Rules of Celebrity
I've been seeing discussion all over the Internet this week about Lance Armstrong and his supposed confession to Oprah about doping (for an upcoming episode), and I want to chime in. First of all, if it's true, then that's certainly a disappointment to his fans and possibly has pecuniary consequences.
But mainly, I keep seeing some version of this question over and over: "Should America forgive Lance Armstrong?"
Let's talk about that, shall we?
I've read articles damning Armstrong, basically saying that it's too little too late and that any admission and/or apology that might occur now, after years of denial, rings false.
I've read comments supporting him that say to look at what he did for cancer research and patients. And also: Look, everybody else was doping too and Armstrong still won, so he obviously has talent.
I can understand the amount of pressure that sponsors in particular put on their athletes to perform well. I can also concede that since so many athletes use performance enhancing drugs, it must be incredibly difficult to feel like you're even giving yourself a chance if you don't cheat too.
Even so, I think there probably isn't one person out there (well, maybe, there's always a few) who doesn't wish that everyone would just stop taking drugs so that it was a level playing field, and an honest one.
But all that aside, my question is: "Why do I need to forgive him?"
If my neighbor hit his dog while he was out walking him and then, feeling remorseful, knelt down and apologized, I wouldn't then turn to the guy and say, "I forgive you too."
Because I wasn't the one who was wronged.
Does this mean that, if you're famous or even just well-known, that you should answer to everyone for your actions since they know who you are and develop feelings for you one way or the other? Or only to the people you may have directly affected? Meaning, if they have a status that makes them a role model, do they owe an apology to everyone, even though they had no control over people's opinions of them?
It opens my eyes up to all of the weird realities that is created by our celebrity-worshipping culture.
I get feeling betrayed by someone. But then I just get disappointed and stop looking up to them as much.
Maybe my difficulty in understanding all of this is that Lance Armstrong isn't someone I cared about on a personal level. I guess generally I knew that he is a great athlete who beat cancer and inspired a lot of people, but I also know that he cheated on and then left his wife. So ... I don't know. I didn't have much of a personal attachment to him.
Perhaps if this was someone I followed more closely, I would feel differently. I might even feel like they had wronged me.
But would that person need my forgiveness?
It's a serious question. Part of me says "yes" -- that when someone comes on TV (or whatever medium) and says they want to apologize for X, that you make a decision at some point, conscious or not, whether you accept it. (Obviously you don't need someone to apologize in order to forgive them, but that seems the normal order of things.)
On the other hand, I feel like we put people on pedestals far too often and put too much weight on their behavior. Famous people often fall farther than regular people because they have high profiles and more access to money, sex, drugs, you-name-it.
But I don't think they solely go into their professions thinking about fame. A lot of them get into what they do, whether its sports or acting or music, simply because it's what they like to do. (Obviously, there are exceptions.)
So it seems to me that, even if they should feel a sense of responsbility over their actions since they are in the public eye, what I see is that people just want to tear other people down.
Everyone gets so excited about every exposed dirty politician, athlete, actor. You know what my reaction is when one of these stories breaks? "Wow, that's really sad." And then I move on.
Because if you've invested so much of your life and emotion into someone you don't even know or have never interacted with, I think there are bigger issues there.
And as soon as we get them to confess, we forget entirely about all the good things they've done.
But celebrities are just people too.
So, do I need to forgive Lance Armstrong? I would say no. He's living his life and I'm living mine. He's made some mistakes and so have I. He doesn't personally impact me.
And I'm not sure why "America" is basically clamoring for an apology and then acting like it's not even sure it'll accept it, especially if we all think this confession (not necessarily an apology) is staged to fix his image and allow him back into sports. You don't need someone to confess in order to forgive them, but I do think they need to have wronged you.
In this case, I don't even know who those people would be. But I think for me, what it comes down to, is who he owes something to. I would think he owes it to his family to be a good man, he owes it to his sponsors to work hard as an athlete, etc.
But I don't know that he owes it to America not to let them down.
Or, if he does, we should at least not crucify him for his mistakes.
What do you think? I would love to hear arguments.