There's no real penalty for being a jerk anymore. Sure, Michaele and Tareq Salahi might end up facing criminal charges after crashing a White House party, but in the end, they've already accomplished what they set out to do.
The Salahi's were apparently so successful in their attempt to mingle with legitimate celebrities, including the President of the United States, that they were able to get past the Secret Service and actually shake President Obama's hand. It's fairly well known by now that the couple were hoping to score a spot on Bravo's upcoming The Real Housewives Of D.C. spin-off, and that this bit of exposure might have added a little glam and prestige to their wannabe celeb resumes. Bravo now tells the New York Times that "the decision as to who will be included in the series will not be made for several months," which I believe is a very convenient way of saying "we're waiting to see what the fallout/possible criminal charges are before we hire these two newly high-profile jerks."
The most frustrating aspect of this entire story is that the Salahi's, like Richard Heene, Nadya Suleman, or Jon and Kate Gosselin before them, will essentially benefit from their completely ridiculous behavior, regardless of how rude, criminal, or obnoxious the public takes them to be. The threats of possible jailtime, universal public disdain, and reputation-ruining stories running all over the internet are not as powerful as the pull of celebrity, and our fascination with faux-celebrities only feeds the machine that allows people to believe it's perfectly okay to lie about your son floating away in a balloon, or to insist you're allowing your children to be filmed for their benefit as your marriage crumbles in a very public and very horrific way, or to crash a party thrown by the President of the United States. So what if they go to jail? That just guarantees them more public fascination, a possible show upon release, an interview with Barbara Walters, and so on and so forth. You can't really go wrong being a terrible reality star; being the bad guy is just another role that someone has to play all the way to the bank.
We began the decade with Survivor, taking our reality stars out of the comforts of MTV-furnished lofts and sending them to islands to learn to fend for themselves in fairly treacherous conditions. Surviving the islands led to surviving a bin filled with spiders, which led to surviving a home filled with 84 children, which led to surviving a house filled with washed-up celebrities, which led to 600 shows starring Flavor Flav, which led to Bret Michaels looking for love on a bus. There is no more reality in reality television, unless you count the sad realities of faux-celebrity and the desperation some show simply to be somebody. Perhaps it's time to send all of our reality stars and their shows back to the deserted island. Only this time, let's just leave them there.
[Image via The Official White House Photostream]