Balloon Boy Saga & the Fame Game

By Sadie Bass

Oct 19, 2009 12:06pm

ABC's Stu Schutzman reports from New York: Isn’t it ironic? Richard and Mayumi Heene would rather turn themselves in to authorities, according to their lawyer, than subject their children to the spectacle of their parents in a perp walk.  Hasn’t that train already left the station — haven’t they already subjected these kids to enough?  This “hoax,” says the local sheriff, “was a publicity stunt” allegedly devised by the father to further his Reality TV career. Two stints on “Wife Swap’ including his wife and children apparently weren’t sufficient.  He was desperate for more fame, his associate Robert Thomas writes on Gawker.com, “and I think in this case the desperation was too much to bear for Richard Heene.” But aren’t many of us equally complicit, giving the Richard Heenes of the world a stage, paying more attention to who will be voted off the island or shamed off American Idol than the state of the economy or the war in Afghanistan? “It’s a painful illustration of the sorry state of a reality TV-addled culture,” says another post on Gawker, “Glued to 40″ hi-def images, waiting for the latest fix of manufactured conflict.” The pursuit of fame can be an obsession say psychologists. An exhaustive psychological survey a few years ago, cited by the New York Times, found as much as “30% of adults report regularly daydreaming about being famous and more than 40% expect to enjoy some passing dose of fame — their '15 minutes,’ in Andy Warhol’s famous phrase.”  This behavior, says the Times “appears rooted in a desire for social acceptance.” These people, say the shrinks, were abandoned or ignored as children, “It’s a distinct type,” says Tim Kasser of Knox College, “people who expect to get meaning out of fame, who believe the only way to have their lives make sense is to be famous.” Psycho babel aside and without knowing the circumstances of Richard Heene’s childhood, he does appear to fit the mold and Reality TV seems to be his MO. “For fame seekers,” writes Allison Ford on Divine Caroline.com, “Reality Television has been a gold mine… and some aren’t afraid to admit that they’ll do anything to get famous.” Anything? Like lying  about your 6 year olds life at risk in an out of control experimental balloon? Prior to last week Richard Heene was a relative unknown. Today he’s famous, a household name. But at what cost? — stay tuned!

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