I No Longer Worship Celebrities
I’m old enough now to see them and me for who we really are.
All influence is immoral — immoral from the scientific point of view.’
‘Because to influence a person is to give him one’s own soul.” Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
If this year has shown us anything, it has shown us two things which are we spend entirely too much time focusing on the affairs of people with money and status, and also that we give them too much credit for being spokespeople for their audience. From Desi Banks to Kevin Hart, we see over and over the danger of viewing people as more than what they are. Instead of judging entertainers on the merit of their ability in a craft, we instead focus on their responses to various issues that they haven’t shown an ability to handle and when they fail it crushes us.
Seeing how Talib Kweli went out this year on Twitter helped drive home that point to me. Here was someone who I had listened to for the better part of a decade and a half, and now here he was obliterating his legacy with a Twitter squabble over a minor issue. His lyrical ability is unquestioned and in some aspects so is his commitment to hip-hop, but his track record of respecting and treating others with respect is abysmal. He’s not the first nor the last person to disappoint us with his actions, but then again what gives me the right to hold him accountable to me? Who gave me or anyone else the right to judge him for his personal choices? Most of all,
As a man growing and embracing my personal candor, I am seeing just how convoluted my own words and actions are. On my best day, I am a fearless advocate for justice and free speech and on my worst a cynical and myopic man peddling generalizations. If I had an elevated platform, I too would be one post away from a hero and another from a villain. I’m not attempting to make excuses for people with paid publicists and handlers. I however acknowledge that anyone can look foolish when they operate out of their depth of field.
Often we look for celebs, some of whom are entertainers to speak for our interests to absolve us of responsibility when we could instead look to politicians who receive enormous amounts of money to do that work. What a world we live in where we expect people with limited education to speak eloquently on sensitive issues better than the people who represent our country on a global scale? What an imbalance! So Joe Biden and his love of Strom Thurmond is not up for critique but a singer or rapper with less savvy is? That is the crux of it though.
So as every day passes and I see another headline of a faux pas by a celebrity online, I don’t react as much. I don’t hold them on a high pedestal and I don’t expect them to represent my views even when I looked at their art to do so at one point. I’ve grown old enough to see them as supremely talented in one aspect but complex. They can be intelligent enough to know what to say and arrogant enough to speak stupidly or the inverse. They can mean well and not know where to start. So while I may cringe at their statements, in the grand scheme of things they occupy the same place in my life as they always have.