In a media-driven culture like ours, a fascinating aspect of watching the ups and downs of public figures is seeing how long it takes them to be embraced by the mainstream after committing a tremendous blunder.
We see this in varying forms every day, and the amount of time it takes for a person to be rehabilitated is obviously shaped by the mistake they made.
For example, last week, television reality star/bounty hunter Dwayne "Dog" Chapman got in hot water when a recording of him using racial slurs reached the media. He immediately apologized, but production of his television show was suspended.
It will be fascinating to see how long it will take for his controversy to ease so that his show can return (if it does at all).
The big question is: How long does it take for the stench of racial slurs to drift away from a person before they can work in the media again?
In the case of radio personality Don Imus, the answer is apparently about eight months.
The shock talk radio host got canned from his powerful radio program back in April after referring to members of the Rutgers University women’s basketball team as "nappy-headed hos."
His stupid comments resulted in a firestorm of condemnation as well as a lot of discussion of what the boundaries really are when it comes to shock radio. After all, Imus had been making outrageous and offensive statements for years, but the Rutgers controversy appeared to be the straw that broke the camel's back.
Imus profusely apologized, and when he went into exile, many thought the veteran broadcaster's career was over while others believed he deserved a second chance after a long time out of the spotlight.
Now, after only eight months, he is poised to return to a New York radio station in early December.
Has he paid a high enough price for his mistakes?
I believe Imus deserves a second chance. I'm not really a fan of his because his humor and style comes across as mean to me. I understand that we live in a caustic society, but that is not a good thing and it certainly doesn't justify taking cheap shots in the way Imus often does.
After all the obsessing back in the spring about whether he should be fired, it does surprise me that he will be back on the air so soon. As the controversy played out, there was lots of rhetoric about how this situation would force the media and the public to re-examine what was passing for entertainment.
As many people said back then, how was what Imus said any different than the image of women being presented in the lyrics of rap music? Certainly, there was a similarity in some of the attitudes.
What happened to all that re-examination? Did I miss it? Civil rights leaders like Al Sharpton drove strong to the hoop when trying to get Imus fired. Where was Sharpton's follow up work to clean up the other issues related to this controversy?
The bottom line is a lot of people missed a tremendous opportunity to closely examine some of the biggest problems our society currently faces.
The coarseness and insensitivity that is a trademark of Imus' humor is a reflection of what society is becoming. We had a great chance to take what is considered 'entertainment' and move it in another direction.
However, as the controversy faded, so did interest in this issue.
Basically, it appears like nothing has changed, and we are back at square one. Imus will be back on the air soon, and likely will return to the abrasive style of humor for which he is known.
The entire controversy appears to have been nothing more than a bunch of noise.
I've written on this blog before that the way our society has become more calloused and coarse in recent years is one of the biggest challenges we face. People not only seem to care less, but they get pleasure out of others failings.
Unfortunately, I think it will keep getting worse.
I hate to be Captain Bringdown, but it is all getting to be a big drag.