If you haven’t heard Alec Baldwin’s no doubt regrettable private, angry phone message to his daughter yet, here it is:
This was some bad shit. Hell-to-pay-city kind of stuff.
I believe that Alec is not alone in his feelings of helplessness as millions of divorced men around the country are hauled into court for similar asinine bouts of uncontrollable behavior that leave the rest of us men and women wondering: what prompts some men to behave this way and what can we as a society do to discourage it and promote civility and understanding in these difficult situations? A little background and consciousness raising awareness first is in order, as I propose the Alec Baldwin School of Anger Management.
Talented and versatile actor Alec Baldwin is currently enjoying the success of his starring role on the hit TV Show “Thirty Rock”, and is one of only a handful of leading men who can powerfully and successfully cross the divide between drama and comedy. Known for convincingly playing explosive characters, in particular mobsters and hucksters – the New Yorker never fails to disappoint when it comes to channeling a character’s inner core of truth --- which any actor will tell you is the Holy Grail of good acting. No one can accuse Baldwin of not delivering on getting to the core of truth in his characters, and Alec Baldwin’s got the goods here.
To this day, this is my favorite performance from Alec Baldwin in his 1992 Tony nominated role as Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire. Bar none.
For anyone who didn’t have the chance to see Alec Baldwin and Jessica Lange star in the Broadway 1992 stage production of Streetcar Named Desire at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, you missed one hell of a live performance by Alec Baldwin playing Stanley Kowalski, who internalized the character so unbelievably well in an almost “funny, post-adolescent bowling buddy way.” Bellowing at Blanch Dubois (Jessica Lange) after she has taunted him one too many times for being a “Polack," Baldwin metamorphosed into Kowalski’s sweaty, blue collared “baffled beast”, where he later “deposits himself in a sobbing heap at the bottom of a tenement's towering stairs.”
Not unlike the now infamous cell phone message to his daughter, Alec Baldwin has found an unwelcome parallel with the fictional Kowalski’s anger management issues with his public apology for his inexcusable cell phone message. And yet, what all good dramas share in common is the pursuit of love: the catalyst of seeking love and affiliation at any and all costs, often without rhyme or reason.
But what kind of personal pressure prompts a man like Baldwin to uncontrollably rant like this? During the heat of what has been described as a “War of the Roses on steroids” style of a years long post divorce custody battle between Basinger and Baldwin, this private cell phone message leaked to TMZ reveals just how unbelievably frustrated, humiliated and truly helpless he had to feel (however inexcusable the wording and the tone) to have left such a disturbing message for his daughter.
Double standard? Do we as a society hold men to a tough guy, football hero, and grid-iron standard of never allowing them to melt down under pressure, like women so often do? One certainty is that for the millions of average, non celebrity divorced fathers across the country facing similar painful struggles with their former spouses who are trying to incorporate their kids into their lives while they are expected to be the “big breadwinners”, rants like Baldwin’s are not uncommon. Are men actually allowed to experience helpless and angry feelings and yet never, ever breakdown under personal pressures? I’m not talking about hitting someone over the head with a baseball bat here, but of pure and regrettable, childish out of control verbal ranting?
If the release of this phone message demonstrates anything positive, let it shine a light on the extent to which our society’s expectations of men’s expression of helplessness is taboo and that they too, like women, can say “it’s ok” to talk about it and to learn from mistaken outbursts. And like all divorced families across the country, any events leading up to such rants like these are private, nuanced affairs for these families to constructively work out with the help of professionals who can teach productive, non-hurtful communication skills.
This is why I implore Alec Baldwin to learn and grow from this lesson by partnering with Naomi Campbell to open up a chain of the ALEC BLADWIN SCHOOL OF ANGER MANAGEMENT franchises across the country, and let the healing begin.