By now most people in the Hamptons have heard screams of outrage, or at least whisperings, about Southampton High School assistant principal Esther Adler-O’Keefe’s appearance in a fairly salacious music video (at bottom of post) by J.R. featuring Trey Songz.
As a former teacher and someone who believes whole-heartedly in free expression and people’s right to follow their muse—wherever it may take them, including a booze, pot and T&A-drenched Hamptons pool party—I was feeling pretty torn about Adler-O’Keefe’s acting debut.
“So she acted in a music video—give the lady a break,” I thought, saying as much to friends as they sharpened their pitchforks and tried handing me a torch. “Who cares what she does on her own time?”
But, of course, this was only a gut reaction—one very similar to my response to Miley Cyrus’ raunchy and much-maligned “twerk-gate” during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. In two words: Who cares?
Apparently, lots of people. And while I’ll still defend Miley’s right to shake her ass and act the fool—because she actually doesn’t have to maintain an unsullied image for her Hannah Montana fans—things are admittedly a bit different for Ms. Adler-O’Keefe.
During my short, one-year stint as a high school English teacher, I quickly learned that public educators are held up to the highest level of scrutiny. This is why, for the most part, few teachers have Facebook accounts where, for example, old friends might post on their wall about getting wasted in college or the time someone spilled bong water all over their homework. Or, worse yet, they might post a Throwback Thursday pic of the now well-respected teacher snowboarding naked at age 19.
A teacher’s past, and we all have some skeletons, could be riddled with potentially career-ending bombs—unexploded munitions just waiting to scuttle an otherwise stellar reputation. Don’t be fooled, people love a good scandal, and they love to be outraged, no matter how inconsequential that naked snowboarding pic, no matter how many times they may have spilled their own bong water, no matter how many young lives a teacher may have improved.
I feel terrible for folks who have escaped their past, crushed their demons and carved out new lives for themselves, only to see it disintegrate in the face of previous misdeeds (or what the public perceives as misdeeds). Think of Stacie Halas, the Oxnard, California science teacher whose porn star history finally caught up with her. Overnight this changed woman lost her job and any chance at a future as an educator. But what could that school’s board of education do? That’s why all this is so difficult.
That’s also why, having surely seen the downfall of other educators, I have to ask what Adler-O’Keefe was thinking getting involved with something like this rap video? Not only is she supposed to be a role model for the kids, but also for the teachers in her school. As much as I hate to say it—because I never want to tell another adult how to live his or her life—someone in her position should know better.
And maybe that’s the biggest problem. Maybe it’s not so much that she briefly appears in a video featuring throngs of half-naked women debasing themselves, copious amounts of alcohol and more than a few obscene and misogynist lyrics. Maybe it’s Adler-O’Keefe’s poor judgment that’s cause for concern.
Adler-O’Keefe told The Southampton Press she knew nothing about the video when she agreed to appear in it, adding, “…when I agreed to participate, I was completely unaware of the content, lyrics, and title of the video and song.”
The video’s final scene shows Adler-O’Keefe’s character and her husband returning to their home where they find a half-smoked joint and J.R. passed out in a pile of bikini-clad women. She then throws a ball, with a hashtag of the song’s title written on it, at the rapper’s head.
To be fair, I suspect Adler-O’Keefe didn’t know the extent of the song and video’s racy, chauvinistic content. But, like her character quickly realizes in the video, there was plenty of evidence to suggest it.
Warning: The video below contains explicit content that is unsuitable for children and those who are easily offended.