The heroes we have made for ourselves are not there.
Our idol is a mental one, contrived by a conceived personal connection that is non-existent and formed by an image exuded in the presence of others. We are all on some level guilty of being a fanatic, some at healthy passive levels and others on the neurotic end of the scale. Lately, the latter has formed into a growing trend. And no, this isn’t about screaming Justin Bieber fans, crying Twilight obsessors or whatever the latest headlined tween addiction is.
Lately, I’ve seen a discomforting trend of the idolization of those who deserve praise and glory the least. Excluding the fact that these men are people like everyone else, their proven actions conflict with the intimate public persona they portray. Let’s run through the list, briefly.
When we first heard the soulful croon of Jonny Craig’s voice on Dance Gavin Dance’s Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean, one couldn’t have feasibly considered him to champion the scene through his reputation. But of course, it would happen. It did a few times over. First, there’s the infamous Macbook scandal that saw the swindling of fans, undoubtedly those who had at one time and still may idolize Craig, for the sake of apparently purchasing hard drugs, and later evading law enforcement. Through all of this scandal, it’s inconceivable that this man was able to raise $21,000 dollars for music, but such an amount has indeed been funded, indicating that there are those who still have adopted the “blood is thicker than water” attitude for a man they’ve never met, never known in private, and even whose public actions give indication to what he truly is like. Recently though, reports have been given that Mr. Craig has attempted sobriety and has been successful. If true, this action may prove to be positive reinforcement for those who face substance abuse problems, though it’s sad when one’s reputation makes it difficult to distinguish between a lie and the truth. Forget the stage fronts, the public identity and the soft portrayal amongst fans. Mr Craig is not a person to be idolized.
For some reason or another, people love the sound of Austin Carlile’s vocals and have been drawn in by the persona of a “sweetheart” and “an angel.” Yes, Carlile is praised as these things, heavily followed and fanaticized about. And it’s true – the image he gives off to the public seems remarkably kind and passionate. And yet, it is apparent that things are different when out of the limelight. With a fallout from two of his own bands, other bands, to the stealing of melodies and lyrics, to the alleged cheating on his fiancee / wife (as stated by band members, friends of the band and personal accounts alike), to a recent run-in with the law. What is the Carlile fan response? That none of these are true, that he was defending a deceased fan from someone who spoke badly of her (which originated from tumblr and newly opened user accounts on the popular forum AbsolutePunk, as if started through some irrational way to justify his violence), that if this ‘hero’ knocked someone out, they deserved it, or that he would never do such things. Such blind defenses disregard the overwhelming amount of evidence and accusations that again hint towards the real person that is hidden in the spotlight and would never be exposed in the midst of screaming, crying fans. Maybe we’re beginning to see a disconnect between the reality that is supposed, the reality that we give to our idols and our heroes, and the one that truly exists: one in which our inspirations shouldn’t be what we aspire to be at all. Mr. Carlile is not a person to be idolized.
Perhaps the most controversial of any frontman to emerge from the scene, Ronnie Radke has had his fair streaks of mistakes and poor judgment. Stemming from the infamous Las Vegas altercation he was involved in, leaving one 18-year-old dead, Radke has had legal problems trail him, violating probation and earning himself jail time. But if one were to read interviews from within his cell, one would get the impression that he truly appreciated his support and wanted to make a clean break from the person he once was. Well, you would be proven wrong. Second chances are hard to come by and should be extended to those who are haunted by a past. But you do not show that you learn from your mistakes when you are charged for domestic assault. When you are arrested again as you throw microphone stands into a crowd of people who, at this point, have no real reason to support you. When you literally make it impossible for any other bands in your genre, who are more collected and respected than you, to play at a festival event. When you mock, yell, and spit on fans or people who want to see someone other than you on tour, the same people who just essentially paid you. In case you need more, this video does a pretty good job of summarizing his actions and the general fan reactions (pretty aggressively, anyways.) You have wasted every second chance you have gotten, and yet you still manage to have supporters who worship you, who will call anyone who criticizes your disgusting actions a “hater.” In this rare case, on and off stage, Ronnie Radke has no discernible aspect about his life that is worthy of emulation or praise. Above all others, Mr. Radke is not a person to be idolized.
