I am slightly fascinated with Jussie Smollett: the man and the mind inside him. Celebrity elevates everything it touches; it turns the mundane into the mainstream, and local stories into national news. Plenty of people have fantasized (?) about pretending to be victims of a crime and plenty have actually done it, even going so far as to file police reports. They don’t become celebrities. Jussie Smollett was already a celebrity when he committed his crime (allegedly). The fact of his celebrity, even for people who didn’t know who he was when the story broke, elevated his lie and his inevitable downfall to national status. Because there really is nothing like watching a person caught in a lie. It’s a special kind of entertainment.
For those who didn’t click the links when it happened, Jussie Smollett – black, gay, actor of television and screen, who was then a supporting character on the Hulu series Empire – claimed he had been attacked by two white men who were wearing masks and MAGA hats (Make America Great Again). in the wee of the morning on . He was doused with bleach and a noose and hung around his neck. He fought them off, he said, and called the police.
After, or while, much of the liberal media was tongue-lashing Donald Trump, conservatives, and Americans in general for their bigotry and prejudice, and perpetuating America’s history of racial violence, the narrative began to turn against Jussie and the investigation into his “attack” revealed that he had planned the attack himself. He didn’t just make up a story about an attack; he staged the attack for a security camera AND mailed himself a piece of hate mail days before the “incident”. Which was, as fake police reports go, almost a stroke of genius.
A fascinating story, really. A semi-famous man caught in a huge lie, and a massive deception that was a betrayal of everything his family, friends, and peers thought he was. This didn’t turn out the way he imagined. His career and public image are ruined. His supporters look like gullible reactionaries. It tore the black and gay communities apart. Do you support your people, even if the story doesn’t click, or put facts before demographics, and withhold your belief, and complete support, until you get more information? Should we give our own the benefit of the doubt or should everyone be considered a liar until proven innocent?
Beyond that, I constantly circle the central issue: motive. Why did he do it? What did he want? Our needs and wants dictate our actions. Jussie had a specific goal while he planned this, and when he executed it. He wanted to accomplish something. He had a goal, a dream, maybe. Greater celebrity? A bigger career? He had a CD coming out, so maybe he wanted greater sales and greater mainstream visibility. Politics? Maybe he wanted a visible place in the political arena, to be part of the political conversation, the name everyone reached for….
Racial tension? Racial violence? Demonstrations? Definitely. Riots? His record as an activist says he thinks he is working for peace and equality. But, his actions were only going to increase racial tension, only going to be one more stick of dynamite on the bonfire.
Hero status? Maybe he wanted to be the face of a new Black/Gay Revolution, a hero to little gay kids, and little black kids, a poster boy, THE Poster Boy for gay and black rights – for human rights. The sign of all the people victimized by Trump’s MAGA and the people encouraged to act against “Others” because of him.
“I fought back,” he told Robin Roberts in the televised interview that destroyed his credibility with most of his supporters. Doesn’t that statement put an onus on those who didn’t? I fought back, unlike other people. It says that victims are all gay kids, and black kids, and gay black kids see; victims of discriminations, victims of hate crimes, victims of the system. People who didn’t fight back. Well, Jussie Smollett fought back SO those kids could see and be encouraged to fight back themselves.
Jussie’s staged attack is a lie (allegedly) intended to shame and undermine blacks, gays, and black gay victims of real hate crimes, a lie designed to promote Jussie Smollett, to place him above Them, the passive victims, morally, psychologically, socially, and politically. He’s better than them, stronger – Superior. It’s a lie with a narrative purpose, planned, scripted, and executed with a singular message in mind. I, Jussie Smollett fought back…against homophobia, against racism, against violence, against MAGA, against the Republican Party, against President Trump himself. Unlike Them.
It’s lie meant to elevate Jussie Smollett at the expense of other people.