to keep quiet instead of saying something mean, or can it can be aquired through experience like facing a flippant Burger King Drive-Thru employee. Ester Baxter is 26. The age of Bossip’s editors are unknown.
America’s descent into classlessness may be blamed on our taste for knowing every minute detail of the lives of strangers and the supposed “need” for high ratings. This is born from reality TV and easy access to personalities via the Internet. By consuming classless behavior, we are enabling strangers to act out savagely for our entertainment. This cycle has been repeated everyday since TV execs decided it woud be cheaper to do reality TV shows instead of scripted content.
What Bossip and Baxter (Baxter supplied the photo, Bossip accepted and then published them) did was shocking and recalls a scene from Sidney Poitier’s classic high school drama of racial and gender strife in the UK film “To Sir With Love,” released in 1966 (!)
Challenging the hostility of white British teenagers towards his black male teacher in London, Poitier’s character educates a classroom of female characters, after dismissing the boys, on ways of being a lady after one of them burns a bloody tampon on a stove. Outraged, Poitier’s character says this: “I am sick of your foul language, your crude behavior and your sluttish manner. There are certain things a decent woman keeps private and only a filthy slut would have done this. And those who stood by and encouraged her are just as bad! I don’t care who’s responsible … you’re all to blame! Now, I am going to leave this room for five minutes by which time that disgusting object had better be removed and the windows opened to clear away the stench.”
We are not, repeat NOT, calling Baxter a slut. We are not attacking her, only her action. Yes, Baxter has legitimate reasons for her complaint against Budden, her former lover, but the method she used to air her side of the story was wack and not classy at all. Her actions and what drove her actions are extreme and may have come from frustration with a system that condones violence against women and lets certain men off the hook.
Furthermore, we are critiquing the system Baxter and Bossip are functioning in and are only illustrating two classless actions, one real and one based on the real (“To Sir With Love” is biographical) and several decades apart. The offensive incident Poitier’s character witnesses takes place off screen, but the audience gets what he’s talking about. This was over 50 years ago. Why can’t this be done today?