June 16, 2007
The Canberra Times

If Paris could just kick straight she would be a free woman

Why isn’t Todd Carney in jail like Paris Hilton? After all, the Raiders halfback and the blond heiress have plenty in common. Although, Carney has a few up on Hilton. He’s been convicted of drink driving twice. She only once. She stopped when caught driving on a suspended licence. Carney sped off.

Although he suffers a ”cognitive deficit”, Carney’s cognitive faculty was working pretty well when he spotted the police. He knew he was in trouble if sprung, so he did a runner.

But driving misdemeanours aren’t all that Paris and Todd share. Like the Raiders star, the blond bombshell has long seemed to have a ”cognitive deficit” too. Although, Hilton now says it was all just a charade; ”I used to act dumb. It was an act. I am 26 years old, and that act is no longer cute” she told American agony aunt Barbara Walters over the phone from prison this week. But there is no sign Carney is putting on an act. He’s just plain dumb – not so much halfback as half-wit, according to his own lawyer John Purnell.

When Purnell explained to the court on Tuesday that Carney suffered from a ”cognitive deficit”, he pitched the complaint as a kind of illness that makes it hard for the rugby player to choose right above wrong. But apparently the good- versus-bad illness can be sorted out. Purnell said Carney ”needs to be retrained in terms of what is right”. And if that makes Carney feel like some kind of trained monkey, well there’s another thing he has in common with the Hilton heiress.

Paris Hilton is no monkey, but even the people she desperately wants to love her make her feel like an animal.

The Paris Hilton sex video gives an unexpected insight to this young woman. While barely clothed in her sexy black underwear, what is revealed is not the sex-kitten vamp her cover girl pout would suggest. Instead Paris Hilton comes across as awkward, embarrassed and above all – insulted. Her voyeuristic boyfriend’s insistence on filming her half naked is bad enough, but when he demands she perform a sex act on him, Hilton cracks it. ”Don’t talk to me like I’m an animal,” she says. All the while she prances up and down her bathroom like a caged gazelle. But the saddest moment is when Hilton, tired of fending off the hunt, half whispers, half pleads, ”Say you love me”.

Is it love – or more specifically, a lack of love – that drives young celebrities to choose wrong over right? And let’s not kid ourselves about the issue of choice here.

Whether there are ”cognitive deficits” involved or not, these people are making choices. Just as they choose to go clubbing, partying and drinking, they choose too to flout laws when and if it suits.

I know nothing of Todd Carney’s parents or their parenting. However, when his lawyer spoke about ”retraining” the wayward sportsman this week, it wasn’t physical training he had in mind. Parental training was more to the point: the basic right versus wrong kind of moral training a parent instills in a child, along with some fundamental values. Although, I doubt Purnell is expecting Carney’s parents to step in now. Instead he told the court, the 21-year-old will be put under the care of a psychologist.

Sadly, when kids miss out on that most fundamental of human needs – the love and attentive guidance of parents – some of the more vulnerable remain bruised for life. Their hidden hurt means they just never grow up.

Perhaps that’s why Paris Hilton called out to her mum, when in a dramatic turn around late last week the court ruled she be sent back to jail. ”Mom, it’s not right!”

Paris bellowed. It was an incongruous outburst. Which is not to suggest Paris Hilton’s parents have failed her.

I just wonder if they loved her. Because if they did, why would she have made a career out of seeking love and adulation from such fickle and temporary sources such as the media; her fans; and drug crazed boyfriends who talk down and dirty making her feel ”like an animal”?

The fact Paris Hilton is in jail at all says a lot about American culture and its malevolent hypocrisy.

The very society that has traded on her glamour, sensationalised her image and somehow made a voluptuous virtue out of her vacuous life, is now gloating over her incarceration.

Hilton is a skinny stick with a lack of wit, and plenty of air in her head where the brain bits are supposed to be. But she is still just a kid. Of course she would cry and fret about going to jail.

But across the Pacific there’s no need for tears over Todd Carney. The fact he isn’t in jail says a lot about Australian culture too. But what? That we’re more tolerant and caring of the morally and mentally challenged?

Or is it simply more expedient to turn a blind eye to the bad behaviour of our sportsmen?

In Australia when it comes to football and rugby players and the law, history shows we’re a forgiving lot.

We don’t seem to expect these beefy blokes to understand right from wrong, or good from bad, or no from yes.

No matter how bad their behaviour, ultimately we’re happy with a bit of wrist slapping and a promise of ”retraining”. That’ll do.

Paris Hilton might suffer a touch of the ”cognitive deficits” occasionally, but at least her latest public drama has resulted in one positive outcome. She’s promised she’ll never play dumb again.

Pity our wayward sports star can’t make the same claim.

Virginia Haussegger is a Canberra journalist and director of the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation at the University of Canberra.

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