Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Too much informa. . .tion

Sometimes I think the human race gets together to have huge meetings (excluding me, of course - I'm either late or don't know where the building is) to decide what's in and what's out - what's unacceptable, and what's warm-and-fuzzy-and-admirable-no-matter-what-it-is-or-who's-doing-it.
Lately we've seen the phenomenon of public confession, of celebrities mounting the podium to announce their "sins": violence, adultery, mental illness, and (especially) addiction. While it's still not exactly considered noble to proclaim these formerly-private and oft-disturbing phenomena, the culture still laps it up, telling themselves that confession is good for the soul and provides "healing" and positive examples for others.

Yeah, right - but how 'bout if you're one of the best-known children's writers in the world, a beloved figure who has entertained millions of kids with his "manic" (the buzzword in media) retelling of his often-surreal tales?

This guy is famous-famous in this country. His name is Robert Munsch, and he has always given me the creeps. He makes faces and screams and yells and jumps up and down, and sells millions of copies of oddball books like The Paper Bag Princesses and the much-overrated Love You Forever.

Love You Forever is all about how children who have been unconditionally loved by their parents grow up to be adults who unconditionally love their ageing parents. This involves various things being thrown down the toilet, not to mention adults crawling along the floor on their hands and knees, a bizarre detail that no one seems to notice. It's not a particularly good book, but it exploits certain tender spots in the human psyche and makes people bawl their eyes out.

OK, let's get to the point here (since it's 7:20 a.m. and the workmen putting the new windows in will arrive soon - still time for another coffee??): Munsch just came out a few days ago to tell the world that he is an alcoholic and a cocaine addict who partook of these substances to "try to deal with mental illness": specifically, bipolar disorder. To help him with his struggle for sobriety, he says he has been attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Munsch has barely four months sober, and recently suffered a stroke which has affected his speech and no doubt his thinking. He freely and openly violates the 12-step confidentiality rule which states that members must maintain "personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, film and TV".
Does he think he's above that rule? That the rule is silly and unnecessary? Or hasn't he gone to enough meetings to know why it needs to be there?

It galls me when celebrities step up to the microphone to announce a sobriety which balances on such shaky legs. It galls me further when this celebrity begins to soften or even justify the hard facts of his addiction by saying things like, "I was a French-style drunk, who is quietly immersed in alcohol all the time. I didn't have binges. I was just having a morning drink." He goes on to say he "never drank when he was writing or performing or looking after his children."

But hey: with someone as "manic" and work-obsessed as Munsch, how much time is left over after writing, performing and looking after his children? This is a blatant contradiction no one has picked up on. Not only that: he claims, "When I was drinking, I would sometimes drink too much and do stupid things. And one of the stupid things I did was use cocaine."
So much for the "French-style" drunk. Did he snort the coke while wearing a striped jersey and a beret?

According to recent news articles, there has been a flood of sympathy for this guy, an outpouring of praise for his honesty, humility, etc. But I wonder. A stroke might just impair his ability to write and perform at his usual "manic" level. But this kind of announcement is guaranteed to keep him in the limelight. We LOVE hearing about other people's pain: it's called schadenfreude, literally meaning shameful joy. (Alternate meaning: Entertainment Tonight.) And we love that peculiar mixture of admiration and pity that these dark secrets call forth.

It weirds me out that a kids' performer has come out as a cocaine addict. It's disturbing and creepy. I have to admit, Munsch creeped me out to begin with. It's something about those bizarre crazy faces and the way kids scream in response.

Though supposedly 99% of his readers have come out in warm support, part of me is still thinking, "Wait a minute. Kids' entertainer. Cocaine addict?" Can you imagine Mr. Rogers lying in a gutter with an empty 40-pounder under his arm? Captain Kangaroo smoking crack? Bob from Sesame Street sticking needles into his. . . oh, you get the picture.

More than that, can you imagine these guys getting up in front of the media to "confess" their habit, confident that the revelations will only unleash a flood of warm support? I guess I'm just an old biddy, but I thought kids' entertainers were supposed to set an example of how to grow up, how to live.

Are you a fan of Munsch? Fine. But answer me this. Would you want your kids' Grade Two teacher to be an alcoholic cocaine addict? How about their Sunday School teacher, their gymnastics coach? What if you found a stash of cocaine in the coach's locker? Would that be OK?

I guess I'm just sayin' that this is too much, way too much information at the wrong time. I wish Munsch had at least waited more than "about" four months (probably considerably less) to come out with these revelations. Is there such a thing as dealing with your "issues" privately in this day and age? Apparently not.

After all this, I predict that Munsch will become even more of a beloved figure, more warm and fuzzy than ever before. His book sales have spiked already. I guess a man that famous can do no wrong. The rich get richer. But I can't help but wonder. . . what if I came out with similar revelations (not that anyone would be interested)? I think what little career success I've had would permanently tank. I'd disappear without a ripple.

My advice to Munsch is to go away for a while and seek some real recovery. Find out just what the word "anonymous" means. You'll see that the principle is there for a very good, even crucial reason, to protect ALL members and to prevent celebrity-itis (famous people convincing the public that they are AA "leaders", then relapsing again and again).
Four months may seem like a long time to you: but how long did you drink? Four months? Four years? Four decades?