“Kill your heroes” is a phrase that I have heard at various times throughout my life. However, until recently, I never really connected with the phrase. Sure, I understood the basic idea, but I failed to appreciate it. To kill ones heroes is not to literally axe your heroes, but to kill the glorified version of them you hold in you mind. This isn’t to say you should kill your dreams, or not have people you look towards for guidance or inspiration. Instead, I think of it as allowing your heroes to be real human beings, and, in turn, you allow yourself to be held to attainable standards.
It also helps when your heroes inevitably fail you in some manner, as they will. However, some people would rather defend the person no matter what and maintain a saintly image in their mind instead of face the possibility of fault in their hero. Other people go to the other extreme and, having seen the faults in those they looked up to, reject them entirely, good and bad. Since they couldn’t be perfect, well, then they can’t be a good representation for anything at all.
The truth as I see it runs more along the idea that people are flawed. We all do some things excellently and other thing not so well. Somethings we aren’t even aware that we could do them. Personally, I strive to be able to recognize what people do well, and give credit where it is due. But I also try to recognize what I don’t think they get right and why. The Most resent example that brought this idea to the front f my mind was Neil Gaiman’s book release, Trigger Warning. In his interviews about the books, Neil made it clear that he both does not like trigger warnings in general (thinking them misused), and that he does not really understand how they are generally used or in what contexts. He was confusing trigger warning as something threatening to invade an academic environment, rather then a tool to make online spaces safer for people who can be triggered. This was followed by his wife, Amanda Palmer, making transphobic remarks even though she has made it fairly clear that she is a member of the LGBT community and seemingly an ally to trans people. This was really disheartening. Particularly because I quite like both of their artistic works.
Now, it’s true that this has soured me to both of them, and, to an extent, has soured me to their works. This is part of why it’s important to “kill our heroes,” or, more generically, recognize that we can enjoy something while not accepting everything about it and it’s creators. I Still like The Sandman. I still enjoy listening to “Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra.” These pieces of art still have value. There are many thing to like about them, and I can go on liking them. I even still like Neil and Amanda, just considerably less than I used to. They are people, and they have done some very cool things. They have gone through trials and troubles like everyone else, although they have enjoyed a degree of success that most of us will never get to enjoy. Their flaws, however, don’t invalidate their successes, and neither do there successes forgive their flaws. Having said that, I think it’s important to say the following: you can’t take all the positive thing and negative things separately, nor do I think you should try. It’s important to think about and understand what you feel is being done right, and what was done wrong, and how those influence the person in question as they undoubtedly do. You can’t make an off handed transphobic joke and fully respect or consider trans* people. Though I also doubt Amanda sees it that way: she doesn’t see why her jokes is wrong. Possibly because she isn’t considering how jokes about a regularly victimized group of people you don’t belong too is not the same a targeting a group you belong to, or a group which has significant privilege over you.
This is the sort of complex consideration we need to grant to the people we interact with, and whose works we enjoy. We need to kill those glorified perceptions we hold. We need to accept that the people we like have good and bad. That we can like them even though they are not perfect. But we also should not ignore those things that we are bother by just because we like other parts of them. Nor should we reject something or someone just because we don’t like something about them. We need to consider their complexity, even those we look up to the most. And yes, I think that we should also including ourselves and those around us in this.
I hope I’ve given some food for thought, and perhaps some of you will also kill your heroes. Allow yourselves the opportunity to better understand the people behind the persona you erect around them.