2017 Year In Review: Pop Culture Idols Ought To Go

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This year reminds us that society used to honor great minds, like Charles Darwin, more than great popularity. Creative Commons

Earlier this week I penned an apologia of sorts, defending the takedown of several of our most cherished “icons.” However, the use of words like “betrayal” or the call to feverishly cling to the man that has richly been described as Hollywood’s last good one, Tom Hanks, suggests something utterly contemptible about how little we value our emancipation.

It’s been nearly one and a half centuries since the wisdom of Frederick Douglass, the messianic sacrifice of John Brown and the epistemological awakening brought on by Charles Darwin. Despite all this time, and all those lessons, we remain in wretched search of masters. Human, secular figures that can distill our morals and ethics for us, that we can also watch and judge in real time, iron rod at the ready. That’s the only real difference between the old gods and the new ones. The gods of the past were insulated by the will of mysticism and time. But our new gods are subject to precarious scrutiny. Make a film we like, and the keys to our thoughts are yours, just be sure not to be of two minds about anything ever. Ambivalence is for the weak.

Even more shameful than allowing works of art to elevate men to the rank of deism is being beholden to various tribes based on identity alone. Spike Lee is an extremely gifted filmmaker, but I’m afraid that doesn’t grant him the authority to ever speak on my behalf just because we’re both black men. No one is, or ever should be, “the voice of” any community. We’re each and every one of us singular masterworks of thought and biology. Freedom of thought isn’t about attaining moral acuity, it’s about the opposite. It’s about having the liberty to be wrong, to be unsure about things until you get them right.

There’s a recurring phrase that makes an appearance in all of these perfunctory celebrity apologies. A variation of a sentiment of regret at letting their fans and loved ones down. This ceaseless expression of shame implies a sordid hubris. “I’m sorry I lead you astray.”’ An admission of an intoxication of power, and we cultivate it.

Lena Dunham recently issued an apology for defending her friend and colleague against accusations of rape. Causing a victim of sexual assault any hesitation about coming forward is more than worthy of contrition, but Dunham’s apology reeks of the guilt of a demagogue. It’s littered with unnecessary ties to ideals and principles. Lena Dunham fucked up. Not on behalf of women. Not at the expense of feminism, but as an individual that should be held accountable. Take ownership of your own opinions, not oppressed or marginalized groups.

The legacy of Charlie Rose says nothing about how I evaluate the severity of his misconduct. I refuse the right to be hurt by it. The victims are the only ones that have the right to use words like “trauma" not his vacuous, channel-surfing fans. The greatest gift 21st century America has given me isn’t an iPhone or 4DX movies, it’s the ability to say and think however and whatever the fuck I want without fear of violence or tyranny.

Why do we insist we hand over that lucky distinction to some 10th rate actor or zoo crew news anchor? Value your freedom friends. It was not obtained easily. Embrace an existence that is free from the pain of disappointment and kill your pop culture gods. You have a whole eternity awaiting you to not think about a goddamn thing, see what the contrary is like before it's too late.

 

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