"We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in "reality". And reality has a well-known liberal bias."
Life can be a bit of a tightrope walk for some actors, especially those appearing on children's television. Some fans have the unfortunate habit of mixing up the fictional entity with the real person who plays the fictional entity, and can get rather disappointed, rightly
when their idols fall off of the pedestal. The companies producing the shows are aware of this, and sometimes hold their actors to nigh impossible moral standards, punishing them for "crimes" such as trying to live a normal, adult life.
However, there's a flip side to the coin. Sometimes, the premise of a television programme, book or song really can
be undermined by the actions of the presenters, or even by the actions of those who work behind the scenes.
When a show is actively preaching to its viewers, it's not unreasonable to expect the people doing the preaching to uphold the standards that they're promoting. If they don't
...well, then you've got the real life version of Holier Than Thou
, but with more air time. If the talk show marriage counsellor verbally abuses his wife, or the professional dog trainer ends up in court after his Rottweiler attacks a child, it's easy to understand why viewers might decide that they're better off not
taking advice from these people.
The trope also applies to figures such as presenters when they themselves are being held up as role models, rather than a character that they portray. Those who front children's television shows have to be particularly careful about their real-life conduct — there'll be red faces all round if it turns out that the woman sternly warning children against the dangers of drugs is using some less-than-legal substances.
It's not particularly fair that other entertainers, such as rock stars and soap actors, can get away with these things (and far more) while others are pilloried for it...but it's Truth in Television
. If a builder or window cleaner gets into a violent brawl while off the job, their employers won't care as long as they can still do their jobs. If a teacher or doctor is found in the middle of a fight, however, their career could be on the line.
It's worth noting that occasionally it's not actually the actors'/production team's fault that things go wrong. Sometimes, life's just decided that it's not going to be their week.
This is especially true on shows that involve people outwith the actual members of the show who could say or do anything they like on or off camera. The programme isn't really responsible, but they'll be held to account regardless.
Mainly, it's non-fiction shows, or songs, that qualify for being Undermined By Reality
. Fictional shows only really merit the trope if the actor does something that's actually illegal, or at least morally reprehensible enough that it's not just the usual suspects
who are up in arms over their off-screen behaviour. If the actors are being held to ransom over normal, fairly innocuous behaviour simply because said behaviour doesn't mesh with their fantasy persona, then that's Contractual Purity
See also: "Funny Aneurysm" Moment
(where the irony of a situation is particularly cruel but affects the actor rather than the production), Holier Than Thou
(for the fictional equivalent), and Artist Disillusionment
(for the likely results of this trope). For the advertising variant, see We Care
. See Role Ending Misdemeanor
. One reason Dead Artists Are Better
This page is not an excuse to be Complaining About Shows You Don't Like.
- Extreme Makeover Home Edition ran into a snag when two cohabiting families for whom they had built a massive house began fighting, causing the larger, adopted family to move out. ABC legally washed its hands of any responsibility.
- One of the more special houses they had built was about to be foreclosed. It wasn't directly the show's fault, but they paid the mortgage on that one, and they will probably tone down future makeover houses just a little so that the people moving into them can afford to maintain them.
- Even the most venerable of children's shows can fall victim to this, as Blue Peter found out when presenter Richard Bacon was caught taking cocaine in 1999.
- Professional Wrestling is very vulnerable to this phenomenon. In the past, when kayfabe was maintained, heels and faces wouldn't be allowed to be seen out in the real world together, and popular wrestlers were required to live their gimmick (not so bad, if you play a beer-swilling redneck, but think of poor Gorgeous George...). In the modern age, despite the fictional nature of the characterizations being acknowledged, there are still many situations where Real Life Writes the Plot after faces are caught doing something they shouldn't, and a quick Face Heel Turn occurs (Edge and Lita springs to mind — after the two were caught having an affair, Lita had a Face Heel Turn and was paired with Edge (already a heel), whose character changed from "bitter asshole" to "sleazy man-whore").
- Even worse, in recent years, pro wrestling's role as fun escapist entertainment has been near-fatally undermined by what wrestlers call "the sickness" — the scores of performer deaths due to abuse of performance-enhancing and recreational drugs, with Chris Benoit's murder of his family and subsequent suicide (Benoit's autopsy revealed one of the highest testosterone ratios known to man and post-concussion syndromes similar to Alzheimer's) as a horrific capstone. In addition, unlike most TV shows or real sports, financial abuse is fairly common; one TNA (a wrestling promotion owned by a $1 billion level energy company and airing on TV every week for millions in rights fees) wrestler kicked up a shitstorm when he tweeted about qualifying for food stamps, and one of their champions was outed working a minimum wage mall kiosk job.
