It seems like the most straight-forward hypothetical in the book. Why would a celebrity, with a career and skills and a reputation, willingly walk themselves into the depths of the South African jungle and eat the most obscure kinds of insects in front of prying cameras and nosy viewers?
Money. Dollar bills. Full pockets.
It’s widely rumoured the pay packets for the celebrities entering the I’m A Celebrity jungle hover over six figures – and near $700,000 if you’re comedian Tom Arnold – making it a payday that is, arguably, worth the fuss.
And so, the conclusion we tend to draw is a simple one: Celebrities go on I’m A Celebrity for the money.
But is it actually as simple as that?
If you ask Bernard Tomic, not at all. For someone who sits at home and “counts money”, or to be more specific, counts his “millions”, entering the reality TV sphere seems like a dramatic way to earn cash when tennis isn’t stingy in its payments.
“It is not for the money. I am doing this because it is something I always wanted to do in my life,” Tomic told News Corp just before entering the jungle.
The potential sprinklings of sarcasm aside, there’s probably no doubt the jungle was something Tomic’s embattled reputation needs rather than wants.
He needed the jungle as much as the ratings needed him. And now, two days in, he is out.
Because the thing that the show almost gave Tomic the opportunity to do is the same reason why celebrities will never stop coming back to I’m A Celebrity: Celebrities will forever misbehave and reputations will always need to be salvaged.
In a realm where reality TV offers little more than cheap entertainment, I’m A Celebrity gives some of our country’s most famous faces an opportunity their full pockets can’t buy.
The ability to reform their public image.
Take former AFL player Barry Hall, who, prior to his foray into the jungle, was branded the bad boy of the sport. A few very public on-field king hits did little to dispel public perception that he was aggressive. Since the show, a more mellow, wholesome picture of Hall has emerged after meeting and marrying Lauren Brant and welcoming a son to the world.
Then, of course, there’s the obvious resurrection of the career of Brendan Fevola. Prior to his own time in the jungle, the public had very little time and patience for the former philandering gambling addict. An affair with Lara Bingle and numerous public drunken bust-ups had all but ruined a post-footy media career.
LISTEN: Season 1 contestant Andrew Daddo tells us what went on behind the scenes in the African jungle. (Post continues after audio.)
Then he entered the jungle. Walking out the winner, Fevola walked into a full-time Melbourne breakfast radio gig. Just this week, he was announced as one of the new hosts of the AFL Footy Show, marking the total resurrection of his public image after being sacked by the show in 2009.
Consider Laurina Fleure, who came in third place in the show, proving herself to be more than just a high-maintenance former Bachelor contestant. Casey Donovan re-launched her music career after living well-outside the limelight for some time. Steve Price went from hard-nosed conservative commentator to hard-nosed conservative commentator with a soft-side. Model Kris Smith emerged as far more than just a pretty face, shedding light on the depths of his own insecurities.
We’re a funny bunch, us Australians. We struggle with the arrogant – the ones who seem to have it all, to have it easy, only to despair and complain and let their vices run amok. But when we have context and time and explanation? We welcome them back. We give them a chance. We feel for them and then we forgive them.
There was chance Bernard Tomic, given the right amount of explanation and vulnerability, could have absolutely resurrected his public image in much the same way.
In this, Tomic’s certainly not alone. Because despite it’s frivolity and manufactured drama, there’s one thing I’m A Celebrity gives stars that no one else will: the time, and space, to be themselves.
It’s a shame Tomic didn’t give it more time. Because with time and context, we’re a largely empathetic group.
Now, with nothing else than a few tantrums to his name, and no further opportunity to salvage a reputation that’s been fed through the shredder, it would appear we have minimal patience – and he, minimal chances – left.