Thursday, April 16, 2015

In the Shadow of a Celebrity Dad

Being the child of a celebrity parent is a curse as well as a blessing. Being born into a life of wealth and glamour comes with obvious perks, and many children of celebrities inevitably become insufferable, spoiled brats, particularly if they aren’t blessed with a talent of their own that distinguishes them from their famous parents. But for those who aren’t content to sponge off the money and accomplishments of their parents forever, finding their own way in the world can be especially frustrating.
Imagine, for example, being the son of Tom Hanks, two-time Oscar-winner and arguably the most well-liked actor inside and outside Hollywood. It may seem that being his son is like winning the birth lottery, but how do you carve out your own identity, your own career, your own success when your dad is such a celebrated household name?
One son, Colin, followed in his father’s footsteps to become a fairly successful actor in his own right. But 24-year-old younger brother Chester Hanks, the young man Gawker labeled “a frat boy rapper” who goes by the alias Chet Haze, seems to be floundering at sea.
After radio show host Howard Stern mocked Chet for his rapping ambitions, Chet called Stern out in a Twitter assault last week that read like a blustery attempt to pump up his rapper cred. Here’s a sample of his profane, threatening rant that reeks of affected street slang:
Let me come up on your show b*tch… Come catch this fade… have me live on the air and we can go pound for pound see who looks like the fool you dried up old c*nt catch this fade…
Do you have any idea how badly I am going to assault you when I see you… it’s a shame you don’t hang in the same circles as my family (not enough bread for that) cuz if you did I woulda already seen u.
Taunting Howard Stern for not being rich enough to hang with the Hanks family is pretty comical, considering that Stern’s estimated $550 million net worth is quite a bit more than Tom Hanks’ estimated $350 million. The failed insult also reveals an arrogance about his dad’s money but what also must be a resentfulness – after all, the wealth he boasts about is not his own.
Chet followed up with an unapologetic description of himself as a “WALKING PR DISASTER” who does not “GIVE A SINGLE F*CK!!!!” And then: “I DONT LIVE MY LIFE BY ANYBODYS RULES BUT MY OWN!!!” Methinks the young man doth protest too much. He sounds as if he very much cares about the opinions of others.
This isn’t Chet’s first defensive Twitter feud (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: is there anything in the world more inconsequential than a Twitter feud?). As noted in a Fishwrapper article called, “Sorry, but Tom Hanks Raised a Mega Douche,” Chet got into it back in late 2013 with former rapper Jensen Karp, who tweeted a barb about Chet’s lack of authenticity: “Your dad was in Castaway.” This prompted an angry (but also poignant) response from Chet: “so cuz my Dads famous, I can't do what I want to do in my life?” In the ensuing back-and-forth, Karp offered Chet some blunt, if condescending, advice:
Chet, your father is Tom Hanks. America’s sweetheart. And you’re talking about smoking kush and banging dime pieces. It’s acting… I am actually not hating, I’m trying to help. No one wants to hear the fake black accent from a kid who knows the Spielbergs.
Eminem and others have already proven that being white is certainly no barrier to rap success, but Chet Haze’s bad boy posturing seems to be more an act of rebellion against the expectations placed on him due to his nice guy dad’s name (hence Chet’s name change, for example). If he proves Stern and Karp wrong by earning real success on that route, then more power to him. But I suspect that Chet is still searching for his own authentic road.
Similarly, another would-be rapper – Deion Sanders, Jr., son of the football legend and sports broadcaster who is worth an estimated $40 million – found himself the target of some media ridicule last week when he tweeted something about his life in “the hood.” His famous father playfully but pointedly responded, “you’re a Huxtable with a million $ trust fund stop the hood stuff! Lololol. Son. #Truth.” Huxtable, of course, was the surname of Bill Cosby’s affluent, educated TV family – an association no self-respecting rapper wants.
At the risk of psychoanalyzing Deion Jr. and Chet Haze from afar, my sense is that posturing as rap stars is just a phase for these two. As difficult as it may be to sympathize with celebrity kids who grew up with every comfort and opportunity, Chet and Deion Jr. strike me as two insecure young men struggling to get out from beneath the shadows of their celebrated, accomplished fathers and find their own identities, their own paths in life. It’s a struggle they unfortunately must carry out in the harsh light of the public eye, and they may have to take a few blows in the media such as they did last week before they are humbled enough to reject everyone else’s expectations, search their own hearts, and find their authentic purpose in life.
(This article originally appeared here on Acculturated, 4/15/15)