A tale of two craftsmen and the media events that showed us more: Christian Bale and Alex Rodriguez

Two semi-recent media events continue to hound me, if only for their polarity: Christian Bale’s on-set rant, and Alex Rodriguez’s steroid “confession” and ensuing press conference.

  • Bale’s rant: A spontaneous, slightly scary outburst from an actor at the top of the film industry; a private psychological event, not intended for public consumption.
  • A-Rod’s whatever-it-was/is: A stagy, cagey, reactionary PR torture session, from a ballplayer still at the top of his industry; a public event, intended solely to make excuses for private psychological events.
Were all wearing some kind of mask, am I right?

We're all wearing some kind of mask, am I right?

Each media event involves a craftsman in a given field, and each media event reveals something about the respective craftsman’s relationship to his craft.

Bale’s rant is a glimpse into the artist’s mind, hovering ever on the border between control and chaos. In the arts, beauty and truth often emerge from the scorched earth struggle between sanity and insanity, life and death, the conscious and the unconscious, control and chaos.

When Christian Bale flips his noodle on set, then, it is jarring, sure: hearing someone filled with uncontrolled anger is disturbing. But it is also revealing. We are able to view second hand the psychological accounts that have come due in Christian Bale’s human brain. The costs of his doing business are opened up like a ledger. With one page of the book laid open, we can read into some small way the tax that Christian Bale pays against his ascent. This “scandal,” if you can call it that, taught us something about the mind of the intensely committed artist, whose existence calls for a tight wire act without the usual safety net of good manners and control.

A-Rod’s event, on the other hand, reveals only what a ballplayer is willing to do to salvage his legacy in the face of poor decision-making. Taking PEDs is a shortcut to the top of the game. Actors don’t get shortcuts the way that even great ballplayers do. As we watch A-Rod fizzle and lie, we are able to peek behind the curtain to see a ballplayer cowering in the face of expectation, money, power. The choice to cheat was as immature as the choice to fudge stories and spin himself in circles with vagueries and condescension.

The infamous orange glow.

The infamous orange glow.

The former media event has endeared me moreso to Bale and his career. He’s straining at the cords of excellence. A-Rod’s event is vaguely repulsive and juvenile. I’ll still watch him play, I won’t go too far in crucifying him, but I’ll always know that he’s a doofus.

A few links:

Amazing Bale rant remix.
Peter Gammons on A-Rod press conference. ESPN

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