ESPN’s Dennis Rodman Documentary Offers A Cautionary Tale About Celebrity Culture

The Federalist | 9/13/2019 | Christopher Jacobs
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President Trump’s series of high-profile summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un brought to mind a figure who has largely disappeared from American culture: Basketball Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. Rodman also engaged in a series of meetings with the reclusive leader several years ago, and appeared on the fringes of Trump’s Singapore summit with Kim last June.

A new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary takes a look back on Rodman’s life and career. A quarter-century later, some of his antics—from his flamboyant hairstyles to his gender-bending wardrobe, including his infamous appearance in a wedding dress for the launch of his 1996 memoir—appear, if not quaint, certainly less controversial. However, Rodman’s theatrics in the 1990s also presaged the cult of celebrity that has come to dominate our politics and culture—with decidedly mixed consequences, not least for Rodman himself.

ESPN - Film - Documents - Phases - Rodman

The ESPN film documents the many distinct phases of Rodman’s life. Born in New Jersey, his mother moved him and his two sisters to Dallas after his father abandoned their family. In an all-female household, and with no father figure in his life, Rodman grew up shy and withdrawn.

His insecure childhood evolved into a troubled adolescence. After working a series of odd jobs then an arrest for shoplifting as a janitor at DFW Airport, his mother’s tough-love refusal to support a shiftless son left Rodman homeless and searching for his place in life.

Sports - Fans - Rodman - Basketball - Basketball

As sports fans know, Rodman found basketball, and basketball found him. An 11-inch growth spurt after high school gave Rodman the length and reach he had previously lacked. Those new physical talents, coupled with a preternatural ability to decipher the angles necessary to rebound effectively, rekindled Rodman’s interest in a sport in which he had previously struggled. He had flunked out of community college after only one semester, but eventually ended...
(Excerpt) Read more at: The Federalist
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