Working Class Hero or Hollywood Stooge ?

by Dan Ehrlich

A Sign of the Hard Times in America or Just Declining Moral Standards?

The term “working class hero” placed on rogue Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater had, until recent times, been alien in the USA and more at home in a country such as the United Kingdom, where the class division between rich and poor has been a cause for much bitterness and even folklore through the ages.

That may have been because we never really thought of ourselves as being born into or limited to one class. America had long been a nation, in theory at least, where any white man could go as far as his dreams could take him. I say white man because the reality proved quite different and more challenging the farther removed you were from the WASP foundation of the country.

Today, with our wealth squandered and our much admired mass middle class in decline, European style class distinction seems to be taking hold here. But, this is not going to be a commentary about our socio-economic evolution. It's about those three words: working class hero.

Back in the Depression Era, when most Americans still lived in rural areas and life wasn't easy, so called working class heroes were much the same as they are today, criminals and movie stars. John Dillinger, to middle America, was a Robin Hood type outlaw rebelling against the establishment. But, America didn't have the mass media of today and the sensational frenzy being induced into a nation where virtually everything has been reduced to escapist entertainment.

Steven Slater didn't do anything heroic or even laudable. He was a man in charge of passenger safety and he deserted his post on an operational airliner. But, as with the hordes of people applauding his action, I have to admit it initially impressed me for being so off the wall. And it also impressed Hollywood to such an extent Slater has been a lead item in Entertainment Tonight and Extra. To top this off, there's already talk of a movie about this guy.

Is this merely part of decadence that great nations endure on the way down...a moronic mentality and appreciation for the absurd and banal?

The biggest problem America faces is the very real prospect of long, long-term high unemployment. How does Hollywood respond to this? Next month a new series, of an old concept from NBC called Outsourced will premiere. It's another Office mutation about an American call center in India. NBC is making a joke about thousands of American jobs going overseas. This is no comedy, it's a tragedy. But that won't matter if the ratings are good.

So Slater can enjoy his 15 or even 30 minutes of fame while his employer Jet Blue tries to figure out how rationalize suspending an employee who in fact quit his job by walking away from it in a disgraceful, albeit cavalier fashion. Will he possibly be offered a desk job at a higher salary? This isn't that unusual in our perverse business culture. Then there are the criminal charges against him. Will this working class hero ever see a court room or even jail?

The only thing certain is that for a short time at least Hollywood has a new celebrity on its hands and the longer it can prolong his shelf-life, the better the movie.

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