This is not the first time I've waxed poetic on inexplicable fame. In fact, one might go so far as to say that it's one of my favorite things to talk about. Inasmuch, I'm likely, on balance, to be more a part of the problem than I am of the solution. But that being as it may, I can hardly stay quiet when the celebrity bar has been lowered so drastically as to make Paris Hilton appear as a paragon of legitimacy. The press has recently added a pundit so amazingly devoid of social value, even the faintest trace of intelligence, or any redeeming characteristics whatsoever, that it's a wonder they put a mic to his mouth the first time, let alone continuing to do it. The inane and predictable commentary offered up by this simpleton is barely qualifiable as English, and consists mostly of the muttering slurry of teen cliches and "you know"s that has to come to represent a generation for whom the term "slacker" seems far too generous. He is the face of never-leaving-the-town-you-grew-up-in, and the kind of young man that keeps the fathers of teenage daughters up at night. He is lazier than Crocs. He is Levi Johnston; the failure of a nation.
It's hard to know where to start with Levi. As a point of review, if you've been fortunate enough to not have heard of or from Levi, let's back up for a minute. Levi came to the forefront of the public consciousness during the 2008 Presidential campaign. His connection could only best be described as ancillary and at worst perhaps parasitic. When GOP nominee John McCain announced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to be his running mate, the media was sent scampering. Palin was a relative unknown, and for the briefest of moments, the Republican party seized the momentum of an election which looked more like the coronation of the King of Hope than a real contest. Palin was a former beauty queen with a frontier ruggedness who looked, at first blush, like the kind of woman who could finally break through the glass ceiling of Presidential politics. She was unapologetically conservative and paraded her family around with her as a demonstration of her commitment to family values. But then it all started to unravel. Her teenage daughter, Bristol, then 17, sprung the news that every red-state American parent is dying to hear. Her boyfriend Levi had gotten her pregnant.
The Palins got out in front of the issue by touting the validity of their daughter's relationship to Levi, and fans of the 1960's cheered as the fiction of lasting true love between teenagers got it's biggest shot in the arm since the remake of Romeo and Juliet. Of course, one look at Levi and the shine soon faded on that fantasy. If I were to ask you to close your eyes and imagine the type of young man that at 18 would knock up a 17 year old girl in Wasilla, Alaska (population, 10,000), in between his highest aspirations of becoming a professional hockey player (despite not being recruited to play college hockey anywhere), hunting moose and working as a carpenter, you wouldn't need to see a picture of him. Because he is exactly that guy.
So to review, Levi Johnston is famous for being the useless, wanna-be bad boy cum carpenter who was ignorant enough to have unprotected sex with the Governor's daughter. Oh hey, this just in, his engagement to young Bristol fell apart. Wow. That's the biggest surprise since the sun came up this morning.
Right, well if that's not enough for you, it gets better... or worse, depending on your point of view. Big, hunky Levi has done the classic tattooing your last name across your back or stomach one better. He's got his last name inked on his forearm. That's right, his forearm. Because nothing says "bright future" like eight inches of "Johnston" between your wrist and elbow. I can only think of three words to describe that: douche-er-riffic!
In the interests of producing some sort of intellectual exercise while writing about such an intellectual sinkhole, I tried to come up with a short list of worse things to tattoo on your forearm than your last name in inch-high letters, and could only come up with a few:
- A portrait of a ninja (included mostly because I've actually seen that one)
- The quadratic equation (a good idea when you're 18, but no matter what they tell you, you'll never use it again after you graduate)
- Directions to the "gun show"
- Marilyn Monroe (sorry Megan Fox)
- A chili recipe; or
- McCain/Palin '08
It's hard to imagine why we would listen to Levi for anything more than a barometer for social decay as evidenced by American youth, but ostensibly he's being queried for his opinions on the Palin family. Which is a bit like asking Nicole Richie's neighbors to find out what she's up to. I mean, far be it from the Palin family to shy from the spotlight. The entire family is separately negotiating book deals and movie rights - if you want to know about them, just ask. What's more, if they're being especially secretive about something, maybe you should ask someone who isn't cognitively taxed by multi-syllable words. I mean, I know Alaska's not necessarily an intellectual hotbed, but it's also no South Carolina (where you can't throw a rock and not hit a guy like Levi).
And who is foisting this moron upon the world as some sort of political insider? The usual suspects? TMZ? Perez Hilton? or any of the multitude of checkout lane gossip rags? Oh no. You can get your up to the minute imbecile coverage of the Palin family on CNN and Fox News. And to make matters worse, while countless numbers of aspiring writers (myself included) struggle towards agents and publishers to get their prose into print (and perhaps beyond), Levi is currently negotiating both a book and movie deal. Which is the sort of thing that could put a Lindsay Lohan memoir into Pulitzer consideration (and me into a mountain cabin). I mean, even an intelligent nineteen year old has little if anything to offer in the way of insight, I can't imagine this mouth-breather writing anything that won't make me dumber for having read it.
Listen, guys like Levi play an important role. Every small town high school needs one. Heck, they can usually stand to have a couple. They are cautionary tales for the generations that follow, and want for something better. They are the important lesson that a girl learns about bad boys, idiots, or anyone who lives their lives vicariously through their MySpace page. They are the karmic revenge on the popular girl who wasn't very nice to anyone, as they are five years away from a trailer, a baby running around outside in only a diaper, and domestic violence rap sheet. They are the context for your reunions that make you feel like you've accomplished something. What they are not, is anyone that should be in the news cycle any longer than it takes to recount the details of their tragic demise.
We can do better, and in fact, we must. In a nation where a healthy sense of shame seems harder and harder to come by, we still need to be ashamed of young men like Levi. Because it's only when we turn the public eye off and the evil eye on that we have a hope of discouraging them. And with a little luck, maybe the only thing your daughter's boyfriend will need to remind him of his last name is his driver's license.