In today’s world, image is everything. With the rise of global networks and communication mediums, the general population is exposed to more media now than it ever has been. As a consequence, organizations and individuals in the public eye have placed how they are perceived at the top of their priority lists. Inherently, this placement is neither good nor bad. But it does lead to some interesting situations. The easiest for most to immediately identify is the so called “celebrity pedestal” that certain societies place on public figures.
Take, for example, the case of Tiger Woods. His pristine, clean cut looks and reputation were held ubiquitously in America prior to 2009. He was, after all, the best in the world at what is commonly referred to as the “gentleman’s game”. Naturally, the association between Woods and gentlemanly conduct was propagated. Organizations such as Sports Illustrated and ESPN, along with big name endorsers including Nike, Chrysler, and Gatorade, heralded Tiger for his golf prowess and off-the-course discipline. Then, in 2009, Woods faced a gigantic scandal involving infidelity and promiscuity. Because of the “reality gap” in present culture, two noticeable effects took place almost overnight. The first was that the public relations departments of most the companies he endorsed decided that Woods was no longer fit to be a spokesperson. In essence, his endorsees made every effort to distance themselves from any association with the public backlash and outrage that was sure to befall Woods. The second was that media companies pounced immediately on Tiger’s situation. Pop culture is a gigantic seller in North America, and an opportunity as big as this one could not be overlooked. Networks from ESPN, to Entertainment Tonight, and even CNN covered Woods’ story incessantly, milking every detail they could in order to generate viewership and profit.
Though a situation as extreme as Woods’ seems very improbable, the same thing happened to pop star Chris Brown. After emerging on the music scene with several pop and hip-hop top 40 hits, Brown came to be seen as a rare commodity by sponsors and record executives. He had both a clean cut image and a solid fan base among the younger demographic in America, making him very marketable. But after being charged with domestic abuse, Brown’s fate was sealed in the exact same way that Tiger Woods’ was. His endorsements were all ended, he drifted off the charts, and the media covered the story pervasively.
These stories, contrary to what you might think, are not meant to demonstrate the evils of celebrity or the companies they are involved with. They are, in fact, perfect demonstrations of the “reality gap” that has become so important for the public to be aware of. Today, nothing can be taken at face value. Every message, whether it be from the government, media companies, or individuals in the public eye, goes through a series of filters that muddle it. Follow this series as “the gap” and all its incarnations in nearly every social and economic circumstance is explored.