I scanned the news all week to find a topic to skewer. Unfortunately, all I could find were stories about the VMAs, fallen politicians and opinions on why the surge is/isn’t working. But I did notice a theme, one that is always in the news, but not always at the same time.
We embrace people for a variety of reasons as icons, emulate/support them for a bit and then dig up the dirt to bury them.
The obvious example here is Britney Spears. I’ve endured her songs in the dorms for the past four years, so I found it fitting that her career was killed not long after I graduated. And maybe most of her downfall was through her own panty-less fiascos, but the American people got tired of her after a near decade and now she’s a has-been.
Then there’s the politicians. We elect these people to office, and then wait for a scandal to get rid of them. Even now, we’re pushing primaries ahead of schedule to send Bush back to his ranch on a permanent vacation … as opposed to all the time he’s spent there so far.
Let’s not forget how high his approval rating was on September 12, 2001. Five years later, he’s no longer a hero. Is that statement incredibly simplistic? You bet. There are a million reasons we don’t like him anymore, whether those are a million illegal immigrants, a million million dollar budgetary defecit or a way overestimate million lives lost in the Iraq War. My point is that within five years of being a hero, he overstayed his welcome in the good guy light.
Heroes never last long because, although they may inspire us to become more, they remind us of our own shortcomings. We appreciate them at first, but then we look at our own lives and wonder, “Why not me?” At first, “why not me” means, “I could do that, too.” But after a while and being sexually molested by a bogus modeling school, “why not me” turns into “I’m not that great, and neither is that person.”
Going back to Britney Spears, we saw a tasty bit of jailbait that swore she was a virgin. She sang, she danced and she gave men guilty boners. Girls wanted to be like her (though I don’t know why), and boys wanted to hit her one time at least, if not once more. She didn’t have a great voice, but she had everyone’s attention. She made me believe that I, too, could be an onstage tease with snakes and back-up dancers.
Like Britney, I’m not a great singer, but people don’t want to see me in pigtails (really, handlebars). The bitch had to go down.
And go down she did, on people that I had grown to dislike for similar reasons: Justin Timberlake, Kevin Federline and Chriss Angel. They’re more celebrities that seem as mildly talented as the rest of us, but why do they get million dollar paychecks and private jets? Why do they get to sit next to Jodie Foster at awards shows when the rest of us have to kill a president for her?
So I enjoyed a bit of schadenfreude when I saw the pictures from the VMAs and read the reviews, announcing her pop tart career over. My dislike of her was vindicated: she’s not as good as me. In fact, now she’s worse than me. Hooray! The hero is dead!
President Bush? Same story, only he has no public speaking ability yet won debates for the presidency. Basically, just re-read the Britney Spears part again, but insert “invade other countries” instead of “Justin Timberlake, Kevin Federline and Chriss Angel.”
That’s how we like our heroes, dead and buried. We need them to become obscure references at parties to seem funny. We need new heroes so we can dress ourselves differently. (Can you imagine if MC Hammer still set the bar on fashion today?) Even Beowulf had to die doing what we loved him best for: killing scary monsters.
And what happens when they finally die and we’re happy again? We eulogize them as if they never did wrong. Try looking up the Nixon obituaries if you don’t believe me. And that’s the role of the hero.