Dear Media, Jussie Smollett Isn’t Meant To Be Analyzed
Sometimes not having the answers is enough
It’s been weeks since the harrowing details of actor/singer Jussie Smollott’s alleged attack at the hands of #MAGA-swearing bandits took a crazy turn towards the unfathomable route by Chicago PD, who are are hell-bent on proving how all the chaos and mayhem was borne out of a staged hoax.
The maddening period of unreliable sources, consistently supplying slabs of information that kept assaulting those of us who had made the initial investment in the Empire star’s defense, finally came to a temporary halt when the two American-born Nigerian brothers were apprehended at Chicago O’Hare airport and taken to the station for questioning.
The results from the private interrogation initiated the theory of how they had been hired to carry out the activities that would resemble the perfect definition of a hate crime, featuring a young Black gay actor on a hit TV show, who thankfully survived a dangerous encounter that miraculously left him with minor scapes.
Now we know that the brothers who are weight trainers and work as extras, were actually paid for the sessions they provided their friend, and not for the evil deed of beating him to a pulp to create the illusion of a hate crime.
Smollett eventually turned himself in and appeared at a court hearing to be formally charged for disorderly conduct, stemming from filing a false police report that alleged he had been a victim of a racist and homophobic attack.
The bond was set at $100K, and the 35-year-old met those requirements which secured his swift release. The next court date is just around the corner — March 14, but what happens until then?
Well, the latest event is the mandated shaming via the scorching pipeline of Saturday Night Live’s greatest hits, and can we just imagine what would happen to that show if notables were always well behaved and kosher?
But aside from that interlude, the debilitating cycle of updates have interestingly come to a screeching halt.
All that remains are spectacularly-dramatic fare like the offering by industry bible, The Hollywood Reporter, that aims to utilize first, second, and third -account knowledge about an embattled celebrity as the key ingredients for a stunning exposé, that’s meant to shatter the mystery of Jussie Smollett’s epic downfall.
As a writer who is driven by the disease of systematic injustice, and how the daily cases of a brutalized evidence are grossly ignored in favor of the nefarious brute in the White House, the instinct is to tackle activated items with passionate immediacy.
Of course, it was impossible to hold my tongue about the reports of a hate crime that assaulted someone who was essentially the ideal candidate for a climate that’s experiencing a sharp increase of incidences, that target the population that’s most vulnerable to the terrorist acts of White supremacists, who take their directives from President Trump.
Once it became clear that the original narrative was getting disturbingly distorted, the valves of discord opened up to the messiness of inhumanness, and how the need to criminalize the perceptions of opposing teams, can reveal the ugliness of our times.
Why we would we ever want to be comfortable with the cruel banter, that wages between the proud few who called “foul” as soon as the breaking news hit, and the ones who embraced a fallen star without issue or contemptuous suspicion?
And why would media outfits produce a reckless essay that is carved out of the desperation to assign a slew of damning factors, that play into the narrative of how a Hollywood child star matured into a troubled young man, who unknowingly dropped tangible hints of his ongoing struggle against the unforgiving machine of fame?
It took three writers at Hollywood Reporter to unleash the words that were all combined to draft the illustration of Smollett’s questionable state-of-mind in the years, months and even days leading up to his “attack,” and as usual, social media plays an integral role in documenting the mood swings of a fragile mind.
We are taken through the typically uneven trajectory of a burgeoning talent, who along with his siblings, enters the turbulent and rewarding environment of show business at an impressionably young age.
What we learn about Smollett’s rise to the top isn’t necessarily unusual or even shocking. As with every ambitious pursuit in life, there are ups and down and the shaky in-betweens.
But perseverance is the key to stability and eventual success, and apparently Smollett possessed the determination to stay the course until the
“big break” in 2015, when Empire cast him in the sought-after spotlight by making him a household name.
However, the article is laced with a variety of purposed clues that conveniently add up to the summation of how a Hollywood star can make the tragic decision to stage an “elaborate hoax” by callously deceiving those who publicly lent their support without elements of doubt.
The disappointing music career that he avidly bet on when Empire provided the much-needed exposure was a huge bummer, as well as the struggle to control when and how to leap out of the closet, during his rising fame, and how the intense glare finally forced him out as a gay man.
And way before his acting and music pursuits began to flourish, there was the period of uncertainty that stemmed from stalled TV projects, that resulted in financial hardships that had to be combatted with “odd jobs” and “residual checks” from past jobs.
There was also the earlier entanglement with the law from a “DUI violation,” which depicts Smollett’s penchant for lying, when he claimed to be one of his brothers while being questioned by cops, and ended up with charges of “false impersonation” along with “two years probation.”
