Now that we know the "Balloon Boy" story was officially a hoax, the question still remains: why would anyone put their children though such a thing? The answer, we're told, is a desire for fame, but perhaps it's something more.
Richard Heene has a history of posting odd videos on YouTube, capturing his far-out views on everything from Richard Gere to Wilt Chamberlain's sex life, but what I found most interesting was the anger displayed in the videos he films that pertain to women, an attitude that backs up the behavior shown on ABC's WifeSwap. It's not a surprise that ABC aired this, as this type of scene is the bread and butter of the reality show industry, filled with drama and "crazy characters." The trouble is, these aren't "characters" at all; they are real people who are either displaying truly upsetting behaviors or filling a role they think they need to fill in order to become famous, which is a disturbing behavior in and of itself:
Here, Heene discusses Hillary Clinton's potential secret life as a "Reptilian," or a shape-shifting alien who has access to the United States government. Interesting that he singled Clinton out above any other politician, no?:
To women wearing makeup, and how "good looking women" don't need it, and how women take SO long to get ready, and how angry it makes him when makeup gets on his face when he's making out with women. "How can they leave that stuff on man?" he asks about makeup, "It makes me sick!":
Here, he talks about Britney Spears and her breasts, and declares that too many women get "fake boobs," which he doesn't find attractive. He puts on a bra to demonstrate how "unnatural" it is for women to get breast implants:
"Fake Or Real" is a bit of a theme for Heene; it's almost like he's pitching a bizarre Mythbusters wherein he screams his opinions about popular urban legends before asking, "Let me know! Fake or real!?" and waiting for viewer input. I find these videos to be fairly disturbing, as Heene manically spurts out an opinion and grows angrier as he gets deeper into his own thoughts. I can't say, of course, if this is a "character" Heene plays, or if this is the real Richard Heene, but I do think that Heene's behavior goes beyond your typical "fame-whore" parent, seeking the spotlight.
I think it's a bit dangerous to lump Richard Heene in with the Jon Gosselins and Michael Lohans of the world; yes, there appears to be a pattern of manipulation, ego, and a desire for fame that these men all share, as well as a seeming lack of awareness or interest as to how their behaviors are truly affecting their children, but Gosselin and Lohan's behavior seems to be out of a desperation to retain some type of fame, at all costs, while Heene appears to want a platform that goes beyond getting into the Ivy and sitting down with Access Hollywood. Of course, this is all speculation on my part, and the online identity that Heene has created for himself is something, I'm sure, that will be studied for some time, until the police, and the public, get the answers they are looking for.
Maybe Richard Heene really is just another fame-obsessed man who will do whatever it takes to make it big, and maybe I'm reading a bit too much into what Heene expresses in his videos, but I think this case will force the country to re-evaluate our willingness to elevate the Gosselins and Lohans of the world to celebrity status, as well as the system currently in place, via instant fame channels like YouTube and reality television, that allow for people such as Richard Heene to get a taste of fame and find a way to manipulate the media into giving him more.
Heene's hoax may have backfired, but it was a success on several levels; here we are, listening to what he has to say, though not in the context he might have hoped. I'd like to say I'm not interested in seeing what happens next, but that would be a lie, and Heene's name is in papers across the globe, so I suppose his goal to be famous has been accomplished, as well. His stunt was a hoax, but his motivations, not only to get famous at any cost, but, I'd argue, to be important at any cost, to be the kind of person who is listened to and respected and followed, are pretty much the basis of the entire reality show industry at this point, which is no longer based in any sort of reality but in a world where everyone is already a star and a Someone with a capital S in their own minds. In that way, I suppose Heene's favorite question will ultimately be his legacy: "Fake or real?" Or, more accurately, how easy it is to blur the line between the two.