Keli Goff, 4/6/2011 [Archive]

Charlie Sheen Offered Higher Speaking Fee Than President Clinton

By Keli Goff

Okay, so I realize I'm a bit late for April Fool's, so I guess you can just call this headline a big fat lie. Although give it a day or two and I'm afraid it may just come true. It's certainly not beyond the realm of possibility, not in an age in which Snooki from Jersey Shore is paid more than literary legend Toni Morrison to speak at the same institution.

When I first heard that a Snooki officially trumps a Nobel Prize winner in the "who is more valuable to a university?" department, my first thought was "Ha! Well that's a creative April Fool's joke." My second thought upon finding out that sadly, the joke's on us was, "There has never been a more sure sign of the apocalypse." Or as one of my wittier friends quipped, "a more shore sign of the apocalypse."

I'm not going to rag on Snooki. She simply did what the American Dream encourages people to do: take the money someone offers you, no matter how questionable it (or the circumstances through which it was obtained) may be, and run as fast as you can. As far as I'm concerned, this is a classic instance of "Don't hate the player, hate the game."

But I am going to hate on the organizer of "the game," in this case Rutgers University.

While Morrison was booked by university officials and Snooki was booked by a student programming committee, there's plenty of blame to go around for "Snooki-gate." The only tepid defense I've heard is basically "We're just giving the public what it wants."

The problem is that in this case "the public" we're talking about are not a bunch of high rollers throwing benjamins around a strip club to garner the attention of a surgically enhanced dancer, but students who have paid -- or rather whose parents have likely paid -- to ensure that they receive the best educational experience their money can buy. And I doubt when they sent junior off to school they envisioned Snooki as being representative of the best educational experience money could buy.

In the big scheme of things it's a lousy $32,000 right? What's that -- the equivalent of a scholarship or two, or maybe a couple of adjunct professor salaries? But the greater cost to all of us is the message this whole embarrassing scenario sends.

For the last couple of years we've heard the endless lament about the "entitlement" of Generation Y, which has been described at various times as marked by an obsession with fame and easy money without the work ethic necessary to earn either. But then who have some of the very same outlets that have cast a critical eye on Gen Y, including hard news outlets like the New York Times, showered with coverage? The Kardashians and cast members of Jersey Shore.

From what I gather, the Kardashians are best known for being pretty and having a sex tape, and the cast of Jersey Shore is known for drinking a lot and throwing up afterwards.

So when academic institutions officially declare Snooki as more worthy than a Nobel laureate, then why should Gen Y -- or any generation for that matter -- value hard work, intelligence or any of the other attributes that have made Morrison successful?

Snooki's not the only one. Reality stars have not only begun conquering colleges and Hollywood, but have even made it to the Halls of Congress.

So how could any young person these days be faulted for wanting to skip the debt and misery of grad school in lieu of the easier and potentially more lucrative career route of reality show star/well-compensated but useless media personality?

Maybe instead of constantly hating on Gen Y it's time for everyone to just admit that the game has changed. Because it seems that no one really cares about how Americans become successful anymore--sex tape, tell all memoir, teen pregnancy, drunk driving arrest, mental breakdown--as long as "the brand" becomes interesting enough to enough people to become a success (whatever that means today.)

So while Charlie Sheen's first live performance may not have gotten rave reviews, he's just one sex tape away from a comeback. Mark my words.

All current and former presidents who think that you have confirmed your commencement speaking slots this season -- you've been warned. You may just find yourself bumped for a narcissistic former sitcom star or a Snooki.

-----

Keli Goff is a contributing editor for TheLoop21.com, and can be reached at assistant@keligoff.com.

This column has been edited by the author. Representations of fact and opinions are solely those of the author.




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