Of course, there are many band members, movie stars, and general idols who have gross flaws and have committed atrocities. But what about those who have no reputation, who in and out of the spotlight seem to be good people? As much as we like to gravitate to such ones, we’ve learned an important lesson in the last few years as we watch frontmen fall to scandal, and our heroes become exposed one by one. We can never fully trust a public persona. You only know what someone lets you see. After everything is said and done, you do not know what they’re truly like at all. We have feelings that we should trust them, especially if we resonate with such people’s messages and demeanor. But what if our gut feelings are wrong?
They can be. Tim Lambesis’ fall from grace is a perfect example. As much I would have liked to believe that this man was the best of them, he wasn’t. Passionate, exuberant, enthusiastic were all words that fans, up until two weeks ago, would have readily had used to describe him. Now we resort to lost, cruel, and heartless, as he hatched a plot to have his estranged wife killed. A man whose only current defense in trial is that his judgment was clouded by the use of steroids, signifying that there is no denying that he indeed attempted to solicit a murder, but now the only thing that can save him, or limit the severity of his punishment, is to trivialize and justify his motivations for doing so. Or what of Lostprophets‘ Ian Watkins, who faced trial for the conspiring to rape a 1-year-old and possession of child pornography? When these men’s names came to mind, no one would think that either were capable of planning things that are so blatantly disgusting and evil. Not a single person. And yet here we are, with long running members of bands with little to no controversy in their entire career who suddenly implode as their inner person is manifested for the rest of the world to see. They are not people to be idolized.
So why do we trust these men? Why is it such an inherent instinct to connect with those who engage us in some way, in this case with their music? There’s a psychology behind the fanaticism and celebrity worship that takes place. Most common is the attention to minimal details about a person, typically by reading magazines or frequenting news posts about someone of interest. This is not out of the ordinary and is not unhealthy. But this is the introductory level that accordingly leads to neurotic levels of obsession. It’s a culturally perpetuated cycle driven by social media that makes it easy to follow every detail we can get, and to connect with those who share our passions, as unhealthy they may be or become. According to the summation of much research, this “entertainment – social value” can develop into “Intense – Personal Feelings,” which seems to be the growing type, as fans will enter into whatever discussion to argue with and scold anyone who speaks badly of someone they idolize. Such demeanor mirrors the symptomatic behavior that “When something bad happens to my favorite celebrity I feel like it happens to me,” especially with regards to those who have a record of being not so noble people. We pick apart an aspect of this person, in their lyrics, in their style of music, in their image that we try to relate to on a powerful level, as it corresponds a relationship with someone ‘small’ and someone ‘great.’ We feel as if they’ve helped us, and that may be the case. I’ve personally written an article about how music has given me strength to overcome a nervous disorder. I recognize that we have a natural bond to enjoy music, and what it does for us, and you are certainly entitled to that. But the development of a parasocial interaction and obsession deviates from a natural entertainment and becomes obsessive in the search for a role model and can even contribute to image problems that can be developed later in life, diluting your ability to think clearly. But maybe one day, we’ll all see that our heroes are simply human beings that we place too much importance on.
The thing is to separate members of a group from the music they make, to distinguish between the ‘art’ and the ‘artist.’ I’m not here to tell you that you shouldn’t listen to whatever you want to. That’s not the point of this article. What you find appealing is subjective and some may not and, in all probability, do not think it to be the same. There will always be someone who does not, and the sooner this is accepted, the easier it is to not put normal, or even bad people on a pedestal. What benefits you, however, is not subjective. It is for you and you alone. If you connect to it on some positive level, then by all means, please continue to let that encourage you. But do not look to a person, or more specifically their public entity. Not a single person. Remember that the person we see is the person who is presented, filtered and edited to whatever situation we may find them in. Praise the good that they do act upon but be weary of the side of that person you don’t and most likely will never know until it rears its ugly head for the world to see.
No one is a person to be idolized.