It may seem contradictory to make this statement on a blog that dedicates half of its energy to reflections and assessments on popular culture but here goes: entertainers are just not that important. As present as they are in our audio and visual space, and as much as our support may personally enrich them, we really don’t need any of them. The support of the public is a privilege they earn through their performance and our appetite to consume it. So when any entertainer demonstrates that they have worn all the tread off of their tires it is perfectly appropriate to throw them out and turn our entertainment attention to someone else. We have reached that point with Steve Harvey without a doubt. His public meltdowns and tantrums lately reflects what happens when a person does not have the character or the fortitude to handle the success they have been blessed with. It also reflects the fallacy of conflating fame with wisdom or insight- meaning we need to stop making entertainers into more than they are. Entertaining me does not qualify you to advise me- and if I see you that way then my vision needs adjusting.
Steve was excoriated in public last month for writing a rude and ugly letter to his staff wherein he advised that none of them would be permitted any longer to speak to him directly and threatened them with firing and removal by his security detail for violating that rule. And there was much more but we’ll save the time and space here. It is sufficient to point out that the letter was so nasty it went viral and Steve spent the next two weeks vacillating between apology, acknowledgement, denial and defiance. For a 60 year old man it was a very bad look. It reflected a disconnect and a diva-esque quality that is typically found in multi-platinum selling women with hair extensions hanging down to their asses. And even they end up with an ugly rap for acting in that fashion.
But that was small potatoes compared to his follow up act. In a verbal exchange with a caller from Flint, Michigan to his morning radio show, Steve Harvey made a retort to some teasing about his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers loss in the NBA Finals that was shocking on many levels. Because this guy made fun of the basketball team that he liked, Steve said
“That why y’all ain’t even got clean water. When was the last time you touched water and it didn’t have lead in it?” And for good measure he added, “Enjoy your nice brown glass of water.”
For those who do not watch the national news closely or visit this space regularly, the people of Flint, Michigan have been suffering from the lingering affects of a water supply contaminated with lead for the last several years. Many people have died and many more children have suffered brain damage as a result of drinking and bathing in this water.
Flint is a city with a high poverty rate that has been decimated by a bad economy and even worse politics for years now. The plight of people suffering from Legionnaire’s Disease is no laughing matter- particularly considering this comment came from a man who has styled himself as a supporter of poor urban communities to the extent that he was invited by President Trump to meet with him to discuss the state of affairs in cities just like Flint. Stated plainly, this was an egregious error.
So what are we to make of a guy whose entire identity in the entertainment industry is based upon being a host- which means he gets paid to have an exceptionally appealing personality? Of course his roots are in stand up comedy but that barely scratches the surface of what he has been able to leverage in the market. Even when he was listed as one of the “Original Kings of Comedy” in the successful Spike Lee concert film released in 2000, Steve did not do his own 20 minute set of stand-up material. He served as the host of that production while D.L. Hughley, Cedric “The Entertainer” and Bernie Mac actually did the heavy lifting to carry the comedy show.
My position is that since Steve Harvey has shown us who he really is- or who he has become- we should show him who we are and who we have become: A public that is fed up with entitled entertainers who think they have a license to do or say anything without consequence. Steve Harvey is not worth the trouble. We need to fire his ass and eject him from our audio and visual space- from all 17 directions he has been entering them. The mere fact that this fool has 17 jobs in the first place reflects just how narrow minded and creatively bankrupt the major entertainment outlets are. So if he gets the boot from one, the rest will fall like dominoes. They probably still have to pay him but I don’t care- he just needs the lights, cameras and microphones taken away. He abused the privilege.
As this specifically pertains to black folks, keep this in mind: We made Steve Harvey. And the kind of asshole he has revealed himself to be is exactly the kind of asshole we need to kick out of positions of influence in our culture. We have focused on image over substance for far too long and that focus became an obsession that birthed a guy like Steve Harvey. A marginal comedian who we made into a megastar who took that stardom as an indication that he had insights into life and politics that actually carried weight. And at bottom, it was because he dressed well and he could paint by numbers. What he said to that caller was an insult that reflected insensitivity to one of our communities that is worse than anything that you will hear on Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity any day of the week. So since I routinely give them the finger, Steve Harvey gets it now too.
Fuck Steve Harvey. I never want to see or hear his ass again.