Judging is easy, understanding is hard
By Liu Yan
The world as a whole is still very much focusing on Donald Trump’s victory and its ramifications, but Chinese people have much more important stuff to talk about. Hands down, the biggest news story in November is Olympic champion Lin Dan’s alleged affair.
I wish I were joking, but I’m not.
The long and short of it is, someone named Detective Zhao posted pictures of Lin grabbing a woman’s hips in a hotel room. Lin and the woman were very intimate, and they closed the curtains before you-know-what went down (it’s not rocket science, use your imagination).
The pictures were taken in October, and Lin’s wife Xie Xingfang was heavily pregnant at the time. (The baby was born on November 5.) So Lin could possibly be cheating on Xie during her pregnancy.
The scandal almost broke the Chinese Internet. Lin promptly took to his Weibo and said, “As a man, I’m not going to find excuses for myself. I have hurt my family and I sincerely apologize to them.”
Online, offline, it was all anybody talked about that day.
I can understand the obsession. I mean, it’s Lin Dan for crying out loud. Dubbed “Super Dan”, he’s the most successful and arguably the greatest male badminton player of all time. Most Chinese people idolize him and consider him the entire nation’s pride. And when a national hero turns out to be a despicable villain, of course everyone goes ape.
While I’m happy to see that most people have such disdain for cheating and cheaters in general, I do have a bone to pick with those who act all holier-than-thou.
For starters, I’ve had it with statements like “I can’t believe he’s such a scumbag. I’ll never support him again!”
Excuse me, but you don’t know him personally (and those who do know him in real life have better things to do than throwing him under the bus at this time of crisis), so I can only assume you liked and supported him because he was a great athlete. In that case, what’s changed? He is still a great athlete, and still training diligently in hopes of competing in the Tokyo Olympics. Bear in mind that he is in his 30s and could have easily retired. If, knock on wood, he makes it to the singles final at the 2020 Tokyo Games and fights against a foreign opponent, are you not going to support him?
I never really get why so many people have this deep-seated belief that celebrities must be morally perfect. It’s a moot point, because no one is and no one ever will be. If you put your idol on a pedestal and have this fantasized version of a perfect human being who can never do wrong, you are just setting yourself up for disappointment and heartbreak.
I also don’t get why people are always so quick to judge. Unless you know everything there is to know about this so-called “torrid affair”, who are you to say Lin is a scumbag?
A common statistic I hear is that 50 percent of relationships involve infidelity. It is not scientifically proven, but it’s fairly safe to say that lots of people cheat. It’s just one of the ugly sides of human nature we have to deal with. In this sense, what Lin Dan has done is really not that surprising. Remember what Jackie Chan said when his affair, along with his illegitimate daughter, was exposed all those years ago? “I made a mistake all men make.”
By that, I certainly don’t mean cheating is okay. It is a blatant violation of the sacred vows of love and loyalty between a married couple, and I hate it as much as the next person, but I do think it’s silly to write someone off because they have made a mistake. If you insist on being a “moral purist”, you might need to write off half the population on this planet. Why don’t you give up on humanity altogether then?
If it helps, think this way: Sure, infidelity is immoral, but it is not a crime. If we can give criminals a second chance, why can’t we cut Lin Dan some slack?
In fact, that’s pretty much what Xie Xingfang said, although not in so many words. Seeing that her husband became the “most hated guy in China” overnight, she took to her Weibo and said Lin was a brave man who owned up to his mistake, adding that as a family, they would stick it out together.
Lo and behold, a new round of bashing began. “Xie is setting such a bad example! The message is clear: It is okay for men to cheat as long as they apologize.” “Is she all right in the head? When a man is so willing to publicly fess up, there’s only one explanation: He wants out. She should cut ties with this cheating bastard immediately while she still has some dignity left.” “Lin is cheap, but Xie is even cheaper! She is only staying in this sham marriage because they’ll have more money and fame as a couple! Such a shame this is still happening in the 21st century when women should value independence more than anything else!”
Honestly, I’m shocked by the amount of vitriol on display. I could argue against all these claims, but I don’t want to. I’ll just say this: If Xie chose not to stand behind Lin, she would still get bashed till kingdom come. Wanna bet?
So the problem isn’t what Xie did or didn’t do, not even what Lin did or didn’t do. It’s that people are too ready to be judge and jury when it comes to celebrities, and the moral coercion of public opinion is simply everywhere.
I’m not exaggerating here. In fact, Zhao Yaqi, the model/actress Lin was seeing in the hotel room, offered a tearful apology at a press conference a few days later. She didn’t spell out any juicy details. Instead, she just said sorry and explained that it was by no means a news story she cooked up herself to get fame.
Guess what? Yep, another round of bashing. “Has she no shame? A homewrecker and a fame whore who keeps milking her 15 minutes? Tsk tsk tsk…”
Let me reiterate that I understand people’s obsession with celebrities. Celebrities themselves know being tabloid fodder comes with the territory. But being a curious and harmless gossip is one thing, acting as if you are the sole embodiment of justice and therefore entitled to judge others is a completely different thing.
As the controversial author James Frey famously put it, “Live and let live. Do not judge. Take life as it comes and deal with it. Everything will be okay.” (He did something far worse than infidelity in my opinion, and people didn’t write him off. Just sayin’.)