Mythical Vs. Real Life Role Models

Two Businessmen Sit Face-To-Face in Serious DiscussionUnless you’ve been in a coma over the last few months, it’s safe to say you’ve read/heard/seen about Tiger Wood’s sex scandal and the many women who’ve played with his club. I’m not here to dissect his recent press conference; you can read about that anywhere. I’m disappointed that we feel he owed the world an apology and with the hype that surrounded the whole debacle. I’m not here to condone adultery. Instead I will explain why we weren’t owed an apology, and why we must be realistic when choosing our mythical role models.

Who are we to judge another person’s mistakes? Who are we to throw rocks? We all have skeletons hanging in our closet that we pray will never be discovered. So why are we holding celebrities to higher standards? They are people, not gods. Our society thrives off of gossip surrounding a-list celebrities, from athletes to musicians to actors and to politicians. Being an A-lister comes with the responsibility of being the “mythical” role model. These mythical role models are created by PR teams, marketing and advertising campaigns, and shaped by perceptions from the media. There is nothing wrong with a mythical role model as long as it’s realistic.

Tiger Woods is a perfect example of a mythical role model. This golf prodigy shot a 48 over nine holes at age three and broke 80 on a full 18 at age eight. These are feats that many amateur golfers try to achieve, but won’t ever come close to. Athletes around the world, young and old, idolize his athleticism and determination to be the best in the game. It is realistic to view Woods as a role model inside the boundaries of a golf course, because he represents what hard work, determination, and an unyielding drive to succeed can accomplish when coupled with God-given natural ability.

But it’s unrealistic to look at him as a role model in any other category, especially real life. When someone asks me, “Who’s your role model?” I don’t say a celebrity. As corny as it sounds, it’s usually a family member, friend or colleague. It’s someone that I personally know and they’re a role model for reasons – like a successful career or a successful marriage. They’re real life people who I know and trust, and can have a conversation with. Tiger Woods is not.

So in reality, if you feel like Tiger Woods owed you (or anyone else other than his wife and the corporations he works with) an apology, then shame on you. You shouldn’t be looking to him as a “true” mentor or role model, and neither should your kids or your friends. He’s a human being and his image is a well crafted myth. He’s someone that you don’t know outside of the commercials you see him in and the tournaments that are on TV. Would you expect an apology from someone who you seriously considered a mentor if he or she cheated on his spouse? Maybe you would, but to expect one from someone you’ve never met and never spoken a word to would be unrealistic, wouldn’t it?

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  • Here, here! I wholeheartedly agree Christina! Why can't we differentiate between someone's ability (in this case, golf) and their private life. When it comes to personal role models, choosing a celebrity is ludicrous because you don't really know them. Do I admire Oprah? You bet – I think she's striving to find balance in her life and I feel like she does a lot of good for a lot of people. Do I consider her a role model? Not so much. A – it would be quite difficult to model my life after a millionaire (totally different styles of living) and B – I don't know what Oprah is really like, I only know the persona she portrays on tv. Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post!

  • Luis Khoury sr.

    I would have preferred the apology be unrehearsed and directed at his family, friends and colleagues. A 14 minute reading of words scripted by his staff does not sound sincere to me. I understand why it was done but I would have chosen a more honest and sincere approach. Drop the cue cards and speak from the heart. Good job sweetheart!

  • Christina, I see exactly what you're saying and agree that role models shouldn't be celebrities or people that we've never met. The reason why I felt Tiger owed an apology is that Tiger's PR machine, prior to his infidelities becoming public, created this mythical role model figure for his own gain. He used his image to gain lucrative sponsorships and those sponsors used his positive image to promote their brand and make more money.

    When you put yourself out to the world that way, especially as a celebrity, and people believe in you and that image, and then you it comes to light that you are not that person, you're going to need to answer questions, own up, and apologize.

  • missmotorcade

    Thanks for this great post, Stina. Though I thought he did really well – you make an excellent point. Why do people elevate sports stars and celebs to the status of “role model” in the first place? Most of what we see of them is a fabricated image – which often gets shattered when the star does something “human” in real life. Star athletes and celebs face so many temptations – and all but a few of them eventually give in (whether it's infidelity; performance enhancing (or recreational) drug use; carrying concealed weapons; or any other behavior unbecoming a “role model”). As Tiger pointed out, the cult of celebrity often comes along with an inflated ego, one that makes these stars believe that the “normal” rules for “regular” people simply don't apply to them. And oftentimes, they get it away with this un-role model-like behavior, because they can. That is, until they get caught and the public is “shocked” and “disappointed” all over again, as another star falls from grace. I agree with you, Stina – they just shouldn't be held up as role models in the first place.

