Jesse James and Tiger Woods cannot be labeled serial cheaters. Why? Because neither had a series of affairs (look, I’m not even bothering with “alleged” or “allegedly”; those terms are for news not opinion); they both had overlapping or concurrent affairs. For those who think it’s none of my business, you are absolutely right. Why should I care what a couple of cads do in their spare time?
I care because they are sending so many rotten messages. I may not be affected by their behavioral spam, but I live in a society where others are. Whether they like it or not, they are role models. People who admire them, and see how successful they are, think it’s okay that they do what they do (same for Roman Polanski and O.J. Simpson).
Once people begin thinking it’s okay for their idols to be irresponsible or criminal (or deserve special dispensation from the rules because they are so successful, well liked, or famous), they begin to apply that behavior code to themselves. What’s the big deal about a one-night stand, when you’ve got the celebrity lifestyle as a model of behavior?
Is it sexist of me to be using only male examples? Is it hypocritical to choose only one type of negative behavior? Put simply, no. Why not? Because I said so. Today I am talking about two high-profile cheaters. If you want to throw LeAnn Rimes into the mix, be my guest. I realize cheating isn’t less reprehensible when you confine yourself to one affair. And there are plenty of other ugly behaviors being flaunted in the media—but we’ll save them for another time.
What makes James and Woods stand out is the fact that both went into treatment after they were outed. Nice, guys. You didn’t think you were sick before, but now that you’ve been depicted as dogs, you’ll try the addiction dodge. Seeing as how you’re both dogs, and you both felt it necessary to hide behind doctors, perhaps the best medical treatment is offered at the Spay and Neuter Clinic.
If celebrities think their behavior has no effect on other people, people outside their circles, they are incredibly, ignorantly wrong. When a man is held up as a paragon of family values or his wife dotes on him and their spectacular relationship, he has successfully projected an image. If it turns out that image is false, he has betrayed everyone who bought into his mythos. There is another sad side to this.
If a model family man turns out to be a creep, what about those around us who aren’t quite perfect? If people believe the PR about perfect families and perfect relationships, surely they (in their less-than-perfect relationships) might feel suspicious, threatened, or less secure. Just as reports of widespread crime can keep people from going out at night, lurid headlines about unfaithful spouses can keep people from trusting others, or their own judgments.
What happens in Jesse James’ or Tiger Woods’ boudoirs isn’t just the stuff of late-night monologues, gossip rags, and TMZ. When it enters the public domain, it becomes part of our culture. Public apologies and addiction treatment notwithstanding, James and Woods need to make major, MAJOR efforts to redeem themselves in the eyes of the people they chose as their judges—their audiences.
In fact, guys, don’t lie, don’t deny, just keep your mouths shut. Tiger Woods was recently quoted saying he had done “pretty bad things.” Hey! Leaving your socks on the floor and dishes in the sink are pretty bad things. Allowing the garbage to overflow is a pretty bad thing. Fourteen affairs? Tiger, don’t you think you’ve wandered into the realm of “really bad things,” or “really very bad things”? Of course, arrogance knows no limits, and Woods went on to say that his wife, Elin, “had every right to be hurt.” I’m sure it makes her feel better knowing she has his permission to feel injured. I know I’ll sleep better tonight.