Martin Scorsese’s 1980 film Raging Bull opens with washed-up boxer Jake La Motta practicing his lounge act in a dressing room. La Motta’s desperate grasp at extending his 15 minutes of fame fails and the rest of the film chronicles La Motta’s life, acting as both a fall-from-grace tale and a criticism of fame’s fleeting nature. A quarter-century later, the film’s lessons are still as poignant as ever.
This decade has seen celebrities emerge who are famous for reasons that boggle the mind. While the spotlight shines just as bright as ever on some–a certain hotel fortune heiress springs to mind–others must resort to desperate measures to recapture the public’s attention. As a result, recent years have seen such spectacles as Michael Jackson dangling a baby from a window, Janet Jackson flashing an awkward nipple at the SuperBowl, Russell Crowe beating a man with a phone and sex tapes starring Jenna Lewis, Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton and the latest addition, Dustin “Screech” Diamond, of Saved by the Bell fame. Enough is enough.
While the other fame-seekers offer the viewer something in return: either titillation, the sheer visceral thrill of seeing a baby in danger or an angry, violent Australian on a rampage, the Screech sex tape offers very little in terms of entertainment value. Nobody wants to see the comic relief from a beloved childhood show having sex. It’s either really creepy that he’s doing what he’s doing, or really depressing because he’s having more sex than most. Either way, it’s a no-win situation for the viewer.
Not only that, it’s a continuation of a distressing trend in the entertainment world. While the Jacksons, Crowe and Anderson were all top-billed stars in the past, Diamond was never a star and his tape sets a disturbing precedent. Attention-whoring was once restricted to former A-list stars attempting to reclaim their status, and their antics were usually tame. Soon the internet may be littered with the depressingly perverse antics of washed-up C-listers. Nobody wants that.
Fame is a dangerous thing. It can be intoxicating, addictive and fleeting. Many of Diamond’s contemporaries–like Scott Baio, Neil Patrick Harris and Alyssa Milano–have recaptured attention by doing things worth acknowledgement. When the best thing you can do to stay in the spotlight is make a sex tape, it’s time to walk away.