We Overfeed Our Heroes Until They Explode

by Michael Rushmore ’14

Lies, awkward press conferences, subsequent parodies, redemption or obscurity—yes, sex scandals are pretty enjoyable. Searching through YouTube confessions for Vertna Bradley, the videographer crafting an apologies mash-up for inclusion in Sex Drive, I discovered that I take Senator Larry Craigpleasure in watching the destruction of cultural icons. Seeing people apologize on camera, spouses and children standing beside them—that’s great entertainment. At least, that’s what I first looked for in those videos: Senator Larry Craig sounding awkwardly homophobic, speaking about “a cloud over Idaho,” or Bill Clinton smiling as he tries to define the word “is.” But then I thought more about these clips. I wasn’t trying to think (I was trying to enjoy other people’s pain), but it happened anyway.

Tiger Woods was one of the last celebrities whose public apology I watched. Just before leaving the press conference, Tiger hugs his friends and his mother. It looks rehearsed, the sort of thing his handlers would insist on to show how all his friends and family have forgiven him; except that most of the hugs—particularly between Tiger and his mother—look strained and less than half-hearted. Those people haven’t forgiven Tiger at all. The drama surrounding his multiple affairs—and maybe even the affairs themselves—completely destroyed his life. For a moment anyway. The public played a large role in this destruction. I, too, played my part. We all enjoy sex scandals so much, because they remind us that these icons are human beings, but they also show us how much we need icons: new ones, old ones, crying ones, defiant ones, destroyed ones, rehabilitated ones, forgotten ones. Perhaps, then, we should try a bit harder to treat them as human beings—and our appetite for scandal as a problem.

Actually, never mind. Apparently there’s a South Park episode that I need to watch that’s all about sex scandals. Those guys are hilarious.