I’m not sure I’ll ever see the funny side of a person being assaulted with excrement. But in recent news stories, published by News Limited, there is an implied celebration of this sick act performed on the disgraced Hey Dad actor, Robert Hughes.
Hughes deserves justice and his crimes are inexcusable. Convicted of sexual assaults, including vulnerable, young girls, Hughes was rightly convicted to serve at least six years behind bars.
The news stories were publishing extracts from a book by James Phelps called Murderous Prison: Behind the Walls of Goulburn Jail. The story landed with comical headlines like Robert Hughes’ crappy entry into Goulburn Supermax prison and quotes from the book including ‘It was one of the funniest things I can remember in the last year … you have to picture it.’
The portrayal of this man’s torture comes off the back of his betrayal. Robert Hughes not only betrayed the people close to him but also the millions of people who tuned in to watch the hit show Hey Dad.
Betrayal occurs when we have an explicit or implicit agreement with another person. The agreement can come in the form of a romance, friendship and work relationship.
We often form close bonds with fictional characters. It’s why we may weep when our favourite characters are killed off and celebrate their successes. Even without meeting the real Robert Hughes, so many had an intimate relationship with his fictional character and family.
When betrayal occurs, we not only experience distrust but it can also illicit feelings of revenge.
And the media relishes in nourishing our need for vengeance, hence the recent stories.
These stories also fascinate the public due to the juxtaposition of the harsh, raw cruelty of these appalling acts against the strong family values portrayed by their fictional characters.
Take another father figure, Stephen Collins from the religious drama 7th Heaven. Collins had exposed himself to underage girls in his past. During a therapy session with his wife, he was unknowingly recorded admitting his guilt and subsequently acknowledged his crimes.
Some criticised the betrayal of Collins experienced during a private session. Others were more concerned of his betrayal of the children from his past. This story stands out because he portrayed a reverend, raising and guiding values of his fictional children.
Interestingly, his confession has not prevented the return of the show on television recently.
Bill Cosby has taken a steeper fall from grace simply from the sheer scope of his alleged crimes. He has been accused of raping over 40 women during the years he was a beloved comic and father figure on the Cosby Show.
Many were outraged that Cosby’s crimes were presumably ignored yet were common knowledge amongst his peers. Perhaps we simply didn’t want to believe this icon could be capable. Betrayal cuts so deep that we’d prefer to believe the fantasy.
Either that or enjoy the sideshow of vengeance.