Monday, December 14, 2009

Introduction: Tyger, Tiger, Burning Bright.

I was having a discussion on Facebook with someone who was disgusted about the coverage of the Tiger Woods revelations. I love these conversations, because there's a reason underneath the story that is often much more important. There's always a "why" question that lies just under the rocks, like some wriggly bug waiting to get out, scurry into the light. As in most of the movies I reviewed, it's not the story itself I find fascinating, but rather, the sociological and cultural significance behind the themes in the movie. In other words, what is the director trying to say. In the recent upheaval of Tiger Wood's life, there are questions to be asked. But not of him, although certainly he will answer them, but rather of us.

Why is it that we find this story so appealing? I want to take a look at this issue, but I have a feeling it will take more than one blog. To introduce the issues I have in mind, here is the conversation I had on Facebook, with other people's quotes in italics.

A: I just don't understand why so many are shocked, indignant, and even interested in this stupid Tiger Woods story. It's a non-story story. Not even newsworthy.

D: The interesting part is discovering why it *is* as story. Neil Postman would have an orgasm with this one. Why are sports figures put on pedestals, by the fans, by the 24 hour news media, by the talking heads at ESPN, etc... And if we believe in the perfection of Tiger Woods as an athlete, why are we so eager to destroy him as a man? What fake scarecrows are we trying to push over? Or more importantly, why is success so looked down upon, and failure regarded as so important? Are our self-esteems really that low that we must knock down the successful people in the world in order to feel better? And what makes them perfect to begin with? We all have our flaws. We wouldn't be human with out them. In this respect, the cliche of living in glass houses takes effect. Only this time, we're throwing golf balls.

A: Totally. That's the ONLY interesting aspect...why people are so enthralled with this guy's sex life. He sure as hell isn't the first man to sleep around.

D: As far as sex... it's all about the money (and the looks). Most women (and some men) are seeing all that money, and the fact that he was sleeping around with "common folk", and wishing that would have been them. I'm sure it's the same thoughts that people would have with other celebs. It's the substitution of one face for another. Most people* want Taylor Lautner (the werewolf) to be holding them instead of the girl in the movie. And all that money... it's the attraction of easy money that
would attract us to adultery.

K: A few years ago, a study showed that if we see a particular face often enough, over time our brains register that face as a friend, as someone we have an actual relationship with. This is why people who watch a great deal of TV perceive their social lives as being much richer than they actually are.

So when a celebrity dies, or betrays our morals, or has a baby, for many people it genuinely feels very personal. We're hardwired to care about familiar people, & modern media messes with this by giving us familiar people we've never actually met.

Celebrity is to friendship like pornography is to sex. The images are flipping switches deep in our brains, giving us real feelings about simulated relationships.

D: Yes... I agree completely... A great comparison... and then they use those faces to sell us stuff... like Gatorade or Sony TV's. You should hear the way some of my friends go on and on about that Dance show. As if Jakob goes from the TV screen to their beds....

R: I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with any of you, but as a member of the oh-so-hated media, let me point out exactly why "we" continue to cover this issue. Take a look at this thread. Even a discussion about why it's NOT a story generates interest, passion and debate. It's a 'talker', or a 'water cooler' story, and in the past week or so, this news has resulted in HUGE ratings for shows covering this, and a dramatic increase in the number of hits on websites like TMZ, etc. We, "the media", only feed the monster that is the public.

D: agreed...I'm not blaming the media for covering the story. the media is what it is. It was created to fulfill its purpose. And you're right... the monster is the public. The media is created by the public, much as Frankenstein made his creation. And while it is interesting to look at the story for what it is, it is also good to look at it as Neil Postman would. "The Medium is the Message." The media has a right to cover the story, based on ratings, as it is the way to succeed in a Capitalist society. So I don't blame the media for creating the issue. I find it more fascinating about "why" the public think it's a big story than about the story itself. It'd make a great research paper for Sociology majors.

A: I'm getting way off topic here...I'm with D, in that I blame the media only as much as I blame the public. My larger issue with the media concerns journalism....where does the media's need to give the public what it wants versus what it NEEDS to hear? Locally, KWTV, KFOR, & KOCO feed viewers stuff based on ratings. The Oklahoma News Report on OETA does an exceedingly better job of informing the public, for example, on what's going on at the state capitol. While viewers don't naturally LOOK for that kind of info, they DO need to hear it in order to be better informed citizens in a democratic society. Nonetheless, it's why I've longed for a media and journalist establishment NOT based on a for-profit system.

R: That's the problem A,... TV, newspaper, radio.. In the grand scheme it comes down to business & revenue. We are a business.. Just like any other. You also bring up a good point about OETA. Yes, it gives us what we need vs. what we want, but look at the ratings. A for-profit media company could not survive on those ratings or format.

I also want to take a look at the Tiger Woods situation as a form of Tragedy, the classic Greek kind, as well as through the eyes of William Blake, in his poem "The Tyger" It's amazing what a poet living some 250 years ago would see Tiger's image so clearly in a form he called a Tyger. So we'll give this a shot. It'll give me something to think about during the Christmas holidays. For Facebook people, I also want to recycle some of the Christmas thoughts I've had in the past few years. They still remain quite relevant today.

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