- The WWE Divas being touted as "Smart, Sexy and Powerful" gets undermined when you hear stories from many former Divas about how much pressure they were under to maintain their good looks 24/7 (Krissy Vaine got addicted to botox injections, Kristal Marshall became dangerously underweight), perfectly healthy women being told to lose weight (Rosa Mendes, Maria Kanellis) and being hugely restricted by management in various areas - Gail Kim claimed that one week they were told "no punching" and the next "no kicking". The knowledge of this makes the ones currently in the company seem like living Stepford Smilers.
- In a curious flipside to the above point, it's something of a fun hobby for many fans to hate the so-called "model Divas" who were not trained on the indies and were offered WWE developmental contracts as they are assumed to be break-a-nail types that don't care about wrestling and only want a stepping stone to other forms of entertainment. This gets undermined when you hear the horror stories of vicious bullying many of these women received from other members of the roster - Amy Weber quit because Randy Orton found flyers from when she used to work at a strip club and posted them up all around the backstage area, Bobbi Billard was released after getting injured in developmental because the women training her (Ivory and Jacqueline) were deliberately going too hard on them. Add that to the knowledge above and the knowledge that a good portion of the girls were actually wrestling fans which is why they agreed to become wrestlers and people might feel a tad guilty for abusing them.
- Michael Jackson's reputation as a true eccentric was seen for years as just a funny bunch of quirks that his genuine talent and extensive charity work, especially with children, balanced out. Then he was accused of molesting children in 1993. He settled a civil suit out-of-court and supporters claim the evidence against him was sketchy all along, but his career was never quite the same; a second round of accusations that resulted in a court trial came along in 2003. While he was declared not guilty in 2005, his career never even approached his former heights until he died, at which time his popularity again rose and it became risky to say anything about his checkered past.
- Life is hard for straight actors who play gay roles. Every interviewer will insist on asking them if the love scenes (or more often, kissing scenes) were difficult to play. If they say yes, they risk undermining the role, and sometimes the interview will attempt to frame this as homophobia. If they say no, this may be inferred as coming out, and will certainly start (or fuel) rumors. If they try to Take a Third Option it may be seen as a cop-out. At any rate, reading such interviews can spoil a viewer's enjoyment of an otherwise immersible romantic scene.
- There's a reverse problem for gay actors. They no longer have to hide their sexuality to work - but it can be difficult or impossible for them to secure non-homosexual roles. (Of course, some Straight Gays can have the problem of people insisting that they're not gay enough for certain roles, as is the case for John Barrowman when he tried to get a main part in Will and Grace.)
- In 2003, Marvel tried to get a lower import tax rate on their X-Men action figures by claiming that they were not dolls, but toys. U.S. tariff laws defined a "doll" as a figure representing a human, while a "toy" represents an animal or creature. So in summation, the crux of Marvel's argument was that the X-Men are not human, which directly opposes the main Aesop of the X-Men series. The judge ruled in their favour.
- Notably averted by Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, who really was as wholesome and benevolent as the show made him out to be.
- Any time a "Family Values" Moral Guardians individual is caught with another man, woman, or child (or animal).
- In Dreamgirls, Effie White is the lead singer and most talented member of the Dreams, but their corrupt manager Curtis demotes her to backup singer in favor of Deena Jones, who is more marketable. This is unambiguously presented as a Jerk Ass move on Curtis's part, and it ruins Effie's life. Then, in the movie version of Dreamgirls, Jennifer Hudson played Effie, the lead character of the movie, but the studio designated her a "supporting actress" and gave top billing to Beyonce Knowles (playing Deena), who is more famous. Then again, Hudson won an Oscar for her performance (for Best Supporting Actress; had she been nominated for Lead Actress, she likely would have been blown out by Helen Mirren), while Knowles only got a Golden Globe nomination that most people assumed her manager father bought for her, so perhaps it averages out.
- Averted on That 70s Show when actor Tommy Chong was sentenced to prison time as part of a Federal crackdown on businesses selling bongs. Tommy Chong feared he would lose his role on the program, but the producers reassured him that he had been cast as an aging hippie in part because of his drugged-out comedy persona in the first place, and actually doing time for marijuana related charges would not affect his place in the cast.
- A celebrity defined by Contractual Purity (even one that may break out of it on occasion), such as a Disney Channel or Nickelodeon star might strike up an Odd Friendship with another celebrity, or a friend outside of show business, or a childhood friend, who might not always live up to the same behavioral standards (particularly if they live their lives in private) or cultivate the same Contractual Purity as the teen idol does in the spotlight. This can also extend to family members, associates or their co-workers, or to the musicians in their backing bands if the teen idol is pursuing a singing career. This is particularly evident on Twitter, where Idol Singers are Twitter-friends with their backing musicians and dancers, as well as their relatives or love interests. This might mean that though the Idol Singer might at least not be as likely to smoke, drink, swear or share a more adult sense of humor (even those idols breaking out of that role) in the public eye, as their associates, friends and family are. Although obviously what comes out of the mouths or postings on a Twitter or Facebook feed, or their actions in public aren't things the superstar can control, it might reflect badly on that star if their companions choose a different lifestyle or use less discreet language than that celebrity does.
