REDEMPTION FOUR: BETTER THAN EVER OR BETTER OFF DEAD?
In this mini-series the saga of redemption, as frequently manifested in the form of “comebacks,” is investigated. REDEMPTION ONE is here. REDEMPTION TWO is here. REDEMPTION THREE is probably around, too.
This is the last redemption.
II. EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE
c. How it Should Be: Identities Dismantled, Redemption In Transition
The projection of specific moments of the lives of public people following their death results in redemption of a dubious ethical nature. A drastically similar technique, however, can be utilized to facilitate winning the popular support for the redemption-seekers who possess the social acumen to manipulate their experiences. The most insightful public individuals are capable to redeploy the past to “manipulate” the present and pragmatize their intended vision. When predicting how the audience will interpret a series of events, public figures can act accordingly to enter the public consciousness. Once such an immersion becomes possible, the public person can determine how to use it efficiently.
The most challenging occurrences of public people’s demise appear when their public personas are perceived as an honest extension of his/herself and they act in a way that jeopardizes both their professional and private life. Lance Armstrong’s documented steroid use offers an illustrious example. Armstrong’s professional career lost its significance the moment his distinctions and awards were taken back. Armstrong’s nebulous actions as an athlete led to a discourse on the morality of his philanthropic work and the LIVESTRONG initiative. In such multifaceted cases, the redemption of an individual is most likely to stem from the segmentation of a public person’s identities in the many distinct roles of their private lives and the distinct roles of their public presence. The individual is then responsible to navigate the best means to move towards the optimal level possible, using either sphere to move further ahead as a public person. This process is similar to the crafting of a reputational mosaic that highlights the positive, without hiding the negative.
In what appears to be a part of the distant past, public individuals held the power to control the simulations the media projected. Following events that posed a reputational risk, “damage control” functioned as a means to sugarcoat a harsher reality in the lives of public people.The field of public relations serves an anachronistic idea of how to control a positive public perception, as an endeavor to create a perfect image is no longer the best route to gaining the support of hoi polloi. The most resourceful public image is one that will be largely viewed as authentic.
Naturally, even this “authenticity” may be of a somewhat contrived or smoothly manipulated composition. For instance, the redemptional strength of the Weiner narrative lies upon the way Weiner and Abedin are presenting their private life to the public. The truth is that we–as the audience–do not know what is going on in their private lives, or if they are sharing a bedroom. What if the personal and the public do not align, in Weiner’s reality? He wouldn’t be the first politician to create a bricolage of his private life to ameliorate his public image.
GEORGE BUSH JR
When a hacker revealed George Bush Jr’s paintings created an immensely quizzical response from the audience: a positive one. In an unprecedented manner the paintings also received the vocal support of Jerry Saltz, who complimented the thorough expressive mortality the art conveys. The strength of the artwork comes from its ability to humanize one of the least popular leaders: “This is a man who is obviously feeling his mortality. He sits in the bathtub alone. Nothing to contemplate. Nothing to see beyond reflections of himself and his body.”  The alienation of the former US President and his cognition on the past is apparent in his art. Hence, the art served a therapeutic purpose on a private level for the public actions of the artist.
Very few contemporary scandals present the monstrous dimensions of Galliano’s slurry anti-semitic declarations recorded in a video that went viral online. Even in that small group of individuals who have offended on a grand scale, he is certainly the only such figure who is attempting to rise from the disastrous repercussions his recorded atrocious attack led to professionally.
In a feature that includes “his first-ever interview sober,”  Vanity Fair investigates Galliano’s return from a critical viewpoint that does not easily forgive the designer. Ingrid Sischy humanizes Galliano by presenting his sensitivities and insecurities, by underlining his regrets and by documenting his drastically altered lifestyle post-combatting his numerous addictions.The journalist takes a sympathetic stance towards Galliano and encourages his attempt to return to his previous stature in the fashion industry, but she wisely leaves the question of his forgiveness open to every reader.
Unfortunately, even if Galliano’s apology is accepted, he will never be a visionary free of limitations in the way he was again: the anti-semitic video will inevitably come to the mind of the public conscience.
The redemption of public individuals in the popular imagination comprises a theoretical concept featuring abstract components. Quantitative metrics cannot be identified to accurately predict which figures will be given a second, third, fourth or Lindsay Lohanth chance. A shrewd approach to increase the chances of redemption in the public realm is the succinct diverging of public people’s different identities/ projections. This separation can then provide all the pieces that should be used to construct a complete reputational mosaic.
Should Tonya Harding have attempted garnering sympathy after attacking Nancy Kerrigan? Did the “Mayflower Madam” deserve the scorn and disdain she received from the press in the 1980s? Does John Galliano deserve any sympathy for his inebriated anti-semitic slip?