Saturday, December 05, 2009

Why Tiger Wood's Character Matters

I hear a lot of people these days complaining about people who are upset with Tiger Woods. They ask: "So what if he cheated? What does that matter to you?" This is particularly the case, it seems, with Liberals and celebrities. I personally never put much stock in Tiger Woods myself. I don't watch golf. I don't play golf. And I don't know much about golf. I'm a miniature golf man.
But what I do know something about is heroes.

Right or wrong, like it or not, we live in a culture (US) that places high value on heroes. From sports athletes to presidents, from singers to actors, we constantly look for people we can hold up high and say: I wanna be like so and so. The thing we particularly look for in those people is strength of character, right or wrong, because strength of character is one of the quickest ways we can know for certain the person's integrity, and above all else, we value integrity in our heroes. Without integrity, our heroes can't be heroes because how can we look up to someone when we don't feel like we know who they are? We want leadership from someone who believes in something with passion and whose beliefs we share and know will not falter. Someone who lives what they preach, so to speak. As a result, when one of our heroes fails us, we feel let down, betrayed even. And for some people, there is a need to talk about that -- to try and come to terms with it.

It's ironic to me when my writer friends or others in entertainment complain it's nobody's business, because this just shows me how out of touch they often are with the real American people and their cultural understandings. The truth is, we as writers (I am one) help create the hero mythology of our culture every single day. We don't write stories about ordinary people. For the most part, no one would get excited about them. We write stories about characters of extraordinary strengths. We do this because we inherently know that's what our audience is looking for. That's what sells stories.

While I find it disgusting and sad the way the press exploit the personal lives of the famous or even slightly famous to raise their ratings and get dramatic stories, I don't think it's reasonable to expect otherwise in a culture which places such high value on heroes. While many celebrities and wealthy people live in their own culture with different rules for morality and different understandings than many of the regular people may have that does not make them superior or more knowledgable. In fact, it can often make them ignorant and insensitive and arrogant when they try and act like they are superior or more knowledgable. It lacks integrity to demand respect for your own personal life and beliefs and your own art when you show no such respect for the personal lives, beliefs, etc. of others.

So when people ask me why Tiger Wood's Character matters, my answer is: it matters because he was someone whose talent and success made him admirable and got him notice. It matters because he and his people cultivated and exploited his family image to encourage that admiration and hero worship. And it matters because fair or not fair, he chose a life that would take him on path to possible public scrutiny and held himself up like a role model for others to emulate. Since most of the country, outside of entertainment, believe infidelity is far from admirable because it is a betrayal and a lack of respect for a committed partner, it matters that someone claiming to care about family breaks his family's trust be being unfaithful.

To me, it's that simple, and I doubt it will change any time soon. I have been fortunate enough to meet and spend time with celebrities on many occasions in my career, and I can tell you they are just highly paid orrdinary people like you and me. They are talented, no doubt, but there was a lot of luck involved and good connections which allowed them to rise to the top of the stack, and somehow they worked hard enough and were willing to make the hard sacrifices necessary to stay there. In a culture that worships heroes, unfortunately, one of those is privacy and the right to demand that no one care how you behave in private.

So no, I don't feel sorry for Tiger Woods because of this embarrassing scandal. He brought it on himself. And no I don't sympathize with the Hollywood whiners, either. Because if they act the same as Tiger Woods, they will bring it on themselves too.

That's why Tiger Wood's character matters. For what it's worth...

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