Keep celebrity dirty laundry in the basket

Is there no reprieve from the celebrity scandal mill? Have the days when movie stars were larger-than-life, clean-cut heroes passed us by?

News broke last week that Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a love child with the family's maid. That came just days after he and wife Maria Shriver announced they were ending 25 years of marriage.

Rumours that Schwarzenegger had a wandering eye have circulated since he first ran for governor of California. With the rumours now cemented in stone, the media and gossip rags are having a field day.

The shock wave of disappointment that has rippled through the Terminator's fan base is understandable. Online movie websites have decried that Schwarzenegger's pending movie comeback is over before it began, and rightly so.

The question that could be asked is why do we care? Schwarzenegger, like Mel Gibson and Tom Cruise before him, was one of the world's biggest movie stars in his day. Young boys idolized him and flocked to his movies one after the other.

It's likely few will line up for any of the Austrian Oak's future films given the fate of similar fallen stars before him. Gibson's comeback film, Edge of Darkness, bombed once the world viewed him as a racist drunk.

As for Cruise, he still makes movies, but his fanbase isn't what it once was. Seems being a scientologist isn't as stigmatizing as cheating on your wife.

Another question that could be asked is, what's gone wrong with celebrity? No one heard anything particularly scandalous about Jimmy Stewart or Clark Gable. The stars of yesteryear seemed, at least on the surface, to be more wholesome and clean cut.

But the flow of information and presence of the paparazzi wasn't as intense then as it is now. And stars were under contract and the control of the movie studios and their Harperesque PR teams.

There were scandals. Rock Hudson, it turns out, was gay. So was Anthony Perkins. Marilyn Monroe was alleged to be a drug addict and Errol Flynn a drinker, womanizer and brawler.

Perhaps the problem isn't just with those we idolize, but with our society as well. Why would we be surprised that Schwarzenegger cheated on his wife or Cruise is a little bit . . . different? Why should these actors, actresses, golf pros and basketball stars be held on a higher pedestal than anyone else?

Movie stars are, after all, people. That doesn't make what they do right, but it shouldn't surprise us either.

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