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March 29, 2010

Of all the celebrity gossip in all the land, nothing is more compelling than the truth, and In Touch hit the jackpot with its scoop on an affair between Sandra Bullock’s mechanic husband, Jesse James, and tattoo model Michelle “Bombshell” McGee.

In an industry where one comment or photograph is taken out of context and spun into an eight-page story, the  tale of America’s Sweetheart pitted against a sex worker with a purported fondness for white power is the ultimate in a bankable tabloid narrative. In this particular case, the narrative at issue is a bit of a departure from typical tabloid fodder; after all, the story is based on a trail of clearly reliable evidence, rather than just glorified fan fiction.

This is a battle of good versus evil. McGee is supposedly a neo-nazi and (almost) everybody hates those people. McGee is the kind of woman that sleeps with married men. McGee is shameless enough to sell her story to a tabloid. McGee is slutty enough to be a sex worker.

But let’s not forget about Jesse James, because, he, after all, he is the married man who cheated on his wife. According to his wikipedia page, before opening his own custom motorcycle shop, James worked as a bodyguard for Danzig and other metal bands. A documentary about the shop that aired on the Discovery Channel led James to a number of reality television shows and the expansion of his shop into a lifestyle brand. James was married twice before Bullock, the latter marriage to adult film actress Janine Lindemulder, who lost custody of their daughter after she was arrested for abusing James and spent six months in prison for tax evasion.

Bullock, on the other hand, has led a relatively scandal-free life. Many of her films have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars. She’s donated millions of dollars to charity. She just won an Oscar for her work in The Blind Side.

This is a battle of good versus evil, yes, but more than that it’s a battle of class versus trash. Jezebel rightly asked the hypothetical question that if this scandal would be any different if the “other woman” was a kindergarten teacher or a soccer mom. And of course, it would be different. The narrative at work in this scandal is based on underlying notions of class. Sandra Bullock is the woman scorned and the innocent victim. Her reputation is kept intact, and Hollywood will spin her into being even more likable and relatable.  Jesse James will still be a working-class brute that got lucky. He may have found in Bullock the ultimate meal ticket, but he couldn’t control his animalistic urges. He’ll never be “one of them”. And, as for Michelle McGee? She’ll go back to a life of relative obscurity, forever being known as the neo-Nazi tattooed sex worker/fame whore.

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