Anna Breslaw’s 600-Word Sprint: To Have and Have Not

This really is the season not to mock anyone less fortunate than you.

Justin Timberlake has avowed he knew nothing of the offensive video before it played, but he did provide the venue. (Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Nov 25, 2012

TakePart presents “Anna Breslaw’s 600-Word Sprint,” a weekly column of pop culture analysis and social justice insight. Look for Anna’s Sprint every week on the homepage of TakePart.

Covering celebrity gossip daily, as fluffy as the job sounds, can be an emotionally tricky business sometimes: Like betting on horses, you pick favorites and find yourself genuinely disappointed when they do something to fall short of your standards.

Now, I have a confession to make. Sit down. I don’t like Justin Timberlake. As a human being, I mean. I never have. I don’t know exactly why—he just reads as smug to me, like he’s always “on.” Anecdotes about Timberlake telling his wife Jessica Biel how to dress don’t help in that department, either.

My dislike was partially validated late last month when a mocking video of homeless people, reportedly played at Biel and Timberlake’s $30 million Italian wedding, surfaced on the Internet.

MORE: Census Shows Sharp Increase in U.S. Poor

The video opens with a title card reading “Greetings from your Hollywood friends who just couldn’t make it,” and features various Los Angeles vagrants—one later stating he had been paid $40—wishing the couple good luck. Some of the “Hollywood friends” use garbled or nonsensical language. There is also one requisite transvestite or transexual meant to be laughed at.

Eight minutes long in total, only 20 seconds of tape was leaked on the Internet. Justin Hutchel, a friend of Timberlake’s who works in real estate, created the video. Hutchel later claimed that his work was a comment on how expensive the wedding was (which would be kind of genius, but I’m gonna go ahead guess that claim’s just a response coached to Hutchel by a very good lawyer), and Timberlake’s lawyers said that their client had no idea what the film was about before it screened at the reception.

Whether Timberlake was ignorant or indifferent, once the messages from Hollywood friends who couldn’t make it were leaked, the backlash was immediate: Blogs took the Timberlakes to task for using poverty as a punchline, and fans chastised and unfollowed Timberlake on Twitter. (“It’s official I am no longer a @timberlake fan!! Unfollowing you right now! Mocking the homeless is wrong! #Pissed.”)

Timberlake released a statement about the incident:

I’d like to start off by saying that I don’t live my life making fun of people (unless, of course, I’m making fun of myself on SNL)... Especially, those who are less fortunate or those in need. I grew up with a family and community that instilled ideals in me like hard work, honesty and empathy. As a matter of fact, growing up in Tennessee, I was always taught that we as people, no matter what your race, sex, or stature may be, are equal.

The disturbing part of this incident isn’t necessarily the simple fact that it happened—it’s the probability that things of this nature happen more often than we think, and don’t become known to the public.

The line between celebrity and reality star has become increasingly blurred. Let’s face it: The people in that Timberlake wedding video probably have more useful work skills than the Kardashians or the cast of Jersey Shore, who make millions of dollars for simply holding a promotional bottle of vodka at an event for five minutes. Are the Hollywood friends who just couldn’t make it any shorter on life skills than anyone in universe Teen Mom, where underage mothers become MTV superstars by virtue of procreating accidentally and early with some equally unprepared remedial student?

Today, the difference between the haves and have-nots often appears to have less to do with talent than it does with sheer dumb luck.

Rather than raging against Timberlake and Biel, a more productive option might be to try to help the Los Angeles homeless by providing jobs, mental-health care or shelter—not just give them a TMZ post.

Do you ever have an urge to mock someone less fortunate than you? Tell how you overcome that impulse in COMMENTS.

These are solely the author's opinions and do not represent those of TakePart, LLC or its affiliates.

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