Just a Man: The Importance of Realising That Your Heroes Can Suck
2008. You lie sprawled on the bedroom floor under the blue gloom of the TV. You stare up at your revolutionary god. You are 12 and madly in love, wide eyed at the sight of your hero swaggering in an ill fitting suit. His eyes reach through the pixels and send you reeling.
How could anyone not love him? He is pristine, charming, suave in a way no mortal could ever be. You cried for hours when he kissed another woman in that film. He is your unreachable Romeo, a metaphor for impossible passion, a zeitgeist of unrequited love. You sigh, switch off an advert for Cash4Gold and go feed your Tamagotchi.
Now, ten years on, he creeps you out a bit. He tweeted that weird thing about girls being easier when drunk. He gets the worst online mood swings, demanding sycophancy like crack cocaine. He desperately uses wannabes to prop up his ego in the face of crumbling fame. It’s all a bit garish, desperate and unseemly. And now, the rumours have begun slipping under the stage door.
Be careful, the women whisper to each other. He’s a bit…you know. A bit like that. A bit. Well, don’t tell him I said anything. He’s not a bad man. Just- well, you hear things. Don’t let him shut his changing room door. And it becomes an open secret. One day the damn will burst and we will all have to pretend to be surprised.
Because your hero, your PR polished tightly controlled britcon is a lie. He always has been.
The shiny charismatic showman in the waistcoat always shouted at waiters and was rude about how fat his wife had got. He always said sexist rubbish. A bit of botox and desperation aside, he is the same man you loved in 2007. The difference is that twitter and online immediacy means he has stopped existing through the curtain of celebrity. The gossamer slickness of edited performances and charming ad lib got ripped up with time. Now you see the aching knees, the bursts of outrage, the rudeness to fans.
The Hero is dead. Long live reality.
I’m glad in a way that the mystique is fading. The star system creates gods where men stand. Vulnerable school girls and starlets seem to do the worst off the back of that. All too late you are sucked into a world of the cultish worship of a narcissistic sociopath. With very little time for the legalities of consent.
Have no idols. Respect people for their talent, but don’t see the celebrity as a person. It is a persona, an act. No brooding singer is ever passionately romantic off camera. No comedian will make you laugh in every conversation. No politician will be ethical in every word. No film star will be as beautiful off set.
You can like the onscreen man. You can even be friendly with him. But don’t fall in love with him. He doesn’t exist. That is the best of himself constructed through a team of professionals to appeal to you.
And, as we are finding out, the real man in the suit can be a total