  • This is a sticky situation Stina, and there are many different views. You have valid points. Celebrities are humans, not gods. My argument as to why he owed at least his sponsors a public apology is this: yes, Tiger has an amazing skill for golf. He chose to take his talents to the next level and bank on them with product endorsements. Would the Tiger Machine be as huge if he only played golf and generally stayed out of the public eye? I can’t answer that. But when you choose to say “yes, I will represent your company brand if you hand over $X million dollars,” you choose to have the opportunity to be scrutinized.

  • I'm glad you brought this up, Christina. I agree and disagree, though. I agree that he did not owe me an apology, and he did not owe one to his fans. But I think I'm with everyone else in the comment section as far as sponsors and what not.

    But you're 100% right, he did not owe you or me or his fans an apology. We did not directly benefit from his golf skills and he did not represent us or our brand. What he did was play golf like a rockstar, and for that we looked up to him. I no longer secretly wish I could marry Tiger because I wouldn't trust him in a romantic relationship, but do I still think he's the best damn golfer out there? Hell yeah!

  • Stina, you know I agree with you but here it is in black and white: Sure, the sponsors should be angry about Tiger's screwups, but as businesspeople, it's unrealistic to think that the people we sponsor are going to lead a completely blameless, stainless life from the start of the sponsorship to their dying day.

    And as far as a public apology goes, I think the time has come for the public to stop taking these things so personally. This goes back to the Letterman scandal. Do you remember that? Of course you don't, because Letterman never tried to pretend he was anything less than a slightly sleazy, funny dude. Why should the public be offended over the breakup of a marriage between two people who we don't know personally? It's absurd.

  • jeffespo

    Great post Stina. I am with you on him not owing anyone an apology. I remember growing up that the gossip rags were something that you were ashamed to look at or you turned to for shits and giggles.

    Not sure where that all changed but as a society we turned to hero worshiping. Perhaps Charles Barkley said it best in this Nike commercial ~ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8vh2MwXZ6o.

    Any apologies to the sponsors, like most business dealings should be kept in the boardroom.

    TJ – great point on Letterman.

  • Christina,

    I definitely agree with you. I think it's even ridiculous for the “other” women to want apologies, as if they didn't know Tiger was doing something wrong. It's definitely safe to say that it is public knowledge that Tiger is/was married to Elin.

    You could say that his sponsors deserve some sort of an apology because it makes sense that this could potentially hurt their brand, but a public one? No. Exactly as Jeff said, keep it in the boardroom.

  • Great points here, Christina. My personal opinion on the issue is that he probably owed his sponsors, who invested a lot of money in his clean-cut image, an apology, but not the general public. I only care about Tiger on the golf course, so once he's back to playing, I'll start paying attention.

    Like you said, the issue with celebrities like Tiger is that so many people don't recognize that these personas are mythical…not real…make believe…like unicorns. The PR people, publicicts and personal reps tie a plastic horn on the horse and say “Tah-Dah! Here's your unicorn!” And so many of us (myself included) stare in awe at these people as if we know them personally because magazines like People and sites like Twitter give us so much access to them. When we feel a personal connection with a celebrity we've only read about and watched, then we feel so much more hurt when they do something wrong. Those affected by Tiger's cheating were people who saw the unicorn and believed it was real and it was perfect…then reality set in. Tiger is human and has massive flaws…just like us. It's sad to see the mighty fall, but for our society, that's entertainment.

  • “…many women who’ve played with his club”

    [uproarious!]

    I agree with your take on the Tiger Woods debacle. It's his own, he's owning it and it's not for us to expect an apology. Who the hell are we to ask a stranger for an apology? Yes, just because someone is in the public eye does not mean their infidelity or anything they've done in private is any of our business or warrants us to be in-the-mix as it gets fixed.

    Good Lord, stop the madness people!

    If he had made a racist or … well some sort of remark that offended people, large groups of people, okay, apologize away.

  • Great post Christina:

    Tiger doesn't really owe anybody an apology. PR people know there always a risk when you market an athlete can we say Michael Vick. But Charles Barkely said it best “I'm not a role model”.

    I think some people that are parents might get upset with athletes like Tiger Wood makes a mistake because children might look up to the guy and some Mom spent a lot of money on Tiger Wood shirts, clubs and video games. But I believe parents got to tell their kids hey look this guy is a great athlete and he kisses babies when the camereas on but we have no idea what kind of individual this guy is when there isn't a swarm of media around the star athlete. He could be a jerk and its up to the parents to teach children the difference between like you said real life and mythical role models.

  • Hey Brenda, thanks for always contributing :).

    I think you bring up a great point: “It would be difficult to model my life after a millionaire. It is so different. Can we admire her determination and drive to come from very little and be so successful? Sure. But we can find those traits in people close to us too.

  • Oh Dad – we talked about this all weekend. 🙂 Thanks for coming to the site and supporting! You're right, I didn't think his speech was all that sincere but at the end of the day – like Jeff says below, the apology to the sponsors/corporations should have been in the boardroom because at the end of the day it's only business.

