The 12 months is kicking off with what’s changing into a free custom: a documentary a few famend ‘90s athlete that aims to shade in a more complete picture. This time around, it’s Tiger, a two-part HBO Sports activities documentary about golf famous person Tiger Woods. Like The Final Dance, which chronicled Michael Jordan’s last season with the Chicago Bulls whereas reflecting on his total profession, Tiger makes an attempt to complicate the prevailing narrative of a legend outlined by his meteoric rise and equally steep fall.

Even for those who didn’t know golf, you most likely knew about Tiger Woods. If you happen to got here of age within the ‘90s or early aughts, it was not possible to not know in regards to the man who introduced raucous, Michael Jordan-levels of superstar to golf — a sport so historically restrained that Adam Sandler was capable of make a hit comedy the place the one actual joke was “what if a golfer got real pissed off all the time?”

Tiger Woods was a phenomenon. He had the type of generational expertise that turns into synonymous with a sport whereas concurrently redefining what’s attainable — regardless of (or due to) the actual fact he was so completely different from what got here earlier than. It additionally may be why Tiger Woods’ fame as a golfer was equally matched by his notoriety as gossip fodder, as his addictions and indiscretions piled up for a fall as ravenously chronicled as his rise.

All through most of its roughly three-hour runtime, Tiger looks like a Behind the Music particular narrowly targeted on Tiger’s life: administrators Matthew Heineman and Matthew Hamachek are very involved in Woods’ early years as a toddler prodigy and the difficult relationship the golfer had together with his controlling father. It’s in opposition to this backdrop that Tiger holds the golfer’s total profession and public life up for scrutiny: it portrays his unprecedented successes as owed partly to the arguably abusive upbringing his father gave him and his descent into painkiller dependancy and infidelity because the response of a person who was misplaced after his father died.

For essentially the most half, Tiger is profitable at humanizing the individual behind the headlines, even when it really works at a take away. Woods himself principally seems in archival footage, except a quick shock look on the finish of the movie. His story is usually informed by the individuals who have been round him on the heights of his renown: associates, rivals, journalists, and lovers kind a motley crew of individuals caught up within the hurricane of his fame. It’s a superb exploration of the informal dehumanization that’s half and parcel of recent superstar, however on the identical time, the movie is so restricted in scope that it may possibly’t fairly escape the lurid fascination it’s ostensibly critiquing. That is very true in its second half, which veers into sensationalism by treating Woods’ intercourse scandal — the second widest-known factor about him — as a suspense narrative.

Very like The Final Dance, Tiger nearly hits the mark. However the manufacturing is hindered by its topic’s involvement. Woods didn’t let anybody get too near dwelling, which implies Tiger is lacking the perception you may get with a powerful vital lens. Each compensate for this by specializing in the phenomenon of fame over the boys themselves. These are tales much less about folks and extra about tradition in a approach that’s wholly distinctive to skilled sports activities.

Athletes make for a superb measuring stick of our cultural biases as a result of their existence tends to boost sure presumably uncomfortable questions: how a lot company will we afford them? How a lot will we fixate on their perceived ethical failings? How a lot pushback will we give after they don’t keep on with sports activities? Race is an inextricable a part of these tales, too. Black athletes make thousands and thousands for executives and entertain followers — which leads each teams to an odd feeling of possession over them. It manifests as a benevolent frenzy when they’re performing, and it may be terrifyingly hostile when they aren’t.

For Woods, that sense of public possession manifested itself within the continuous headlines within the early 2000s about his dangerous habits. He wasn’t punished by the general public simply due to a salacious tabloid tradition; he was punished as a result of folks felt like he tarnished the lily-white picture {of professional} golf. He stepped out of line. It’s not exhausting to make the leap to different unfairly maligned athletes: Colin Kaepernick overstepped when he protested police brutality; Serena Williams has been raked over the coals for not being “sportsmanlike enough,” which is code for, mockingly, what occurs when a woman behaves like one of her male colleagues. Some individuals who just like the Lakers hate that LeBron James is vocal about present occasions. These biases aren’t new, and so they’re not going wherever. They’re part of how we inform our popular culture tales, bad-faith arguments that usually dictate how these tales are framed in our reminiscence.

But the primary draft of a celeb narrative is never an correct one. It’s a managed story, fastidiously orchestrated by publicists and company pursuits. Star energy means cash, and cash should be protected — but superstar additionally dictates that well-known folks seem relatable, that the broader public be aware about some facets of their private lives. And thus, infamy is sticky. If you happen to’re Tiger Woods, the headlines will be exhausting to shake.

It’s additionally uncommon that popular culture affords the infamous a cautious reappraisal. Recently, the celebrities of ‘90s gossip headlines are getting a better rap than most, sitting at the confluence of an industry in dire need of content and an audience voracious for new stories about the heroes they grew up with. Though it’s imperfect, Tiger can function a reminder that the straightforward tales aren’t essentially those we needs to be telling. In fact, we ought to meet our heroes — and take into consideration who the villains actually are, too.



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