But those revelations, don’t stray too far from the experiences of growing up in an industry that is anything but ordinary. It’s quite challenging to readily assign the combination of hard times, and the toll it takes on sensitive beings as the main factors that explain the mystifying unraveling of a working artist, who seemingly survived the bad spells to emerge victorious.
Plenty of child stars have battled the demons of hell on a global stage, I mean check out the history of Charlie Sheen, who most thought would be dead by now.
The symptoms of emotional turmoil are manifested in varied ways depending on the characteristics of that particular individual.
Which brings us to unsettling territory, as the authors of this coerced piece expectedly resort to the subject of mental health, and how Smollett’s participation in discussions that raise awareness in a community that prefers to remain silent, including his deep confessions of relatable pangs of fear — can also be logged as crucial evidence of his impending breaking point.
In a 2018 interview with Billboard magazine, Smollett divulged his innermost thoughts:
“I admit that I’m jealous, I admit that I’m insecure and that I’m not good at certain things.” “I’m in my 30s and I’m trying my best to learn that I can’t bend anymore.” “I’m about to break.”
This cues the writers to dramatically highlight the fact that six months after the interview, Smollett may have done exactly what he predicted.
We’re also reminded of a tweet that the actor posted on Jan. 19 — three days before the threatening letter, addressed to him, arrived at the Chicago offices of Empire.
“Depression is a real thing y’all.”
The end of the “symphony of facts” collides with the generic analysis by an industry psychologist, who attempts to reiterate the systemic toll that erodes the reality of child actors, who have to navigate the treacherous temperament of celebrity, and how that “pressure” can inspire the very worst of what we are capable of as fallible beings.
“There’s an incredible amount of pressure on people to stay relevant, to stay white hot in celebrity.” To just be a so-so actor isn’t enough. With child actors, this is embedded in their psyche from an early age. It would be more frightening to a child star than someone who didn’t start that young. They’re always afraid that this could be the end.”
This neatly compliments the statement by Chicago PD superintendent, Eddie T. Johnson, during the press conference, when it was inferred that Smollett’s “shameful” actions that ultimately put Black and Brown members of the LGBTQ community at an even greater risk, was motivated by his “dissatisfaction” with his paychecks from his Empire gig.
Listen, it’s absolutely normal to search for answers when evaluating a case that comes with multitudes of layers that aren’t easily identifiable.
We see how the media mishandles the wave of celebrity suicides, that mandate reporters to cleanly regulate marital strife, financial difficulties, and other conceivable upheavals, that could possibly push the emotional limits of troubled stars to the edge of no return.
Kate Spade killed herself because of the impending divorce and the modest success of her newly-minted accessories line. Anthony Bourdain killed himself because of his history of drug dependency, but since the toxicology results dispute that possibility, it had to be the questionable relationship he fostered with a much-younger actress.
And while Smollett remains quietly out of sight, the media noisily begins the process of figuring out whether or not the perilousness of fame, coupled with his battle with depression, which was co-signed by his tweet, may have incited the darkness within his soul to converge into the destructiveness that we’re currently witnessing.
It’s also worthy to note that the case against Smollett is still active, and so far, it has been confirmed by the Feds, that the threatening letter that the Chicago PD accused the actor of sending to himself as part of the “hoax” is still pending a complete investigation.
This also means that the ceremonious analysis of experts that is applied to think pieces that aim to dissect trending items of a viral nature, may very well complicate matters for a young Black man, who is still adamant about his innocence.
The intense competition that demands the expert summarization of the shit that everyone is talking about has evoked the need to hastily collect applicable resources in an effort to dutifully explain the unexplainable.
Depression isn’t a definable, predictable or transferable emotion, and suicide isn’t an act that can produce logical reasons why such a thing can occur.
Jussie Smollett’s backstory doesn’t in any way validate why he would go to extreme lengths to destroy everything he worked hard to attain, while also abusing the love and loyalty of family, friends, co-workers and fans.
Nobody breathing can claim an existence that’s devoid of pain and suffering, and while it’s understandable that the pressures of maintaining A-list status can be overwhelming, it’s still not enough to turn a relatively decent person into a first-class criminal.
Instead of publishing a botched essay about the child actor, who grew up to be a TV star — juggling a “struggling music career,” bouts of depression, and the never-ending fear of falling to the D-list— maybe it’s best to wait until the investigation is completed with the the respect of why not having the answers is not only enough — but also permissible.
At this point, we are all “about to break” and if that’s what it takes to inherit criminal tendencies — then we are truly fucked.
Here’s an appearance Jussie Smollett made on the Breakfast Club in May 2018.