Opinion: Admire, don’t worship

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Cameron Gorman

There’s a general idea, repeated whenever someone the public perceives as “good” is outed as “bad” — never meet your heroes. There are too many reddit threads about the rudest celebrity encounters for me to want to go backstage or meet someone in person. When you meet a celebrity, you’re often expecting to meet a construct you’ve convinced yourself you know and understand rather than a seperate and wholly other person.

None of that’s new. But there is something we can do to prevent the painful mourning of the thing in your head when compared to the flawed person in the news. Be careful with your expectations when meeting your heroes, sure. But make it easier for yourself by making sure you aren’t worshipping anyone in the first place.

In the era of #MeToo, when the veil is yanked off of another beloved celebrity, there will be mourning. There will be grief, as we remember how we perceived the person versus the reality of their character. Who didn’t feel betrayed by Bill Cosby, by Kevin Spacey, by any one of the cultural bastions who were revealed to be predatory behind the Hollywood glamour? It hurts so badly because we let the image of them, in our cultural collective, as well as our own hearts, swell to godlike proportions.

No good can come from inflating a person, an individual, to the status of a character. No good can come from putting a fallible human being on a pedestal– expecting perfection will only create disappointment. No one can live up to that.

And, in some ways, it’s almost become a sport to deflate someone’s perception of their “faves” on the internet, creating tumblr blogs that list the many cultural insensitivities and problematic behaviors of a litany of celebrities.

One of the most famous examples, a blog entitled “your fave is problematic,”  (which also spawned a very fun-to-listen-to podcast of the same name) has a list of sins for almost anyone your heart could desire. You like Martin Freeman? You think Martin Freeman could do no wrong? (We’re on tumblr! Of course you do!) Well, surprise, says the blog. Bet you didn’t know that he called Lucy Liu “very ugly” and a “dog.” Or that he dropped multiple n-words in a joke about hip-hop. Ouch.

Maybe it shouldn’t be so unexpected. After all, people are people. And people are often terrible.

That’s not to say you can’t like someone, enjoy their work, look up to them. Of course not. But there is a difference between liking John Lennon’s music and claiming that he was a perfect person. And that’s not to say that this practice of “outing” the problematic behavior of these faves is necessarily a bad thing, either. If you can’t do the internet time, don’t do the cultural crime, one could argue.

Really, though, when it comes down to the root of the problem, the most important thing to remember is that celebrities and heroes and those you look up to aren’t perfect. They aren’t gods. They are people. And tempering yourself, remembering that, even as you’re enjoying their work, can help to make it less painful when that person is revealed as just that: a person.  

Cameron Gorman is a columnist. Contact her at [email protected]