Pop!October 31, 2009
The Balloon Boy story continues to twist and turn as Mayumi Heene, the mother of Falcon Heene, the Balloon boy of the title, now admits the whole thing was a hoax. To recap: a couple of weeks ago, America and the rest of the world were gripped by the drama of a silver helium balloon containing a young boy sailing through the skies of Colorado. Helicopters with cameras tracked the balloon until it crash-landed in a field and was found to be empty. There were fears that the boy had fallen out of the balloon, but to the relief of everyone he was later found at home safe and well.
Relief turned to suspicion, however, when Falcon and his father Richard Heene were being interview for CNN. When asked why he didn’t answer his parents when they called out, his response was “because you (the parents) told me we did this for the show.” Out of the mouth of babes, eh? This family was not a stranger to America as they had featured on the US version of Wife Swap. Twice. Now there was speculation as to whether this was a stunt to drum up publicity for another show. People started to get really twitchy when it was discovered that when the balloon broke free, they called the news media, then the emergency services – in that order. It didn’t take long for the police to conclude that this story stank to high heaven, so they arrested the couple.
So now we’re back to the confession where Mayumi admits that she and Richard set this up to make themselves more marketable for future shows and they coached the kids to lie. Rule number one: If you’re going to get children to lie for you, don’t use pre-teens. They’re bound to give the game away sooner or later. It’s also bordering on child cruelty to expect them to deal with the pressures that come with having to lie on such a big scale. It’s difficult enough for most adults. So now it looks like the family will be broken because even if the Heenes don’t go to jail, they’ll have to pay the cost of wasting the resources of the emergency services and declaring bankruptcy won’t save them. I only hope their kids get the right kind of support to minimise the damage caused by their parents’ relentless pursuit of fame.
Instant celebrity has defined this first decade of the twenty first century. The TV, papers and Internet feed us with a diet of celebrities having an endless, fabulous time and we crave it like a calorie loaded cake, because let’s face it, for most of us life can be dull and difficult. Years ago, you as the ordinary punter would’ve looked at those people with a mixture of admiration and envy. You’d dream of the glitter but understood that it couldn’t happen to you. That kind of lifestyle was only for the lucky few. Luck propelled these people, but usually they had a talent or skill and worked hard. The advent of reality TV pulled down that barrier, because now anyone can be a celebrity with all the goodies that come with it. No talent or skill required. Just as cake is now treated as every day food rather than a treat to savour, those no longer precious fifteen minutes of fame is pursued at any cost. Almost anyone who’s willing to chuck their moral compass out of the window can get that sugar rush. Feels great at the time, but the crash is inevitable unless you are very, very smart.
Well, Richard and Mayumi Heene, you now have more fame and publicity than you can possibly handle. Enjoy!