“So many stars in the sky… I wanted more than anything to be part of those stars. I never realized becoming one would destroy me.”Tracy Krimmer, All that Glitters
“I was never sexually harassed on a film set. My sexual harassment always came at the hands of the media and the public.”Mara Wilson, former child star
Everyone knows that Tiger Woods was recently involved in a serious car accident. As the news headlines flashed on my TV screen, I began to wonder how long it would take for the media to speculate on whether he was driving while impaired. It did not take a minute. Almost every reference to the accident for the next three days was followed by “There was no evidence..,” or “There was no mention…”
Many years ago, I took our son to see Tiger Woods conduct a demonstration in Forest Park. The tickets were given to me by a pharma rep. In those days we were allowed to receive expensive goodies from industry. I was surprised to see that Miguel was one of only a few White children in the crowd. Tiger showed up on time. He demonstrated his powerful, accurate drives. He made the ball loop one way or the other. Then he asked his father to come down.
Tiger’s dad stood six feet in front of him. Tiger placed a ball on the ground, then took a full swing at it. The ball went over his dad’s head, then spun back, and rolled between dad’s legs. His father told us that Tiger could take full swings at a golf ball, inside his house, by age five. He could make the ball land on top of the dining room table, inches from Mom’ prized vase, 100% of the time.
Tiger’s dad went on to explain why they were in Saint Louis. Tiger sponsored a charity that encouraged low-income children to become golfers. He paid for them to play at the same golf courses where he made his millions. He insisted on collared shirts and clean pants; unruly behavior was not tolerated. The event that I went to was a fund-raiser: people like me paid handsomely so that dozens of low-income kids could attend.
Ever since, whenever Tiger’s life seemed to become embroiled in a downward spiral, my first thought was of the amazing job that he had done with those kids. The media: not so much. Public opinion inevitably swerved to the “spoiled millionaire athlete” slant. We were told, and people believed, that someone with that much money and fame owed us a Disney existence, forever, no matter what. I believe that the general public derives perverse satisfaction when one of the people that they have turned into superstars does something stupid that shows that they are, after all, human beings.
Athletes and actors get the worst of this poison. I do not understand this. A zillion times I have heard the line that, since their income depends on us going to their ballgames, and buying their sneakers, or their fan club gear, they should somehow behave as a model for all. They should never object to giving an autograph; they should always pause to have a selfie taken, even if they are in the middle of dinner with friends or family.
This attitude is so wrong! Jeff Bezos depends on us ordering stuff through Amazon. No one ever interrupts his meals to ask for an autograph. It is highly likely that you would never be able to get within 100 feet of this guy. Try to write to Mark Zuckerberg to ask for an autographed baseball: see what happens. But the expectation for athletes and actors is different.
Britney Spears cannot get the money that she earned. Supposedly her family knows best how she should spend it. Anyone can win the lottery and waste their prize within months. Nobody cares. Why should Britney be different?
Go on to Meghan Markle, or to the unspeakable suffering that Drew Barrymore went through. According to a recent op-ed in the New York Times, her father was an alcoholic, and her mother took her to a New York disco instead of school. She ended up in rehab early in life, and people sanctimoniously said that this is what fame will do to you.
No. Not true. There are many admirable wealthy people (like Tom Hanks), same as there are many admirable poor people. This bias against celebrities is called The Narrative. Quoting from Mara Woods:
“A big part of The Narrative is the assumption that famous kids deserve it. They asked for this by becoming famous and entitled, so it’s fine to attack them. In fact, The Narrative often has far less to do with the child than with the people around them.”
I wish Tiger well. Once the details of his injuries came out, I experienced pain, as if I somehow felt that by my feeling sorry, his pain would diminish. I think everyone deserves a break. Even the celebrities that I cannot stand to see or listen to. They are rich and famous, I am not, so they must have a gift that I do not have. Good for them.
The next time that you read anything that relates to anyone who is consistently front-page material, take a deep breath and try to imagine that, for the grace of God, this could have been you.
It is the only humane thing to do.