It was toward the end of the hour-long kid-glove interview by NBC-TV's Katie Couric that the real reason for Jennifer Wilbanks' prime-time appearance Tuesday was revealed: She has a book and movie deal in the works that, by some accounts, could bring her at least $500,000.
Thus, everything the so-called runaway bride had to say about her decision to hop a bus in her hometown of Duluth, Ga., on April 26, just four days before her planned wedding, and disappear should be taken as self-serving pabulum. Indeed, Wilbanks' story is neither interesting nor compelling and certainly has no socially redeeming value.
Anyone who buys her book or goes to see the movie about her cross-country excursion should have their head examined. On the other hand, if Wilbanks and her fianc & eacute;, John Mason, publicly pledge to donate all the proceeds from the book and movie deal to charity, then a trip to the bookstore or the theater may be justified.
But Couric did not ask Wilbanks what she intends to do with any of the proceeds, and the Georgia native, who has emerged as a self-indulgent, shallow individual did not make any grand gestures.
It says something about us when the story of a bride-to-be's getting cold feet, running away, lying about the circumstances of her journey and then refusing to take full financial responsibility for the nationwide search for her by local and state governments becomes a media event.
Standing by his woman
Just hours before Wilbanks' appearance on NBC -- the jilted fianc & eacute; sat by her side, holding her hand and pledging his everlasting love -- a news item came over the wires that did not get prime-time coverage.
The Los Angeles Times story from the central African nation of Zimbabwe led as follows:
"The air was filled with dust and fear as riot police with guns forced Farisai Gatawa's husband to tear down the couple's one-room shack on the outskirts of the capital Harare. That night they slept on cardboard in the wind. Nyasha, their baby girl of 2 weeks, grew cold, coughed and would not settle.
"At dawn, Gatawa, 27, sat amid the chaos and panic of the spreading government-ordered demolitions, cradling her dying baby, with not the vaguest idea how to save her. At 8 in the morning, Nyasha's eyes closed and no amount of rocking, hugging or nursing would bring her back. It is winter in Zimbabwe, and the mother believes she died of cold.
"Some have called it the war on the poor. Hundreds of thousands have been left homeless as the government enters the fourth week of a national campaign to tear down every unauthorized shack or street stall in cities big and small, and even in remote rural villages."
By her own account, Jennifer Wilbanks had a great life. But that apparently wasn't enough -- and neither were the adoring fianc & eacute;, the $50,000 wedding, the eight bridal showers, the 14 bridesmaids, the 14 groomsmen, the 600 guests and the roomful of gifts, which she has kept.
Weighed against the story of a baby in Africa freezing to death because her parents' home was destroyed, the Jennifer Wilbanks' saga shames us all because of what it says about our society.