They say don’t meet your heroes. I can personally attest that sentiment is true about half the time. I have been lucky enough to meet two of my heroes. One of them was incredibly nice – the kind of guy I wouldn’t mind having a beer and shooting the shit with. The other was a complete ass – not just rude, but more than a little sexist and just all around creepy. Which sucks because I really like his work, to the point of having a serious emotional attachment to him during a particularly difficult part of my life.
I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately. It wasn’t that long ago that we could keep our heroes up on their pedestals, blissfully unaware of who they were in real life unless by happy chance we met them “in the wild.” The chances of that happening were pretty slim, as it usually involved travel and potentially stalking.
Now, though, we have the internet. With Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and blogs, we have access to the people we admire. Their pedestals are not as high. We are privy to their human-ness. We can see, 140 characters at a time, that they really are just like us. They have opinions; they have emotions; they have bad days. They go for pizza and sit around in their dirty sweatpants just like we do.
This has the potential to tarnish them in our eyes. At arm’s length, they are masters of their crafts, creators of beautiful and amazing things, gods among us mere mortals. At the distance of a tweet, they fight with their partners, burn dinner, and fart under the covers. They are still the creators of amazing things, but they are no longer the golden gods we thought them to be.
The bad side of this is evident if they do something we don’t agree with. If you find out your favorite author of all time is a bleeding-heart liberal, and you’re a member of the Tea Party, you might reconsider you’re love of their work and question the countless hours you’ve spent with their material. Or if your favorite musician says something disparaging about a societal minority. Are you going to hesitate buying the latest music?
(Or, on the flip-side, are they going to censor themselves in the hopes of making a few more sales? Are they going to stop being true to themselves and their opinions because they are afraid of alienating fans?)
The good side of having greater access to our idols is… That we have more access to our idols. I’m a big Neil Gaiman fan. I can go on Twitter, Tumblr, and his blog and ask him a question at any time. Will he answer? Maybe yes, maybe no. He is a busy guy, after all. But the chances that he sees my question are pretty high. 10 years ago if I wanted to ask him a question, I would either have to go to a signing (which means travel expense, tickets to get in the signing, and standing in line for maybe 30 seconds of face time where I might forget my question in a fit of fangirl excitement) or write his publisher or fan club a letter (with a pen and paper) that he might never see, much less answer.
Given this greater access, and their new positions as mere mortals instead of golden gods, do you think the adage is still true? Is it best to avoid meeting our heroes, and instead quietly admire them from the sidelines of the internet? Or has this access given us a better idea of whom to admire from afar and who it would be okay to meet in person?