Actors are People, Too

Well, here it is: my second will-be post. You might have noticed that the first post has had a bit of time to age. It was actually posted on to begin with, but since it’s the most coherent and expressive piece of writing I’ve done lately, I decided that it would make a good first post. With that taken care of, now I’m working on clearing my head of all the writing ideas I’ve had over the last month or so. My first one has been rolling around in my head for a while, and it’s actually rather the flip-side of Learning to Be a Fan.

One afternoon about a month or so ago, I was talking with Amy about how our day went. She mentioned that she had been introduced to a website that day and had corresponded with its author. She gave me the “you’ll never believe who” bit and paused for the standard dramatic effect. “Wil Wheaton,” she said. Almost without thinking, the first words out of my mouth were, “Wesley Crusher has a website?”

At the time, I thought nothing of that comment. Of course I knew it had been years since Wil Wheaton had played the role of Wesley Crusher on Star Trek TNG. I knew he probably hated being known by the name of his character. That didn’t make any difference, though. The first thing that popped, unbidden, into my mind was the awkward teenage character who was placed in the series seemingly only to provide conflict for the rest of the cast. All the jokes my fellow TNG fan friends and I made, all the snarky comments, even the Usenet newsgroup name I saw once came into being. In my mind, the image filed under “Wil Wheaton” had not changed or grown.

I say all of this, because later that night I actually read Wil’s site (link defunct). Like my wife, Wil is running a weblog on his site, which he uses to make commentary on his life. I haven’t read all the entries, but it didn’t take me very long to really start thinking. Most of my school-age life I spent as a semi-outcast. I had to become immune to nasty comments and learn that I was worth something for who I was, even if not everyone thought so. I grew more confident as I got older, but the sting never completely went away. You’d think that someone in that position would be incredibly sensitive to others in similar situations. Yet, even as I resented others for what they did to me, I played right along with the crowd when the Wesley-bashing began.

I guess my mind was rationalizing it by saying that he was famous. Maybe it wasn’t even that coherent. Maybe I just wanted someone else on whom to take out the frustrations, and he made the convenient target. At any rate, the more I read Wil’s site, the more ashamed I became. This is a fellow human being who has actually gone through some pretty tough times (not the least of which have to do with the Crusher role and its fallout). He’s trying his best to lead a fulfilling life doing what he loves best: acting. He talked about his anguish as a teenager dealing with all the silly snide remarks and jokes to which I helped contribute. He related his current struggles with finding work and his joy in teaching himself all the tools necessary to build his own website.

That night, I had this compelling urge to send an email to Wil, basically saying what I’ve said tonight, and apologizing personally for having become a part of it. I didn’t for two reasons. First, I wanted to be sure that my reasons for doing it were truly what I professed. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing it in the hopes that someone famous would pay attention. Now, after a month or more, I’m able to step back and say for sure that my motives are pure.

My other reason was that Wil isn’t the only person I’ve done this to. Others in my life (some much more immediate to me than Wil Wheaton) have tasted nothing less than biting sarcasm, because I judged myself to be higher up on the “worthiness” scale. I think everyone does this at some time or another, but it hit me especially hard, because I should know better.

Instead of writing Wil an email, I’m making this post. I’m going to conclude it with an apology and a goal. I sincerely apologize to all those people whom I have treated as something less for no good reason. No one deserves that (not even smart-aleck Starfleet cadets *grin*). My goal is to be more mindful of this. My wife is probably raising her eyebrows at this point. She knows me. I’m not perfect, but I’m really going to try to work on this, because I know better.

So… Wil, if you see this post, that’s great. Take it for the apology it is, and know that I’m rooting for you. If you don’t, then that’s okay too. I’m not looking for recognition on this one. It’s just something I felt I needed to “air out”, and anyone who continues reading my entries will probably get used to seeing things like this. Consider yourself warned. :)