This is a spiritual sequel to I Don’t Want to Meet My Heroes and was totally and absolutely not inspired by a conversation I had with Thomas. Totally. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.
One of the best Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu grapplers in the world is a man by the name of Gordan Ryan. An American grappler, he stands at 6’2 and weighs in at 205 pounds, and is a member of the much-vaunted (rightly so) Danaher Death Squad. He is good. No; he is great at what he does. 89 wins and 4 losses. He is a beast.
But he’s a jerk. To put it as politely as possible. He’s cocky. He’s arrogant. He trash talks constantly (even during matches). He boasts constantly (even during matches). But that is his role. He is the villain. Much like the villains of the WWF and fighters like Connor McGregor. It would seem that it is primarily a public persona to act as a way to attract more fans or more “haters” who will tune into a match simply to watch him lose. Which he has the indecency to not do by the way.
So what am I getting at? Well, the problem here is the idea of the public figure and the public personality. What do I mean by this? Well, we are all to one extent or another a public figure in the sense that we are all part of the public and we all for sure have a public personality. This personality is simply the face we all show to the public. This face does not need to hide some dark, dangerous villain, but rather just certain aspects of personality that don’t belong in the public sphere.
However, when it comes to being under the camera’s eye for long periods of time, public figures have to configure their lives in such a way as to appear acceptable to the public. Or in some cases playing the villain as was shown above. This becomes how you are known to others, which does not afford you many opportunities to change this image. For example, the author J.K Rowling attempted to write adult detective novels after the completion of her magnum opus Harry Potter. Needless to say, this did not work out and she in fact released the books under a pseudonym. The public impression of her stuck.
This pressure to conform to the image is felt all the more harshly the younger the public figure is. Name any former Disney kid and you will likely see a long list of problematic behavior that stemmed from their “stardom.” This is even harsher when you realize the brutal reality of celebrity culture; that you the star will be used and then discarded when you are no longer entertaining. Or when you have come to be viewed as too toxic to remain around.
I can only imagine the sense of panic a young star faces when they start to see that stardom slowly dwindle away from them. The desperation to remain relevant to an ever-changing environment. As is the case with much of life, the more you struggle and thrash about the worse it becomes. But try explaining that to most adults let alone children. The true crime of child stardom is that being under the public eye for so long does not allow for not only normal development but perhaps an inability to separate the private from the public. It is often the case with many stars that the acronym TMI comes to mind.
Needless to say, this is all a lot to manage. The larger the audience the more difficult it becomes. On the one hand, if you don’t change, then people become bored. On the other, if you do change, then it is likely that people will turn against you. History condemns those who do the wrong thing, but also those who do nothing. This is all a long way of saying that I don’t want to be my heroes. Certain aspects of them for sure, but I am at least allowed to fail privately.