Over the years, I’ve analyzed the degree to which the press acknowledges the past crimes of celebrities. Are they obligated to remind us of drug arrests, assault charges, even murders? The Los Angeles Times constantly reminded you that Mel Gibson said anti-Jewish things out on Pacific Coast Highway. It wasn’t a crime, but they wouldn’t let you forget it.
Mark Wahlberg, the former Marky Mark of the Funky Bunch, who had a No. 1 hit in 1991 with “Good Vibrations,” then went on to become an Oscar-nominated actor, always seemed to get off easy. Profiles in People and Entertainment Weekly failed to mention that in 1988 while stealing two cases of beer from Than Lam, Wahlberg called him “a Vietnamese f*cking sh*t” and hit him over the head with a five-foot stick, knocking him out cold.
Then a few blocks away, he put his arm around another Vietnamese man (Hoa Trinh), asking him to help him hide from the police, then punched him in the eye, blinding him permanently.
When the police caught the 16-year-old and brought him back to the scene of the crime, he called his victims “gooks” and “slanted-eyed gooks.”
Even though tried as an adult, the Bostonian was given a two-year suspended sentence with only 90 days to be served (the press has reported both without understanding the difference) but was let out after only 45 days.
Though he credits Father James Flavin with turning him around, Flavin told “60 Minutes” he was shocked when Wahlberg gave a tearful apology to a judge promising he’d never do it again and won him over (“the judge just melted”). After his performance, the criminal gave Flavin a wink. Even then, he was acting.
All of this and more were recently recounted after Wahlberg asked the parole board to recommend to the governor of Massachusetts that he be pardoned for all past crimes because he’s become such a changed man.
According to The Daily Beast, Wahlberg’s fast-food chain Wahlburgers has outlets in two cities with deals to open 35 more. He hopes to eventually impose 300 of his joints on the continent. But he fears having problems getting his concessionaire’s license in some states (especially California) because of his record, thus the request to be pardoned.
The “Transformers” star thought by expunging his record, it would show other troubled kids that they too could turn around.
Who’s he kidding? The message would be, “Get rich and famous and all will be forgiven.” As others have pointed out, do you think someone who wasn’t a celebrity would have much of a chance of receiving a pardon? Why should a star be treated differently? If a black man beat up two white men and permanently blinded one of them, would he have served only 45 days in the first place? Talk about white privilege.
I didn’t even realize that in 1986 when he was 15, Wahlberg and a group of friends chased three siblings on their bicycles, saying, “Kill the nigger! Kill the nigger!” If that wasn’t enough, the very next day, on a field trip, the “punky bunch” yelled more anti-black racial slurs and attacked children with rocks, hitting two.
Yet just five years later, he appropriated black culture in his guise as rapper Marky Mark and had two Top 10 gold records. He even appropriated a black girlfriend, “Baywatch’s” Traci Bingham.
In 1998, I cringed when the now-actor began dating his co-star in the film “The Big Hit,” China Chow. Talk about sleeping with the (racist) enemy.
Walhberg’s counseled at-risk kids and raised money for charity. Fine. How much for the black and Asian American communities? In a 2006 interview with The Boston Globe, he admitted that to find his victims and apologize would be the “right thing to do.” Yet he still hasn’t done it. In his petition, the rapper/actor can’t even admit Trinh lost his eye: “From later accounts of the incident, it is my understanding that I may have caused serious injury to [them].”
He attributed the racial slurs and violence to alcohol and drugs. Fine. How long’s Wahlberg been sober? Somewhere along the line, now clear-minded, he could’ve asked forgiveness from his victims and paid for their pain and suffering (the guy’s worth $200 million). He still hasn’t. And Hoa Trinh still can’t see out of his right eye.
In fact, the 43-year-old’s only apologized and made restitution when pressured. In 1992 after he became a Calvin Klein model, the Community Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) pushed him to address the hate crimes, and he did (if social media had been around then, the company might’ve been pressured to fire him). That same year, Wahlberg paid off a security guard he pummeled as his bodyguard held him down.
So when can a supposed changed person ever be forgiven for past sins? First, seek out those wronged, ask for forgiveness, make the proper restitution, and support communities he’s attacked. But these “make-ups” can’t be done out of convenience, and in his case, that’s not an accusation from which Mark Walhberg can escape.
I am thankful that he asked for that pardon, though, because now more and more are finding out about his racist past than if he hadn’t. Hell, now, even People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly will have to write about it. Imagine that!
Heating Up Department: New online episodes of “Selfie” starring Karen Gillan and John Cho continue to get better and better. In episode #9, a white girlfriend of Eliza Dooley (Gillan) flirts with Henry Higgs (Cho), who makes it known that he’s not interested (wow, Asian men are allowed to turn down white women?!). She’s so bummed out that she stops making the great sandwiches his boss regularly depends on, so Henry has to apologize to her, but she’s still really sad (so in this episode, Henry was attracting three white women, including his girlfriend Julia, though she didn’t appear in this one).
The main plot is that Henry teaches Eliza to follow through on assignments even though she’s insecure about them. When she does and their boss realizes she had a great marketing idea, Henry tells her, “A little bit you, a little bit me seems to be the winning combination!”
Her boyfriend Freddy wants Eliza to have dinner with his parents. The three family members order salmon, but Eliza is having difficulty making up her mind on what she wants and begins getting emotionally affected by it. With one great metaphor after another, the waiter tells her, “There are other fish in the sea” and “You shouldn’t force it.”
The light bulb goes off. Eliza apologizes to Freddy, tells him, “We’re not a winning combination,” and leaves.
Catching Henry about to leave in the elevator, she removes the coat she borrowed from him and presents herself topless. He‘s stunned and makes an excuse that he can’t go out with her because he has to feed his cat. She points out he doesn’t have one. Well, he has to go to a pet store, buy one, then feed it. Pretty funny.
The last sentence of the episode, we hear her voiceover: “Henry and I were going to be together — or else.”
It was an exciting teaser for the direction the show was taking. This week, after Henry avoids her, Eliza confronts him in his office, saying she accidentally fell in love with him and wants to know how he feels about her. Henry says he’ll do research and get back to her, later telling a co-worker he’s “never felt more conflicted in my life.” His girlfriend Julia is safe, but he’s yearning to reach for something more wild — Eliza.
After talking to a still down-in-the-dumps Freddy, Henry believes she dumped her boyfriend because they got too close and she was afraid of commitment. He bounces that theory off Eliza, who angrily tells him she’s not afraid and he’s the one sabotaging a potential relationship. She asserts that Henry’s not in love with Julia either. Of course, Julia arrives just in time to hear this.
Later at the annual company karaoke party, Henry approaches Eliza, but not because he’s chosen her over his steady. In fact, he insists, Julia’s waiting for him in the car. Dejected, Eliza sings a sad song, gets drunk, and climbs back into bed with Freddy.
In reality, Henry never returned to Julia, who leaves an angry message saying she guesses it’s over. Will our two stars get together before the 13 episodes run out? A new episode runs on Hulu and abc.com every Tuesday.
’Til next time, keep your eyes and ears open.
Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.