Love you, Rebel, but it’s too big


REBEL Wil­son doesn’t de­serve $4.5 mil­lion for be­ing called a liar. I have a lot of time for Rebel. She’s ex­actly the right mix of funny, quick and self­dep­re­cat­ing we want rep­re­sent­ing Australia on the world stage.

She’s not your “reg­u­lar” suc­cess­ful celebrity — mean­ing she’s not size 6, with supermodel good looks and slapped with the dumb stick. And that’s part of what makes her so in­cred­i­bly like­able. That lik­a­bil­ity and abil­ity to present her­self to the pub­lic warts and all prob­a­bly helped win her defama­tion case against Bauer Me­dia, which pub­lished the of­fend­ing ar­ti­cles in Wo­man’s Day.

The de­ci­sion I don’t ob­ject to. Even gos­sip rags shouldn’t be able to write plainly un­true sto­ries about peo­ple with­out fear of ret­ri­bu­tion. But award­ing Rebel so much puts us on a slip­pery slope. We don’t want to be­come like the US, where hard work isn’t as im­por­tant as a good lawyer and a writ. The fact she was will­ing to set­tle the case be­fore it reached court for $200,000 tells you ap­prox­i­mately how much she thought it had re­ally hurt her rep­u­ta­tion. While the ar­ti­cles painted her in a bad light, they didn’t ac­cuse her of a crime, other than per­haps of van­ity.

She was given more than $600,000 in “nor­mal” dam­ages and an ex­tra­or­di­nary $3.9 mil­lion in lost po­ten­tial in­come. Would some­one over­seas re­ally read a story in an Aus­tralian mag­a­zine and be silly enough to let it in­flu­ence their opin­ion of her? I doubt any­one here thought about the ar­ti­cles for more than a se­cond. And stu­dios have stood by celebri­ties through worse scan­dals — just ask Mel Gib­son.

The size of the pay­out sets a bench­mark against which oth­ers can be mea­sured. The fact she’ll do­nate the money to char­ity is ad­mirable but doesn’t make the size of it any more palat­able.

The in­jus­tice is that be­cause Rebel won her case against some­one with money, she’s prob­a­bly had the rich­est pay­day of her ca­reer. Oth­ers who end up in court and ac­tu­ally de­serve such a pay­out — the fam­ily of Jill Meagher, the mother of the Far­quhar­son chil­dren, the fam­ily who lost their un­born baby in a car smash — walk away from the jus­tice sys­tem dis­en­chanted, griev­ing and pen­ni­less.

I know the cases aren’t tech­ni­cally the same, but there’s just some­thing a bit un­savoury about it, don’t you think?

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