leave kirby alone!

The title is best read while impersonating Chris Crocker.

Poor Kirby Heyborne.  The ?star? of many LDS films has gotten not just heat, but outright rage against him for recently appearing in a Miller Lite commercial.  Comments on the Youtube page and around the bloggernacle express disappointment, outrage, and even throw around doubts to Mr. Heyborne?s worthiness.

Here is a sample of the comments:

?It would be like a member of the church owning a cigarette factory, a bar or porn site. Same thing. He is promoting and supporting the Devil and drugs.?

?He knew it was wrong and still did it. Stand for something Kirby!?

?is he still mormon??

?Unfortunately, his interview makes it sound as if financial need justified the decision to promote the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages ? something he says he absolutely does not condone. Actions speak louder than words. What would he think of a soldier that willingly participates in a recruiting video for the enemy forces? The it?s-just-a-job line simply doesn?t cut it.?

So by holding, yes, holding a beer in a 30 second ad, Kirby has become an apostate moral-less terrorist.  (And I didn?t even look hard for these.)  Um, really, people?

Acting is a job.
As much as we like to imagine actors in Hollywood as having a job that is all fun and games, acting really is work ? a job.  We also seem to have the impression that an actor can just pick and chose which roles he wants.  It doesn?t really work like that.  For a tiny, low budget commercial shot here in Atlanta, we auditioned over two-hundred people.  Getting a national Miller Lite commercial is a big deal.  Hundreds if not thousands of actors were up for it.  A commercial like this can help an actor live for months?which is how long it?ll probably take to get the next bit role.  So, just because it is a job does that justify anything?  No.  But unless you are Brad Pitt, you can?t just pick and choose from roles to play (and Brad Pitt had to take a lot of roles that he would have rather not done before he reached the place he is at now).  A lot of people see commercials as different from normal roles because the actor is seen as “promoting” the product.  This is a very American idea and is the reason that huge Hollywood actors do commercials overseas.  Commercials are how the majority of actors, directors, and other crew actually make money.  TV shows and movies are so relatively few and far between that they aren’t usually counted as a reliable revenue stream.

What would you do?
You would never take a job where you would have to engage in questionable behavior, right?  Uh-huh.  Consider the following behaviors that if performed in the context of one?s job justifies or, at the very least, makes ?gray-area? behaviors understandable:

  • A soldier that kills people in the line of duty.
  • An undercover cop that engages in illegal behavior in the process of an investigation.
  • A med student that if often unable to attend Sunday meetings because of his work.

Too exceptional?  I admit that if an actor doesn?t take a part, no one dies, but how about the following:

  • A waiter who works at a restaurant where alcohol is served.
  • A high school science teacher that teaches evolution.
  • An engineer that is given the task to work on the design of a bar and grill.
  • A grocer that sells cigarettes and alcohol.
  • A politician that signs a bill that he is morally opposed to in order to gain other, important legislation attached to the bill.
  • An Olympic swimmer that wears a Speedo (immodesty!) in races.

Acting has its grey areas, just like everything else.

Mormons are overly concerned with the Word of Wisdom.
Kirby was in an Idaho Lottery commercial a few years back (if I remember correctly).  There was no outcry; there were no internet flame wars started.  When Kirby was a regular on a Fox sitcom, one of his lines included an overt sexual reference…there was barely a peep heard about it.  What?s different about this?  It was a beer.  Let?s face it, Mormons obsess over the Word of Wisdom. Whenever someone describes someone who has gone inactive, the first thing that is mentioned is ?so-and-so drinks and stuff now?.  Even the Law of Chastity doesn?t always get placed on as high of a pedestal.  Is it important?  Absolutely.  It is the only standard for worthiness that we make it sometimes?  No.

How quickly we turn our backs.
I like how people so flippantly dismiss Kirby after the commercial.  Dearelder.com pulled him from their ads.  By holding the beer, he has fallen from our good graces, apparently.  I actually think that Kirby is doing a great job of balancing the demands of his job and his faith.  Hollywood is littered with Mormons that, for whatever reason, have left the Church completely (Kirby still worthily carries a temple recommend).  Did anyone care to notice that Kirby along with a few other LDS actors have a sketch comedy troupe where they regularly perform family friendly shows?  Or even the dozen or so LDS movies that he has been in?  Is that all invalidated by that one beer?  To be honest, it was one of the tamest beer commercials I?ve seen.  No half-naked women, no raunchy jokes, just the one beer, and apparently for that we are willing to crucify him.  We Mormons are real quick to abandon our own after they do something that we don?t like.

Our concern over our own image betrays us.
I?m not talking about Kirby here, but those several hundred Youtube commenters and bloggers who were so viciously denouncing him.  The common concern was over the fact that Kirby is Mormon and (in their eyes) is seen as bringing a bad image to the Church.  Their plan backfired when they seem to have not considered that no one knew who the crap he was.  Is there anyone who wasn?t LDS that had heard of the name “Kirby Heyborne”?  Heck, no.  But now, thanks to all the hullabaloo, lots of people know who he is, what he believes and to be honest, we don?t end up looking so good for pointing our hypocritical fingers at him.  They see us for what we are, a group of people so concerned about our own righteous appearance that we are willing to throw to the wolves any one of our own who we perceive as marring our carefully whited-wall.  I know.  I?ve been guilty of it, too.

So congratulations, Kirby.  I still support you and wish you success in the future.  To the rest of us, get a life.

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  1. nannyg

    Nicely done! Kudos!

    Posted July 22, 2008 at 1:12 am | Permalink
  2. kim

    I personally don’t care what he does. What it truly comes down to, whether Kirby Heybourne or not, is if you start out saying I will never do any job that conflicts with what I believe and then make an exception did you not just push the line further? And if you continue to push that line, does it not get more blurred until finally there is no line?

    Posted July 22, 2008 at 11:00 am | Permalink
  3. Ashley Aynes

    All fine points :) I hadn’t heard about this. I completely agree with not judging others. It happens too much, but NOT by ME :)

    Posted July 22, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  4. Jacob

    So I laughed at the line:

    An engineer that is given the task to work on the design of a bar and grill.

    Especially with the italics, very funny.

    Posted July 22, 2008 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
  5. This is a great post, Clint — if only because you open people’s minds to some “gray” areas. I hadn’t heard about this incident, but I’m glad you wrote about it because you bring up some very logical points that I hadn’t even thought of.

    Perhaps the reason the Word of Wisdom is so emphasized is because it’s probably one of the clearest commandments we have. (At least that I can think of at the moment.) And because it’s so clear, it’s probably easier for people to follow and point their fingers at people who have a harder time with it.

    That’s my thought for now, anyway . . . Again, nice writing . . . I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

    Posted July 24, 2008 at 11:35 am | Permalink
  6. Ha, hadn’t heard about this! That’s crazy!

    Posted July 24, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  7. Good post Clint. I enjoyed reading it. I’ve never heard of Kirby and don’t know what he looks like right now. I do know that many members of the church are too concerned about what others are doing.
    So, is Jon Heder a mormon? If so, he has used some foul language in some of his films. Is that bad? I really don’t care.

    Posted July 29, 2008 at 3:36 pm | Permalink