If you’ve ever been interviewed for TV or radio remotely, you know that there is special bit of adrenaline that kicks in. It’s as if your entire career depends on a few minutes of fame. Like the sword of Damocles everything seems to hang in the balance. You prepared, you know the talking points, you’re ready to go. But there's a lot that can go wrong as Robert Kelly learned during a BBC interview.
When you have little kids and you’re doing the interview from home, you know not only the adrenaline rush of the interview, but also the terror of knowing that despite your best efforts at any moment they could T-bone your interview, bringing your career to its knees. I’ve been there, barricaded in a bathroom trying to do an interview while a toddler, acting like some medieval siege tower, attempts to break down the door. They’re not bad kids, they just have a special kid-sense that tells them there’s something important going on and they should be a part of it. And you are utterly helpless when it happens.
While Robert Kelly is likely mortified by what happened, I do hope his employer, the BBC, and others go easy on him. Thankfully, that seems to be the case as a BBC spokesman has already stated:
We're really grateful to Professor Kelly for his professionalism. This just goes to show that live broadcasting isn't always child's play.
Aside from the humor of the moment, there’s probably a deeper reason that the video is so popular.
Our culture demands that everything be perfectly polished and sterilized. Indeed, we often cannot portray what is actually real; we have a mask for everything. Politicians and public speakers talk in vagaries so as both not to offend anyone and not to commit to anything. Celebrities often have disastrous home lives, yet portray the perfect husband or wife on the screen. And we, the general public, frequently play the same game, especially on social media. We show only what we want others to see: the perfect meal, the happy family, the new car, and so on.
Curiously, seeing life as if we are on a stage is nothing new. Many centuries ago, the great English poet William Shakespeare declared as much in As You Like It:
"All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.."
Arguably, it's true. We all have the sense that we are actors on a stage, detached yet still playing our parts in the seasons of life. Such is the mysterious sense of being. Without requiring us to remove our own masks, though, the viral BBC interview allows us to see behind someone else's mask, to glimpse something truly real. And it wasn't a terrible real, but rather the loving adoration and simple joy of innocent children.
Devin is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Charlemagne Institute, which operates Intellectual Takeout, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture, and the Alcuin Internship. He is a graduate of Hillsdale College where he studied history and political science. Prior to co-founding Charlemagne Institute, he served as the Director of Development at the Center of the American Experiment, a state-based think tank in Minnesota.
Devin is a contributor to local and national newspapers, a frequent guest on a variety of talk shows, such as Minneapolis' KTLK and NPR's Talk of the Nation, and regularly shares culture and education insights presenting to civic groups, schools, and other organizations. In 2011, he was named a Young Leader by the American Swiss Foundation.
Devin and his wife have been married for eighteen years and have six children. When he's not working, Devin enjoys time with family while also relaxing through reading, horticulture, home projects, and skiing and snowboarding.