Thursday, April 25, 2013

on Reese and responsibility

I'm about 72 hours late to the topic, but it's nevertheless still relevant.

Reese Witherspoon and her husband, Jim Toth, were pulled over last weekend.  Apparently he was at the wheel and swerved, leading an officer to pull him over for drunk driving suspicion.  As he was being questioned, tested and arrested, Reese apparently grew agitated.  She allegedly told the police officer that she didn't believe he was a real police officer, and asked the officer "Do you know my name?  You're about to find out who I am".

After the arrests were made public, she released a statement:

"Out of respect for the ongoing legal situation, I cannot comment on everything that is being reported right now. But I do want to say, I clearly had one drink too many and I am deeply embarrassed about the things I said.  It was definitely a scary situation and I was frightened for my husband, but that is no excuse. I was disrespectful to the officer who was just doing his job. The words I used that night definitely do not reflect who I am. I have nothing but respect for the police and I'm very sorry for my behavior."

I will admit that I was disappointed when I heard the news.  Reese always seemed like such a "good girl"juxtaposed against tragic Hollywood types like Lindsey Lohan and the Kardashians.  She seems like a golden girl, a genuinely nice and responsible person.

I understand that people make mistakes - even genuinely nice and responsible ones.  I can very quickly "forgive" her for what she said after having a drink too many - I've definitely said things I regretted (both when aided by booze and when stone cold sober)!  The thing I am having a harder time getting over, though, is the fact that her husband blew a .139.  He was significantly over the legal limit, and they both still thought it was a good idea for him to drive a car.  That's inexcusable.  Call a cab or - you got $20 mil on your last film - hire a driver.  Drinking and driving is not ok.

I appreciate the fact that Reese quickly owned up to her behavior, as many times celebrities try to skirt the issue and never own up to their mistakes.  But though she owned it, I don't think that's nearly enough.  If I were her PR team, I'd be suggesting making some big gestures.  A gigantic donation to MADD.  A PSA against drunk driving, urging people to have taxi numbers pre-programed in their phones.  An essay for the Times or Glamour magazine or an appearance on GMA.

I know she's an actress, but like it or not, she's also a role model - and she's capitalized handsomely on that fact.  She and her husband modeled some pretty shitty behavior, and I would like to see them model something good.


  1. I totally agree! Celebrities have the money to pay for a car service, I've never understood why they don't use them when drinking.

  2. Smart. And sane. Great points, great post!

  3. An actresses as a role models? For all I know you're right. People use actresses as role models because Jesus would be too tough (not an exact quote from Kurt Vonnegut but close)!

    1. That's a funny quote and interesting idea! Thanks for sharing!

      I do think that actresses can be role models - maybe they aren't all role model candidates, but I would argue that Reese has embraced and even encouraged that status. For example, when she was accepting an MTV award in 2011, she said "So, for all the girls out there, it’s totally possible to be a good girl...I’m going to try to make it cool." I think actresses have a huge appeal, to young people in particular, and I think that makes them ripe for role model status.

  4. Ok, I'm sure you right. Next logical question then: where are their parents? Wouldn't (just about) any priest/minister/rabbi be a better role model than a Hollywood actress? Wouldn't (just about) ANY teacher be a better role model than a Hollywood actress! Discuss.

    1. I get your point, and agree with you... but I guess I don't think that parent's really have a say over who young people look to as role models.

      As a silly example, I loved Jennifer Aniston in high school, and got my hair cut exactly like hers (the "Rachel"!) but I'm not sure that anyone - myself included! - would have pinpointed her as my role model. I think the main issue is that actors (all celebrities, really!) have this crazy appeal. They always look cool, we love how they dress and look and act, and we want that lifestyle. It's attractive.

      I completely agree that in general teachers, religious leaders, parents, etc would be MUCH better role models, but I think they lack the superficial flash that many young people (or not-so-young-people) are drawn too.

      Just my 2c!


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