A few years ago, my cousin was lamenting the lack of positive role models for her toddler son. At the top of her disappointment list was Diego Maradona, the Argentine soccer player who is one of the best players that ever played the game. Unfortunately, an addiction to drugs and alcohol ended his career early. Yet, he maintains a loyal following. My cousin didn’t want her son admiring someone like Maradona. But all I could think was, “what a waste of talent.”
In today’s edition of The Daily Texan, Aleksander Chan notes the rise of the man-child in popular culture in his article “Misconduct seen as social trend.” The antics of these adult males is depicted in such films as The Hangover and Knocked Up, as well as television shows like Two and a Half Men, whose lead star — Charlie Sheen — performs as the grand marshal of this bad-boy parade.
Chan outlines an interesting development, especially in light of gender politics. But I take issue with his opening sentences: “Charlie Sheen can apparently do no wrong in the eyes of his fans…[he] has been making headlines again in an even grander fashion for his public misbehavior…” Should his fans, instead, rebuke Sheen? True, the act of watching Two and a Half Men despite Sheen’s off-screen antics may be seen as an act of complicity. But it isn’t. Sheen is simply an actor whose life is on public display. As far as I know he has never claimed to be a role model and we shouldn’t project that upon him.
Lately, though, it seems that as a culture we’re waiting for apologies. In my opinion Tiger Woods only needed to apologize to his family. His public act of contrition was disturbing, especially since it reeked of corporate political correctness. It’s a strange time we live in since, as a culture, we’re quick to make stars out of normal people only to revel in their demise. And with that celebrity we demand that they behave as role models. I frankly don’t believe in role models or heroes. I’ve known many true humanitarians in my life and most of them cringe when you admire their good work. I didn’t know Mother Teresa personally but I’m sure she’d prefer people to carry on with her work rather than build altars in her name.
In the end, neither Maradona nor Sheen owe us anything. Perhaps if we see them, and their ilk, as ordinary people with some talent then our disappointment wouldn’t sting so much.