  • Tom you bring up a great point. Tiger's PR team did create this mythical role model figure that sponsors loved to use to promote their brands. Here's my question, should he have stuck to sponsors that within the sports industry like Gatorade and Nike instead of branching out to corporations like Tag Heuer and Accenture? I mean, his infidelity, IMO, doesn't take away from his athleticism. But it doesn't ruin an image that perhaps his other sponsors aren't fond of.

    To restate what I said in the post, I do agree he owed an apology to his family, wife, and corporations/sponsors – but to the public? I'm still going to have to say no. I'd almost be more upset with him if I found out he was using sport enhancing drugs to better his golf game because than it would be taking away from what so many Tiger fan's look up to, his athleticism.

  • I'm glad you enjoyed the post Sherri. I do have to disagree about him looking sincere in his press conference. Something was off. I didn't feel much of a connection. But at the same time, I've been told that he's like that a lot during the game. Doesn't interact much. But anyways, I think the public shouldn't be disappointed when these things happen, because it happens so frequent. In this case, a lot of us were shocked, after all it was Tiger . I just don't think it takes away from the main reason we looked up to him: his ability to play golf better than anyone out there.

  • This brings me back to what I just said to Tom – should athletes endorse companies that are out of the “industry” like luxury companies? I think Gatorade dropped him – but at the end of the day I didn't think that was necessary. Cheating on his wife, doesn't affect his game or ability to be the best.

    Did he owe an apology to his sponsors? Yes, I say that above but I disagree with the public feeling like his fans needed an apology or that the apology was made out to be like a circus. But your absolutely right, once your in the public eye, you will be scrutinized. I just don't think we should hold celebrities to a higher standard than non-celebrities.

  • I'm glad you agree with me, that you didn't feel you were owed an apology. And I actually agree in my post with everyone above that his family and sponsors were owed an apology – I'm just not sure it was necessary to be so public and such a debacle.

    I'm glad you no longer would secretly marry Tiger. Although I think we can trust many celebrities to stay faithful, I feel like that comes with the territory but thats a whole other issue we can save for girl talk lol.

    I'd love to see Tiger do what he does best and start playing again. Thanks for commenting!

  • Oh Teej – thank you.

    Dear public: stop taking celebrity relationships so o personally.

    You're absolutely right.

  • Jeff – can't thank you enough for sharing this video. I watched it a few times and its perfectly put.

    Like Barkley said, “I'm not here to raise your children.”

    He's not. He's here to play a game and show how hard work, determination, and skill can make you a great athlete.

  • Hey Andrew, thanks for adding to the comments today. I always laugh when the “other” women want apologies. But that's a chat for another day.

    I agree with Jeff also, sponsorships and family matters should be in a boardroom or behind closed doors.

  • And what does that say about our society… ergh #fail?

    I read People, US Weekly, and gossip mags but for entertainment to see who's wearing what, what movie is the next big thing. But I could careless that Kate Hudson is sleeping with A-Rod or that so and so cheated on Jennifer Aniston.

    Here's my question, is it wrong for publicists to create these mythical role model images?

  • I knew you would enjoy that ;).

    You've added a good point too. If he made a general remark out of ignorance towards people, large groups of people, I'd be more offended and feel an apology was warranted.

  • Hi Rob,

    Thanks for stopping by! My favorite part about the Barkley video is when he says, “I'm not here to raise your kids.” You're right, it's up to the parents to explain to their kids – you can wear his jersey or buy his video games but remember what you idolize. He's not a god – he's human and will make mistakes.

  • missmotorcade

    Agreed – being the best at a sport or being an award-winning actor doesn't make someone all-around awesome and/or worthy of “role model” status. I wonder whether the cult of celebrity will continue [to grow] in our society.

  • LOVE this video Jeff – I had never seen it before. Great thoughts and I wholeheartedly agree!!!

  • jeffespo

    Brenda, this is my favorite commercial of my childhood. It puts the onus on the parents to focus on their kids and raise them right.

  • I guess my point is that he's communicated this squeaky-clean image to the public via branding, advertising, countless interviews, and his play on the course. He's deceived many people through this public image. I think that's why people felt the public deserved an apology. People definitely look up to his athleticism, but people also pointed to his hard working attitude, his relationships with his parents, caddy, and his family, and the idea that he was an athlete doing it “right” as reasons to root for him and trust him and his advertisers.

  • Yes, I think it is wrong to create the images and try to pass them off as the real. You could argue that some artists, like comedians (low-brow art, my favorite kind of art!), present a mythical image, but those images are shticks and are created in a false sense in order to entertain us.

    Tiger is an extremely talented athlete that enjoys sleeping with many women. You know what then? His reps should have let Tiger be Tiger instead of building the perfect “family-man-and-god-like-athlete” image. Tiger would probably be ridiculed for being so promiscuous , but at least that would be the real him. I think the real him would've been better received by the public than building a family and tearing it apart.