It Doesn't Pay to Be a Hero in This Recession
CNBC.com News Editor
Apparently Tina Turner was right: We don't need another hero.
Richard Phillips, the ship captain rescued after being held hostage by Somali pirates, got just $500,000 to write a book about his ordeal, Crain's NY reports.
That may sound like a great deal to you and me, but compare it with Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who got $3 million for his story about landing a plane safely on the Hudson River, and it's chump change.
Phillips' bounty was expected to be higher, according to the article, but was probably hampered by "depressed book sales and possibly hero fatigue."
That's right. A guy gets held within inches of his life — BY PIRATES — and we're all like "Eh, whatever. We're over the whole hero thing."
When news of a movie deal on the pirate affair came out at the end of May, one commenter on Entertainment Weekly wrote, "Let's see, the pirates overwhelmed the boat in about 30 minutes; the captain was imprisoned for about 5 days ... and nothing happened during that time, except a lot of communication between the Navy and the pirates. Yep, that should make for a really exciting movie."
Ouch. What's a hero have to do to get some respect around here?
One blogger said it's just part of American human nature to build up heroes and then tear them down.
"The tear down is almost unavoidable when we get tired of our worship of these talented people. After all, who do they think they are being some famous hero when we still have to go to work and pay our bills?" writes C. Rich in the "America Speaks Ink" blog.
"America’s Hero Fatigue Syndrome knows no mercy," Rich explains.
Not to mention, we were far more desperate for a hero in February when Capt. Sullenberger landed that plane in the Hudson than we were in April, when the economy and market seemed to be coming back, and Phillips evaded death by pirates.
"Publishing books is all about timing," said Beth Parker, an associate director of publicity for Gotham and Avery Books.
Still, she said, don't make too much of the numbers — sometimes multimillion-dollar deals are inflated for publicity purposes.
The most important thing, says Parker, is to get the book out within a few months of the incident. "If someone has a good story to tell, people will want to read about it."
And pop-culture guru Perez Hiltonsaid it was just luck.
"It has nothing to do with the economy and everything to do with luck. Sully lucked out! The other captain didn't."
So, to all you would-be heroes out there: If you're going evade death by pirates or conduct a heroic rescue that saves hundreds of lives, try to schedule it when it's convenient for the rest of us.
And when you're 15 minutes are up, buh-bye.
After all, this is America — land of the free and home of the ... NEXT!
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