At What Level Of Success Is It Okay To Be A Jerk?

In case you haven’t heard, a 40-year-old man had a temper tantrum onstage Friday in front of thousands of people. He publicly screamed at his co-workers, insulted a kid less than half his age and broke expensive equipment in order to prove a point.

That man was Billie Joe Armstrong, the lead singer of Green Day. While performing at iHeartRadio festival on Friday, he got upset in a way that only a famous person can get away with. When Armstrong began a song but soon realized that Green Day’s set had only one minute left, he used his time to swear profusely at event coordinators rather than continuing the song.

Let me tell you somethin’. I’ve been around since fucking nineteen-eighty-fucking-eight. And you’re gonna give me one fuckin’ minute? You gotta be fucking kidding me! Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck? I’m not fucking Justin Bieber, you motherfuckers…lemme show you what one fucking minute fucking means.

He then proceeded to break his guitar as Mike Dirnt smashed his bass, throwing the remnants towards a cheering audience. If you haven’t seen the video of his tirade, check it out; it’s as amusing as it is appalling.

While I understand being frustrated that their set was pushed by due to Usher, I don’t understand how a person can feel he has been around for so long and has been so successful that he can become verbally abusive in a public arena towards people who are literally just doing their jobs, people who most likely had 0% say in how long Usher’s set ran.

Yes, Green Day has been around since a year before I was even born, but does that mean I would be cool with their lead singer giving me a verbal middle finger over and over? Not really, no. Everybody’s had a boss or co-worker who’s been around longer than most other people and therefore gets away with being a little ruder, a little less of a team player than the rest of the staff. Many of us have also had bosses who are quite successful so their behavior is automatically excused no matter how obnoxious, cruel or otherwise inappropriate it may be towards their employees. But is it ever really okay?

When you act like a jerk, particularly in front of many other people, you may gain fear from those around you, but that’s not the same as respect. The coffee might arrive a little faster from the gofer, your demands might always be filled but is that really worth being “that person” who breaks things like a 3-year-old when they don’t get what they want? When are you old and successful enough to revert back to childhood antics?

Being 22 and only recently ambitious, I’ve never really had to contend with what it’s like to be successful, but even if I was, I don’t think I would relish in being hurtful toward others simply because things didn’t always go my way. I also don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable insultingly using the name of somebody who’s 22 years younger than I, but to each his own.

As a side note, I also kind of think publicly destroying expensive things is an out-of-touch slap in the face of everybody who would have to spend multiple paychecks to obtain said ruined item. Yes, I get it — you’re a rock star and whatever, but there really is no better way to prove your completely detachment from this generation’s reality than to smash something worth thousands of dollars because you’re peeved about twenty minutes of lost show time.

In any case, I’m curious to know what other people think about this. Is there a certain level of success you reach where you can just be mean to those “below” you on the totem pole? Or is it never really excusable?

Pic via Zimbio

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    • Cee

      In a sense, I feel like Billie had a point. He was asked to perform at this event, deal with the crowded scene that is probably the backstage area and only to be cut short when you are usually a headliner. Yea it would probably be irritating. He probably should not have cursed so much or broken something that is probably worth more than my monthly paycheck. But, its rock..or punk so this happens often. He is hitting that age where he can be seen as “that old crazy guy” that does this at rock shows.

    • Tania

      He wasn’t warned that his 45-minute set was pushed to 25-minutes. That “1 minute warning” was the way he found out his set time was changed. His tirade was directed at the people in charge of deciding the timing, not at the people who put the time on the sign.

      Quite frankly, I’d be incredibly pissed off, too, and I think he’s completely justified in using his one minute to unequivocally say exactly what he thought about that.

      It was a total dick move, and I’d have reacted as angrily.

    • sdf

      you article is of course rubbish.. this was fantatic… you rarely see good stuff like this because allt eh medciorre mediocre bland crap like Bieber etc.

      I don’t even like their music but they at least do it their way and not mediocre vomit that is Usher etc.

      • Renee

        I did not find this article to be “rubbish”. I think it raised interesting points, and asked insightful questions. You are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

    • Renee

      His reaction was a very punk rock from the 90s reaction. And if you were a teenager, and it was the 90s, it was something you might respond to.

      But when are people going to stop just raging about what bothers them, and start trying to change things? Tantrums seem stupid because of their ineffectuality of creating change.

      So his reaction seems dated, and pointless. And I agree, that destructive acts like destroying guitars do take on new meaning in this economic climate.

      Frankly, I would have explained the situation to the audience, asked if they wanted me to keep playing regardless. If there were enough cheers, then keep playing, and screw the organizers. Would have made a better point, than throwing a tantrum expressing how he feels impotent and washed up (seems the most likely reason why he reacted this way).

      • Eagle Eye

        Yes, I largely agree with you, especially since I appear to still have a soft spot for Green Day (where did that come from?!) from when I was growing up and secretly wanted to be kinda punk – even if I was just a silly straight-laced middle schooler…

        Also, yes, Rock and Roll should really go back to being more badass in generally, all of these guys now are just soooooo booooring

    • Sariah

      I’ve always had a soft spot for Billie Joe when he verbally dressed down some jerk for grabbing at a woman’s breasts at a concert. He literally stopped the show and singled the guy out with an epic tirade. Loved it.

      • Sariah

        So I guess I’m saying I’m going to let this one slide.

    • Stacey Trollberg

      To be fair, it probably made for a more entertaining show. He’s a rock-star, so outlandish behavior is something to be expected. Though I think it’d be a different matter entirely were he lashing out/cussing at the fan’s… that definitely makes it harder for me to respect an artist.