The world tuned in to Colorado last Thursday when 6-year-old Falcon Heene, known as “Balloon Boy,” supposedly floated into the air in his parents’ homemade flying-saucer-like helium balloon.
The drama reached a pinnacle when the balloon returned to the ground without the boy, leading many to fear that he jumped out during the two-hour flight.
However, the boy was hiding in the attic of his family’s garage the whole time. His parents, Richard and Mayumi Heene, are now facing criminal charges for knowingly providing the false report.
“We did this for a show,” said Falcon in an interview with CNN on the night of the incident, raising initial suspicions that the entire incident was a staged attempt at fame.
This is a ridiculous move by the Heenes, who are no strangers to fame. The family had been featured on ABC’s “Wife Swap” reality show. Richard Heene also has a Web show called “Psyience Detectives,” and each video has a few thousand YouTube hits.
Richard allegedly staged this incident to become famous and make money from his own show. He previously pitched an idea to TV network TLC, but it fell through. According to ABC News, there are reports that Richard abused his family, while Mayumi acted as an enabler. The police are now considering filing criminal charges against the Heenes.
But forget criminal charges – for demonstrating such inherent irresponsibility, parents like Richard and Mayumi Heene should be yanked from custody of their children. If this incident was a hoax, the Heenes are unfit parents for exploiting both Falcon’s obedience and the world’s sympathy for their own gain.
It doesn’t seem uncommon for parents in the U.S. to push their children to fame and fortune.
Miley Cyrus’ father, Billy Ray, let the 16-year-old do a pole dance at the Teen Choice Awards, and many rumors have spread that Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears’ mothers pushed their children just for the sake of profit. Many girls are also pushed to pursue modeling and eat according to a strict diet so they can be the next winner of the local beauty pageant.
The Heenes wasted the time and money authorities spent on this incident, which called for the use of the National Guard’s search-and-rescue helicopters and even caused flight delays at Denver International Airport.
Even if Falcon was not physically harmed, he will forever bear the scar of his parents’ ill-inspired rush for fame.
The pursuit of fame seems to have taken control of too many Americans.
A 2006 Pew Research Survey asked 18- to 25-year-olds about their most important life goals of their generation. A majority said becoming rich and famous are top goals – 81 percent said it was the most important or second-most important goal “to get rich,” while 51 percent said “to be famous.”
People like Richard and Mayumi Heene will continue to have children and place their own myopic goals above their children’s welfare. They may never change. It’s important for parents to have their children’s interests in mind rather than their own selfish greed.
Neil Manimala is a junior majoring in biomedical sciences.