The Weekly Ringer

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

That’s what she said

3 min read

By Kaitlin Mayhew

As everyone who has been watching any TV lately already knows, the Heene family, or at least the parents will face charges for the alleged “hoax” involving a weather balloon and their six-year-old son Falcon.

To summarize,  Richard and his wife Mayumi called 911 when they claimed that their son Falcon had climbed into their homemade balloon which had accidentally taken off. Search and rescue teams and newscrews alike followed the frightening incident only to find that the boy had been hiding in the attic the whole time. The immense relief of the public was put to an abrupt halt, however, when in a subsequent interview Falcon answered “You guys said…it was for the show,” when asked why he didn’t come out of hiding earlier. That was strike number one.

Needless to say the police are angry, and looking for revenge. Revenge that is manifesting in criminal charges.

Now, as much as it pains me to actually give more media coverage to the incident, I can’t resist. What a ridiculous stunt. The rumor is that Richard Heene wanted another reality TV show slot and thought that this incident would generate fame for his family. According to CNN a friend of Heene’s recalls him saying, “How much do you want to bet we could facilitate some sort of a media stunt that would be equally profound as Roswell and we could do so with nothing more than a weather balloon and some convroversy?” Robert Thomas, who was going to assist Heene in his reality TV efforts said, “(Richard) wanted nothing more than to get another reality TV series. He was all about controversy, hoping to whip up something significant enough to eliminate our reality TV competitors.” Unfortunately his plans seem to have gone somewhat awry.I believe it’s safe to say that was strike number two.

Richard, his wife and three sons previously appeared on the reality TV series “Wife Swap” on Lifetime. The premise for the series is two very different families switch mothers and the drama that ensues is filmed. Richard was apparently controlling and abusive to his temporary wife. Surprise? I’m certainly not.

The horror of this story is two-sided. Of course, the actual hoax itself was a disgustingly played trick. But the really ugly part is the parenting itself. What are these poor boys supposed to think now? Little Falcon, who was only trying to tell the truth, has now gotten his parents in years of trouble. And that is besides the fact that Heene told his son to hide in the attic for those reasons in the first place. That is the problem with reality TV. The characters are playing themselves, but no matter how hard they may try to “be real” a persona of some kind is always attached to them. These young impresionable children are being told on these reality shows that they are “themselves” but then being told how to act.

The worst part of the whole situation is that in a way, Heene has gotten what he wanted. This story was on every news network and TV in the country. Many people now know the name Richard Heene, and although it has a negative connotation, I doubt those people will soon forget it. There is a power and permanence in infamy that can in some cases outdo fame. All one has to do is glance at the tabloids to see that people thrive on shock, awe, and incredulity.