Apr 21, 2008

YouTube Divorce Video Takes the Low Road

divfam042108.jpgBy now you've probably heard about or seen Tricia Walsh-Smith's YouTube video, right? If not, here's the story: Walsh-Smith, a British actress-playwright, has been married for nine years to Philip Smith, president of the largest theatre owner in New York City, the Schubert Theatres. Now, she says, he's trying to kick her out of their Manhattan apartment and leave her destitute. Under their prenuptial agreement, she's entitled to half a million dollars and their house in Florida upon divorce, but she's trying to get that set aside so that she can fight for more of his assets.

Now, she's brought her case to the Internet with a video that has garnered nearly three million hits since it was posted on April 10. In it, Walsh-Smith explains her predicament, gives a tour of the apartment she's being asked to vacate, discloses intimate details about her husband to his assistant over the phone, shows photos from her wedding album, makes disparaging comments about her husband's family, and expresses her distress and bewilderment about the situation. In media mentions from CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and The Los Angeles Times, experts express various opinions about what it all means. Is it the advent of a new weapon in the divorce wars? A plan that will backfire when the judge is appalled by the tactic? A means to gain public sympathy and pressure Mr. Smith into doing what Ms. Walsh-Smith calls "the right thing?" A way for a disempowered wife to regain some control?

Or, as The L.A. Times says, perhaps it is merely "a performance piece by a theatre professional"? I'm inclined to agree with this view, and the whole thing leaves a bad taste. As an advocate of communication, collaboration, and making every effort to take the high road even in the painful and difficult event of a divorce, it's hard to condone something so clearly designed to humiliate Mr. Smith in the service of revenge and financial gain. The low road seems to have hit a new low.