Ricky Hatton and the Celebrity Meltdown…

Posted 9/17/10 by Paul

The downfall of Ricky Hatton is not unique. It seems that, with depressing regularity, celebrities and fading sport stars are falling into the mire of rehab. Rehab is meant as the cure-all for overindulgence and self-destruction. The problem is that the word is so overused it often seems like a PR exercise or analogous to “a nice stay in a retreat” or a quick way to keep your name in the public eye. We sometimes forget, I think, what it means to “be rehabilitated”, what sort of personal rock bottom someone must have reached to require such intervention.

Hatton’s case is a sad one, when you really stop to think about it. A talented boxer with a down-to-Earth attitude, his big mistake was in believing his own hype. He won titles and his aggressive style looked convincing but, when he came up against a bona fide superstar in Floyd Mayweather Jr. , his dream was obliterated.

When he was floored by Manny Pacquiao in only the second round, it was as resounding a defeat as you’re ever likely to see. Symbolically, it was the end of Ricky Hatton as a serious contender and the aura of “The Hitman” was effectively destroyed.

Ricky Hatton stares at the skies...

Early bath for "Our Kid"...

Since losing to “Pac-Man” in May 2009, Hatton has made countless promises about a big comeback fight. His weight has visibly ballooned and he certainly has not looked match-fit. That’s actually a minor understatement; he looks terrible. With his pale complexion, triple chins and bleary eyes, it has been obvious for some time that Hatton has been suffering and retirement has looked inevitable. Rumors abounded about his late-night drinking sessions and a video obtained by the British media shows him vacuuming lines of cocaine.

We somehow expect celebrities to hold themselves to a higher standard, but it seems to me that they do things bigger and that is why their meltdowns are more outrageous. The climb to the top is high, but the fall is crushing. There is no clear reason, for instance, why an outrageously talented, successful and adored actor like Mel Gibson would be found smashed out of his mind on a coastal road. There is even less reason why he would go on obscenity-laced tirades against the Jewish community. And knocking the mother of his child around and threatening to kill her is, frankly, both disturbing and inexcusable.

I’m not sure whether celebrity meltdowns happened before, but the spread of information online might both chronicle it better and be a contributing factor to it. By that, I mean that celebrities are hounded by Paparazzi and bloggers. They are constantly being snapped and pursued, it seems. They are being pursued in the hopes that someone will capture them in a particularly newsworthy moment. If you or I were followed and hounded constantly, it is inevitable that at least some of the time we’d let our guard down.

So, while it is pretty sensational when a PR princess like Britney Spears attacks the Paparazzi with an umbrella, should we really be that surprised when people go a little crazy? There are critics out there who say that it is naïve of celebrities to expect privacy or to even demand it. I can certainly see that argument and have even used it. I think there’s a difference in acknowledging the duplicitous nature of celebrities, wanting privacy when it suits and craving attention when it’s needed, and justifying the despicably parasitic behavior of some in the media.

This is not to say that celebrities don’t court controversy or play the media to their advantage. We all know they do. What I’m driving at is how this feeding frenzy helps contribute to the downfall. Celebrities are built up to such unrealistic levels then systematically destroyed or discarded. Not many people can cope with that and, if you define your life by how famous and adored you are, it is a recipe for disaster. For any celebrity, there will always be competitors who are more famous, talented and attractive than you. The “flavor of the month” will sweep in fairly regularly, too, so when these people have to battle their way to the top the insecurity of staying there must weigh heavily.

I think the problem, as epitomized by Ricky Hatton, comes down to not having a proper handle on reality. When celebrities and sports stars start to buy into their own carefully-constructed hype, it invariably leads to a downward spiral.

Not looking too swell there, Fella!

Hatton has unofficially been doing a sequel to "Supersize Me!"

Ricky Hatton, a man from a modest working-class background, started referring to himself in the third person. In interviews, he would say things like “Ricky Hatton is not that sort of fighter.” Unless it’s part of a gimmick, it’s a troubling sign whenever people resort to that sort of behavior, a dangerous mix of bloated ego and detachment from reality. Hatton’s pre-match goading of Mayweather looks hilariously misjudged in hindsight, but it should serve as an important lesson. Never forget your strengths or your limitations.

What really grabs me is how the frailty of the human condition is universal . It doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, famous or obscure; most people require attention and many crave it. It is that need for adulation that seems to push a lot of celebrities over the edge. It is a constant, addictive itch for approval and adoration that acts as their drug. They seem to be addicted to being removed from the challenges of reality. This might also explain why they get into hard drugs and dangerous sex.

There is no good reason for people like Ricky Hatton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan ending up in rehab. They have legions of fans, millions in the bank and scores of handlers. Maybe that is part of a bigger problem when you’re insulated from genuine criticism, and you find yourself surrounded by people who only want to soothe your ego. It must be difficult to separate the true friends from the genuine bullshitters and, let’s face it, flattery is amazingly seductive. The handlers and hangers-on, like Turtle in Entourage, cling vicariously to their famous friends. Their livelihoods depend on it.

There tends to be a genuine and understandable dose of cynicism whenever a celebrity hits “rock bottom” or heads to rehab. Failure to handle the party lifestyle is too often seen as a sign of weakness. Moreover, many of these celebrities seem to have their heads lodged too far up their asses.

So, why should we care whenever they have a meltdown because of a self-inflicted addiction to booze, drugs or painkillers? Well, it’s certainly easy to dismiss it, but I have mellowed in time. I know how easy it is to seek comfort in a bottle or even just wallow in self-pity. Sure, celebrities don’t have to struggle from paycheck to paycheck and they will have no shortage of social activities to keep them entertained, but being in that profession brings on its own set of problems.

The big problem is that no-one can be trained to be a celebrity. No-one can be taught how to handle intense criticism or the inevitability of faceless bloggers attacking your character. It may be an occupational hazard, but it’s not particularly pleasant. In Ricky Hatton’s case, he bought into his character. In a similar way to some professional wrestlers, he believed in his gimmick too much and became a mark for himself. Hitting the bottle because you felt you let your fans down is simultaneously tragic and self-deluded. After all, Hatton’s fans adore him and were just worried for him. If any of them were genuinely affected by his two heavy defeats and it made them question life, then that’s THEIR problem. Hatton needs to really look himself in the mirror and realize: he is neither as good as he thought he was, nor as bad as he currently thinks he is.

I do hope to see Ricky Hatton bounce back. I think, away from the fleeting adoration and the hype, he needs to find out who he is and what really defines him. I think that’s an important pathway to happiness in general. When you start trying to be something for someone else or get too married to your assumed “role” in life, it is a sure-fire recipe for heartache. It should never come to rehab, after all. When you know who you are and be proud of what you’ve done, it’s a good start. I hope Ricky Hatton gets on that road soon…

Paul
paul@whatever-dude.com

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