Tupac was one of the music world’s most influential artists who inspired many musicians, especially rappers. One could say he was regarded as a “hero” to some of them, but even a hero has heroes of their own. And like everyone else, they go through a lot after learning what happens when their heroes fall.
We all have people we look up to. They can be our parents, siblings, relatives and friends. They can be our teachers, coaches, and mentors. They can be politicians. They can be celebrities. They can be CEOs, police, artists, authors, anybody.
Calling them our “heroes” may be a stretch, but the truth is that throughout our lives, there are those who have helped guide our life choices, who helped us decide what we want to be in the future and helped us during our toughest times. We place them on pedestals. We may even see them as larger than life. We never suspect for a second that they’re human like the rest of us, and the admiration and worship continues.
But sooner or later, it comes to a halt, one way or another.
When our heroes die, we realize their mortality. We, like their closest families and friends, mourn their loss as if we knew them personally. For some, like those in our inner circle, we did. For those in the public eye, it’s almost no different. We grieve. We remember their words, their works, their accomplishments, and come to terms with their passing.
Such was the case with the author of this poem.
But there’s a different kind of death, the death of the image of who we thought our heroes were.
Although this has been the case since – pretty much – the beginning of humanity’s creation, it’s been the current atmosphere in today’s Me Too and Time’s Up movements. For the last couple of years, many men from politics, entertainment, business and even art and literature have been ousted for sexual misconduct against (mostly) women. A lot of those men, especially in the entertainment industry, have been highly regarded for their work in front of and behind the camera. Some are admired for their vocal and lyrical talents. But as talented as they are, they aren’t without their demons, one of them being their harmful treatment of others.
We still go through a storm of emotions as if our heroes have died. We’re in disbelief. We can’t fathom that someone so gifted could do something vile. For our male idols, we think that the accusers are lying, trying to damage their reputation and get some kind of monetary compensation out of it. But if and when we find out that our role models have done a lot of horrible deeds to so many people, some of us decide that our heroes are actually villains.
We wonder why. Why would he do this? Why is he successful to begin with if he’s been doing it for so long? Why didn’t I see who he really is? Why have heroes at all?
We can’t help but feel a colossal sense of loss as well as humiliation, anger and sadness. We feel humiliated for looking up to a false idol. We’re angry at him for what he’s done. And we feel sad that we lost a sense of innocence and feel for the victims who likely looked up to the people who’ve harmed them.
We’ve all had to deal with this kind of loss at least once. It’s particularly painful for marginalized people from which our role models are a part of. For many of us, our heroes defy damaging stereotypes that have powered adversity against us. At least, we expect them to.
But when they’re accused of crimes associated with those stereotypes, we become greatly disappointed and dismayed. Even if it’s one or a few, we still worry about the possibility of repercussions from a society that still sees us as a broken, inferior monolith that must be controlled.
It’s never easy to deal with your hero’s fall from grace no matter how often it happens in your lifetime. It’s the same as dealing with the loss of a loved one. It’s difficult and depressing.
Conversations continue in regards to this dilemma. Can we really erase these people and their contributions from our history? Is not doing so, making us just as unethical as they? Can we really separate the art from the artist or value the accomplishments without valuing the achiever?
Having open dialogues regarding hero worship can not only help us get through the pain, but can help examine the culture. Hero worship is not wrong in itself, but it can get deceitful when we’re blinded by their fame, fortune and successes and crushing when we’re – one way or another – harmed by our idols.