Joan Rivers has a long-held reputation for quickly throwing out insults. Like her predecessor, Don Rickles (Mr. Warmth) and her modern day equal, Kathy Griffin, Rivers’ style is no-holds-barred, cajones-to-the-wall insult comedy. In her world, everyone is fair game. This may be an acceptable approach when ranking on celebrities, politicians and other figures who purposely put themselves in the public eye. However, there is a current sense that the living legend should draw the line at unwitting victims of heinous crimes, people who never sought out fame or attention. Clearly, Joan Rivers needs to create some boundaries for herself.
While her insensitive comments about Lindsay Lohan’s unfortunate miscarriage may be utterly offensive to some, a later remark made this week on The Today Show, in regards to the three women who were held captive for 10 years in Cleveland, Ohio, is appalling to many. Indeed, a weak argument could be made that Rivers has earned the right to say whatever she wants to say about anybody. Mark Twain said something about looking forward to being an old man; passed the age of 73, no one can tell you what to do. Fair enough.
But, the elderly should not be allowed to go around saying insensitive things about already traumatized individuals just to get a laugh. Particularly an elderly comic who has millions of people listening.To make things worse, Rivers refuses to apologize to Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus for the remark. This behavior is indicative of a woman who feels that she is untouchable. She seems to be calloused to the pain of others.
This attitude is quite evident in Rivers’ treatment of the still-striking writers from her internationally popular show Fashion Police. It has been reported that she freaked out when the writing staff told her that they wanted to join the writers’ guild. Miserably underpaid, they were told that was not an option and have been on strike for a year now. Ms. Rivers has been uncaring about their plight and continues to display her wealth unabashed. After decades of treating people poorly in her act, Joan Rivers needed to put up boundaries so that she would not become inextricably linked to the persona. Now, it seems, she cannot separate her stage life from her real life.
Truly, no one can reasonably expect her to apologize to Lohan. Joan says horrible things about celebrities and gets paid nicely for the work. The timing of her “miscarriage” joke just happened to coincide with a moment when the public is feeling kind of warm and fuzzy toward the troubled starlet. However, Rivers ought to reconsider her position on the apology to Berry and DeJesus. Neither of these women asked for their “fame” and are likely working hard to get passed the terrifying ordeal they shared. Putting salt in their wounds is not only tasteless but inhumane. As Joan Rivers approaches her 81st birthday, a little soul searching and a thoughtful foundation of needed boundaries would perhaps serve her well. In her own words, “Oh, grow up.”
Commentary by Stacy Lamy