- This occasionally pops up with Disney, from Walt Disney's infamous legal battles and what you could call fiscal irresponsibility (which drove the studio into debt many times throughout his life), to various legal troubles today. See Walt Disney's involvement in the "Hollywood Blacklist" during the McCarthy era and the Disney animators' strike, to complaints about employee standards at Euro Disney after it first opened.
- A much darker example. "Pack Up Your Troubles" ("in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile") is known as one of the most optimistic songs ever written. Its writer, George Henry Powell, later committed suicide.
- The numerous corporate tie-ins to the Green Aesop film The Lorax. He speaks for the trees, and Mazda!
- During the release of the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas, quite a few products emerged based on the movie—which were at odds with the original story's Aesop warning against the commercialization of Christmas.
- After the movie 300 was released, almost every fitness and weight loss company used it as a piece of their marketing strategy toward men (Look like the men of 300!) However, when you look at the Training from Hell they endure and the fact that Gerard Butler developed a problem with painkillers from the abuse his body took and even had to check into rehab (although it wasn't just the training, there was also the typical abuse any actor in an action film must endure), maybe 300 isn't the best movie to reference. (It's telling that most of the companies have switched over to Captain America and Thor from The Avengers.)
- The Twilight series is about the romance between Ordinary High School Student Bella Swan and a brooding, hundred-year-old vampire named Edward Cullen. While it wasn't written as a religious story, it attracted a large fandom among conservative Christians due to the chaste nature of the series, with Bella waiting until marriage before sleeping with Edward and choosing to give birth to her dhampir baby even in the face of it possibly killing her. (The author, not coincidentally, is a devout Mormon.) It remains to be seen how the upcoming final film in the series, Breaking Dawn Part 2, will be affected by the revelation that Kristen Stewart (who played Bella) cheated on her then-fiance Robert Pattinson (who played Edward) with the director of her film Snow White and the Huntsman.
- A weird one with Two and a Half Men. Instead of the actor engaging in depravity, one actor has become a Christian and denounced the show. In November 2012, a newly Christian Angus T. Jones urged viewers not to watch his show because it was full of "filth". On other occasions, he has told the Seventh Day Adventist church that he no longer feels comfortable on his show because it does not promote God.
- Aaron Sorkin's show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip was essentially a season-long Take That at modern network TV, arguing that the American people don't really want to watch poorly-written schlock and trashy reality TV and that all the networks would need to win their affection would be to give them quality product and stop dumbing everything down for them. Specific examples of what networks ought to do were provided by a screenwriter character who was clearly an Author Avatar for Sorkin and an In-Universe proposal to do a TV series set at the U.N. that bore many similarities to Sorkin's previous show The West Wing. The counter-argument? Well, Studio 60 ended up getting cancelled two-thirds of the way through its first season. Why? Horrible, horrible ratings.
- The 2008 documentary "Bigger, Stronger, Faster" saw its director Chris Bell challenge the "conventional wisdom" about the health risks of anabolic steroids, questioning doctors and lawmakers about the real health risks and grilling a father whose son committed suicide over whether steroids really were to blame. The film heavily featured Bell and his two brothers Mike and Mark, both of whom were active steroid users. Within less than a year, Mike Bell (a former WWE jobber) had committed suicide, and both were shown to be at a significantly elevated risk for heart disease due to their steroid use.
- One of Frankie Boyle's jokes on Mock the Week had him talking about how he'd heard that the women in government were there to be window dressing. He then said "where on Earth would those women be considered window dressing? The London Dungeon?". Anyone who's ever been to the London Dungeon and met the women normally employed there....that joke could be taken as a compliment now.
- A celebrity with a family-friendly image (or relatively cleancut one) appearing in (or on the cover of) a women's magazine which is known to write explicit "sex advice" articles, runs the risk of unintentionally exposing their audience to some racy, un-family friendly imagery and content simply by their image appearing next to blurbs on the article on the front cover, or through links to the articles found on the website page where the article was linked. This is especially the case for Disney Channel or Nickelodeon stars (especially ones under the age of consent like Bella Thorne or China Anne McClain) who are regularly interviewed. Perhaps this is the reason for creating magazines like Teen Vogue, yet magazines such as Cosmopolitan don't seem to get the hint. Unfortunately, this can also embarass or reflect badly on that celebrity in spite of themselves.