T.I.: A Case Study of the Troublesome Blurring of Boundaries Between Art and Reality.

Mug shot of T.I..
Mug Shot of T.I., Image via Wikipedia


There’s nothing wrong with art, or artists. There is a lot wrong with our take on reality these days. 

The news that rapper/actor/producer T.I and his wife, Tameka “Tiny” Cottles had been arrested, spread like a California brushfire across the Internet and blogosphere yesterday. 

Twitter was ablaze with the news, and I watched my timeline light up with tweet after tweet about the recent chain of events that found “The King of the South” entangled with the law yet again. 

Okay, enough of the light, fire and flame metaphors. 

Here’s my question. When are rap artists and celebrities in general, going to stop living their real lives like they’re in some kind of music video?  I humbly submit that they will stop when we as Americans stop glorifying that which we say we disapprove of.  I humbly submit that we will never ever do that anytime soon, so until we do, we need to stop pointing the finger at celebrities who do wrong and get caught. 

I mean, really.  Think about it. 

Let’s look at the T.I. case.  I know T.I. and Tiny are living the life.  They were pulled over in a Maybach, not a Toyota, for goodness sake.  

The “righteous” among us have argued that money does not excuse you from the obligation of following the laws.  They say that T.I. should have learned that during his first stint in the joint.   

And by all accounts, once he got out, he made every effort to demonstrate that he learned his lesson and wanted to put that bad experience behind him.  According to Yahoo Music, “The multiplatinum rapper starred in the nation’s No. 1 movie, recently married his longtime girlfriend, taped a music special for VH1 and was wrapping up a new album.”   

It’s quick to judge and be dismissive of T.I.’s predicament.  It’s easy to blow him off and be negative and say that he hasn’t learned anything.  Judging from the hundreds of comments, I would say that there are many who just think, well, he hasn’t learned anything. Okay, fair enough. 


While I think about T.I., I can’t help but also think about other examples of celebrities who have had multiple brushes with the law, and can’t seem to distinguish real life from the characters they portray in movies, films and music videos. This isn’t a phenomenon exclusive to rap artists.  

I’m going to suggest that the post-modern era  has ushered in a serious case of collective self-delusion, greed, addiction to excess, and a deeply entrenched narcissism so troublesome, so deep-seated, that no one can even see the forest for the trees.  

And since art imitates reality, we can’t be so sanctimonious that we point the fingers at celebrities like T.I. and Lindsey Lohan, and Paris Hilton without taking a hard look at ourselves as well.  

We glorify excesses in our art, music and culture.  We want what the T.I.’s of the world are able to obtain. And they feed those images back to us and a deadly cycle is perpetuated.  We want, they get, they display, we want more. 

Out of that comes a twisted sense of envy and jealousy and disdain, along with an unhealthy measure of hero worship.  It blinds us to our own flawed nature.  We begin to believe that we wouldn’t ever do what our heroes do if we were in their position. 

Yeah, right. 

But when our artists take these excesses to extremes and get caught by the law, we point the finger in smug judgment. That ain’t right. From where I come from, we call that hypocrisy. But who wants to be called a hypocrite these days?  We live in a society where it’s cool to pass blind judgment. 

We laugh at Lindsey Lohan’s run-ins with the law but secretly wish that we could live her life.  We smile smugly when we hear that she flipped the bird in court.  Because quiet as it’s kept, on its face, we know for a fact that justice is not really blind and definitely not fair. And if we could flip the bird with little or no consequence, we would. 

We clown Paris Hilton for her excuses offered about her drug addiction.  But how many of us would be strong enough to resist the excesses she’s surrounded by every single day?  I didn’t think so.  And how many of us fall prey to our own little addictions?  You know, our addiction to the Internet, Twitter, Facebook, ice cream, chocolate, sex, gambling, etc.  

All those skeletons in our closet are on full display every time we take a pot shot at celebrities.  Their fall from grace only demonstrates that reality is filled with people with poor self-control and very fragile self-images.  We should care if T.I. goes to jail again, because if art and reality are so blurred to the point where we can’t even see our own twisted natures, there’s nothing stopping you or I from being next. 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. darrenkeith3 says:

    Very thoughtful post.

    Entertainers remind me of the Greek Gods and Goddess, the more people put their faith in the more powerful they become and if people did the reverse they would not be so popular.

    Me personally, I try and not watch reality shows but I will admit I was glued to watching “Flavor of Love” (how sick is that?) But after Season 3 it really sunk in that just because they do not have scripts does not mean these shows haven’t been rehearsed.

    I also look at it from an my age and forget sometimes to look at it from their age. Not making excuses for his behavior because in the end one has to get to a point to be a “wise” human instead of a “clever” human. And I think that is where our society is now. Many feel they can do what they wish and as long as they know they have the means to wiggle free the behavior will continue.

    My question is this to the older people in T.I.’s life. Why not instill in him that Hollywood/LA is a place for “work” and “work alone” I never will forget the 60 minute interview with Russell Crowe when he said, “Hollywood is a place of employment” then he flies back home to Australia. To me it seems there is no wisdom surrounding this generation. They are caught up in the greed. As the comedian Sinbad once said, “It’s okay to be a ‘young fool’ but don’t be a ‘old fool’. It seems the T.I.’s, Lindsey’s, and Paris’s are surrounded by “Old Fools”.

  2. I can’t believe you mentioned Flavor of Love, because I was just talking about Flavor Flav….and wondering why so many women found him attractive. *gag*

    But seriously, you raise a good point that relates to something I was discussing earlier. Just like T.I. and Tiny need some older role models, I think it’s high time that they grow up and take responsibility for their actions.

    Because, before they realize it, they will be our age, and it’s kinda pathetic to be carrying on like this as middle-aged parents….

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