Failing in Our Ability to Admit Failure

One of the reasons I don't read Hollywood magazines is because the people in them lead some pretty bizarre lives. Maybe that's what causes them to say some pretty bizarre things.

It's not only okay, but it's healthy to admit when we have failed. Admission of failure sets a more likely stage for potential future success. To claim that we have been successful when we really haven't is an affront to those who really have been successful. And it is an affront to ourselves and the expectations of self that we should have.

I suspect Hollywood is the epicenter of faux successes. This week's Parade Magazine illustrates one such failure that was branded a success. Actress Ellen Barkin, while admitting that she made a mistake by marrying her second husband, claimed that even though she divorced her first husband, that marriage was a success.

"A successful marriage doesn't necessarily last until you're dead."

Yes it does. If society is not to eventually devolve into chaos, then Barkin's statement cannot be considered true.

I don't fault Parade Magazine for reporting the story. Nor do I fault Ellen Barkin for claiming that her first marriage was not a failure. But it was. Because she is not married to her first husband anymore. Hollywood is on the vanguard of the changing societal attitude that a failed marriage was somehow a victory.

The vow of marriage is much more serious than most people take it. Hollywood has largely transformed the sacredness of marriage into a game fit to be depicted in a senseless Hollywood movie. Man and woman take their marriage vows in front of family and friends for the reason that the vows should be taken seriously. I am not particularly suggesting that Ellen Barkin's marriage vows weren't taken seriously. But despite that, and despite the possibility that the failure of her first marriage may not have even been her fault, her marriage was still a failure. What I am suggesting is that Hollywood, with its generally decrepit values, is the most likely place in which people would agree that failure is actually a moral victory.

Sometimes marriages don't work out. Sometimes it just happens, even if the couple has done everything they can to make it work. But under any circumstance, a marriage ended in divorce is a failure. A worse--and seemingly more common--failure is not to admit it.


  1. Hollywood is hardly alone in this. We have codified it into law. We have saturated our society with this same attitude.

    Society once held that marriage was a binding relationship between a man and a woman -- and their children, and society as well. We have come to the point that we have blown off these last two interested parties. Marriage is now simply about the feelings of its two main participants. Nobody else matters at all. Marriage has come to mean a slightly stronger form of going steady. And just as a steady boyfriend or girlfriend can be discarded when the relationship is less than completely satisfactory, so can a spouse.

    This is why we have turned weddings into extravagant events. Everyone once accepted the concept that spending five minutes in front of a justice of the peace resulted in a lifelong binding relationship. Since that sentiment no longer exists, we try to make up for it by making each wedding reception a faux re-enactment of the royal weddings of Old Europe -- to make believe that it means more than just living together until we're ready to try something else.

    I'm not saying that there aren't people that do see marriage as a permanent commitment (in fact, divorce rates are declining because fewer people with marginal ideas about marriage are getting married), but society as a whole does not see marriage the way it once did.


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