Confession: I have celebrity sympathy fatigue. My initial reaction to news of Grant Hackett’s rampage, to Kerri-Anne Kennerley’s breast cancer diagnosis, to the story of former footballer Tony Modra’s “miracle” premature baby was:
Who cares? There are bigger things to worry about.
In fact, my reaction was stronger than ‘who cares’. It was anger that we elevate their problems over those of mere mortals, and by doing so diminish the everyday experiences of people doing it even tougher.
Hundreds of thousands of men and women have experienced domestic violence in the form of physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Many of them suffer systematic abuse over years. Some die. Half of us will get cancer by the age of 85. Horrid, blossoming cancers with devastating treatments that leave people hollowed out. Treatments that delay death rather than cure.
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Does Grant Hackett deserve sympathy and forgiveness? Or does he deserve an Oscar – or probably at best a Logie – for his supposed “tell-all” interview with 60 Minutes? An interview conducted by the same network which has a commercial interest in facilitating his rehabilitation, given the criticisms Nine faced for keeping the troubled former Olympian on its commentary team for the London Games?
Nine has endured a public relations crisis since photographs emerged of the impromptu renovations which Hackett, five bottles of wine under his belt, conducted last year on the Southbank apartment he shared with his now estranged wife Candice Alley and their children.
Westpac immediately downgraded Hackett’s role as brand ambassador to behind the scenes “executive”. The bank rightly sensed that the remarkable photographs would galvanise public opinion against Hackett. With the up-ended grand piano, the over-sized couches tossed across the room, the broken mirrors and glassware, the images told a story of a bloke who has some pretty massive issues, to say the least.
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