In which a group of graying eternal amateurs discuss their passions, interests and obsessions, among them: movies, art, politics, evolutionary biology, taxes, writing, computers, these kids these days, and lousy educations.

E-Mail Donald
Demographer, recovering sociologist, and arts buff

E-Mail Fenster
College administrator and arts buff

E-Mail Francis
Architectural historian and arts buff

E-Mail Friedrich
Entrepreneur and arts buff
E-Mail Michael
Media flunky and arts buff

We assume it's OK to quote emailers by name.

Try Advanced Search

  1. What Salinger Read
  2. A Disappearing Book Genre
  3. Recession Snows Tahoe Under
  4. Forever Young
  5. Opening Soon: Psychic
  6. Bye-Bye LA
  7. Mighty Kingdom Far, Far Away
  8. The Harder They Fall
  9. Maazel Tov
  10. Destination Pasadena

Sasha Castel
AC Douglas
Out of Lascaux
The Ambler
Modern Art Notes
Cranky Professor
Mike Snider on Poetry
Silliman on Poetry
Felix Salmon
Polly Frost
Polly and Ray's Forum
Stumbling Tongue
Brian's Culture Blog
Banana Oil
Scourge of Modernism
Visible Darkness
Thomas Hobbs
Blog Lodge
Leibman Theory
Goliard Dream
Third Level Digression
Here Inside
My Stupid Dog
W.J. Duquette

Politics, Education, and Economics Blogs
Andrew Sullivan
The Corner at National Review
Steve Sailer
Joanne Jacobs
Natalie Solent
A Libertarian Parent in the Countryside
Rational Parenting
Colby Cosh
View from the Right
Pejman Pundit
God of the Machine
One Good Turn
Liberty Log
Daily Pundit
Catallaxy Files
Greatest Jeneration
Glenn Frazier
Jane Galt
Jim Miller
Limbic Nutrition
Innocents Abroad
Chicago Boyz
James Lileks
Cybrarian at Large
Hello Bloggy!
Setting the World to Rights
Travelling Shoes

Redwood Dragon
The Invisible Hand
Daze Reader
Lynn Sislo
The Fat Guy
Jon Walz


Our Last 50 Referrers

« Maazel Tov | Main | Mighty Kingdom Far, Far Away »

January 21, 2010

The Harder They Fall

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Consider: Barack Obama, Teddy Kennedy, Tiger Woods and, oh yes, Ingrid Bergman.

And think about what was known long ago in the days of Greek theatrical tragedies and surely long, long before that. Namely, success reinforced by adulation can make the almost inevitable fall harder than it might have been otherwise.

These thoughts are with me as I draft this post on the first anniversary of the inauguration of Barack Obama as president of the United States.

A year ago, Obama was treated in a number of media outlets as a kind of reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln and/or Franklin Roosevelt. I recall a few digitally modified images morphing him partway into one or the other of the two iconic presidents. The outburst of enthusiasm and high expectations for Obama was reaching the point where some opponents wondered if such Obama-worship might be a form of religion.

Today Obama and his program are in serious trouble. He is "under water" (pundit-speak for below 50 percent approval) in most opinion polls. His party has now lost three important elections: the governorships of Virginia (a Republican, but recently leaning to Democrat state) and New Jersey (a strongly Democrat state) and yesterday a senate seat in Massachusetts, practically a Democrat fiefdom.

A number of reasons are being advanced for this fall from grace, most having plenty of merit. But I wonder how much the adulation and lack of contsructive criticism by that "watchdog" media of a year ago contributed. It wasn't the most important factor, but still....

Media coddling helped make golf star Tiger Woods' recent windshield splat an 80 miles-per-hour affair rather than a 10 MPH matter. I haven't paid much attention to Woods, but from snippets I've read, he was a far rougher character than his media image suggested. Moreover, this was known in the professional golf fraternity for a long while. Woods' name is Mud for the short run. His golf skills probably will not harm his career on the links, but his "clean" image is destroyed and income from endorsements will probably be diminished for years. Perhaps Woods would be better off today if his public image had been more in synch with reality.

Nowadays, transgressions of movie stars are proclaimed every week by gossip magazines and tabloid papers in racks near sup ...

* * * *


Rich Rostrom pointed out in an email that the comments link wasn't activated. I checked, and by golly it really wasn't -- for some reason unknown to me. So I fixed that, and then the last part of this post got zapped. (So that's how it feels to get bitten by a snake.) Herewith is a rough reconstruction of the last part:

* * * *

From the 1920s well into the 50s movie studios had stars and other performers under contract. Part of the deal was that the studios handled public relations to protect the stars' images, unlike now where stars are basically free-lancers and foibles spill into the gossip press with ease. An interesting case where the studio PR system was unable to cover up scandal had to do with Ingrid Bergman (Wikipedia link here). She and Italian director Roberto Rossellini had an extramarital affair that resulted in an out-of-wedlock birth. At about this time, Berman's current film was Joan of Arc, in which she portrayed the saint. Perfect bad PR storm?

In contrast, consider the late Teddy Kennedy whose senate seat went Republican a few days ago. He held that office nearly 47 uninterrupted years (making him third place in Senate uninterrupted longevity). Kennedy has his foibles and problems. Moreover, they were well known and Teddy incidents kept piling up over the years. Yet Massachusetts voters were content to keep re-electing him. My take is that he never had a very high pedestal, so bad PR moments were not so damaging as they were for Woods and Bergman.



posted by Donald at January 21, 2010


Bergman's actions were particularly egregious in that she was a married woman with a small child. She hadn't just played Joan of Arc, but also a nun (in The Bells of St. Mary's).

OTOH, she had a lot of less "pure" roles.

Ilsa in Casablanca, for instance. Ilsa has an affair with Rick in Paris (though she thinks her husband is dead) and is ready to desert her husband for Rick at the end.

Clio Dulaine, the Creole adventuress in Saratoga Trunk.

Ivy Peterson, the barmaid pursued by "Mr. Hyde" in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Anita Hoffman, the piano teacher who has an affair with a married violinist in Intermezzo

Alicia Huberman, the party girl who is persuaded to marry a crypto-Nazi by U.S. agents in Notorious

Joan Madou, the low-life Parisian "kept woman" in Arch of Triumph

Lady Henrietta, the alcoholic murderess in Under Capricorn

Really, I would say it was that she broke up her family in such a flagrant way, much more than her screen image.

Ted Kennedy... It's really hard to judge now how powerful the Kennedy name and influence were in Massachusetts 40 years ago.

Woods: he did trade on his clean image. The scandal will cost him, but how much in the long term is hard to say. For one thing, it doesn't affect his golf game. If he wins tournaments, he'll still be a champion.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on January 25, 2010 3:48 AM

Donald, for lost posts, you can always check the "Cache" link in Google when you search for it. Blog like 2Blowhards probably get indexed every other day, so if you catch it quick, you can still find it and just copy and paste.

Posted by: JV on January 25, 2010 11:25 AM

Today Obama and his program are in serious trouble. Yeah! You are right. but there is still time for its recovery. The time is given. He has to make use of the time up to the November elections. This should be a big deal on his part as a president otherwise THE HARDER HE MAY FALL!

Posted by: Mark @ Israel on January 29, 2010 5:10 PM

Post a comment

Email Address:



Remember your info?