Over in New York Magazine this weekend, Alec Baldwin wrote a tremendously long dissertation explaining his life since 30 Rock went off the air, all the bad things that have happened to him, and the people who are to blame for them, most notably TMZ’s Harvey Levin. The one guy who doesn’t get enough blame for the Alec Baldwin sh*tstorm, however, is Alec Baldwin, who claims only to be a misunderstood hot-head whose actions have been twisted and perverted by the media.
Here’s the deal, too: He’s not wrong. The thing I like about the piece the most is that it’s being written by Alec Baldwin, and not a publicist, and Alec Baldwin is angry at everyone — TMZ, MSNBC, the guy who produced his Broadway play, Manhattan — and he doesn’t mince words, so while it’s a tremendously long read, it’s also an engrossing one. In it, he basically goes point-by-point into who is to blame for this and that, starting with the accusations of homophobia.
He’s not wrong about that, either. Alec Baldwin has said some homophobic things, but he’s not a homophobe. He’s a prick, but he doesn’t hate gay people. Did he call that paparazzi guy who was up in his and his family’s face with a camera a “fa**ot”? He continues to deny it, and I guess there’s some argument to be made that it’s not what he said, but even if he did say it, I don’t think he meant to insult an entire class of people; he just meant to insult the one guy, and he used a word that’s offensive to a lot of people to do so.
He also talked about the failure of his Broadway play Orphans, and how friction between he and Shia LaBeouf resulted in Shia’s firing. “LaBeouf seems to carry with him, to put it mildly, a jailhouse mentality wherever he goes.” That sounds accurate. The firing didn’t really help, however, because the director Danny Sullivan was still coddling LaBeouf, likely didn’t like Baldwin, and his heart wasn’t in the play.
As for his MSNBC show, Baldwin claims he had one show in mind — a television version of his really great podcast — and MSNBC had another in mind, and he got railroaded into making a show he didn’t want to make. In either case, he got fired after the spat with the photographer — though, he was told initially that he’d only be suspended until it all blew over — and then MSNBC’s president basically buried him in the press. Baldwin has no shortage of animosity toward all of MSNBC, calling Morning Joe boring and Scarborough “neither eloquent nor funny,” before calling Rachel Maddow talented, but a “phony.” Ouch.
But here’s the take home: He hates the media, and he’s taking his ball and he’s going home.
Now I loathe and despise the media in a way I did not think possible. I used to engage with the media knowing that some of it would be adversarial, but now it’s superfluous at best and toxic at its worst. If MSNBC went off the air tomorrow, what difference would it make? If the Huffington Post went out of business tomorrow, what difference would it make? Arianna Huffington accomplished what she wanted to accomplish. She created this wonderful thing. And what have they done with that? They want clicks, I get it. They’ve gotta have clicks for their advertisers, so they’re going to need as much Kim Kardashian and wardrobe malfunctions as possible. The other day, they had a thing on the home page about pimples. Tripe. Liberal and conservative media are now precisely equivalent.
I’m aware that it’s ironic that I’m making this case in the media—but this is the last time I’m going to talk about my personal life in an American publication ever again.
Is he quitting the business? No, no. He still wants to act, and he’s likely going to move to Los Angeles, because Manhattan is not what it used to be. He’s merely quitting “public life.” He’ll still do movies, and Letterman and SNL, but he’s just not going to live his life in the public.
But the thing about that is, the media is not going to give up on Baldwin, and the paparazzi is not going to say, “Oh, well, Baldwin quit public life. He’s off limits now!” So the things that he’s known for in his public life — lambasting the paparazzi, saying sh*tty things — probably won’t go away. What Baldwin wants is to be able to say sh*tty things in the privacy of his own home, and who can blame him? I doubt, however, that he’s going to get the privacy he craves, so the sh*tty things he says will continue to clang off of every corner of the media.
But let’s end this on a positive note: Baldwin was very, very fond of 30 Rock:
I won every award you could win in television. I got paid well. And people loved 30 Rock. And I loved 30 Rock. I mean, sometimes you do a show that’s a hit show and you hate it. As my agent used to say, you don’t want to be walking down an alleyway with a flashlight in your hand for ten years, doing some police procedural. We had a ball. And everybody was funny. And I’ll never laugh that way again. And I miss that show terribly. I know we all had to move on because it’s Tina Fey’s show and Tina had worked herself to death. She’s a mom with two kids. Eventually, it had to end. But I’ll never have it that good again, professionally.
Would Tina Fey work for years with an honest-to-goodness homophobe? That seems unlikely. Would she work with an a**hole? It’s kind of difficult to get through life without doing so, isn’t it?