Friday, January 2, 2009

American Heroes

One of the professors who taught material leading up to my December exam had an odd affinity for the Irish author Oscar Wilde as well as for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes. Interspersed throughout our study notes were quotations from Wilde and excerpts from Holmes novels. They did well to break up the studying and offered some helpful amusement.

Above: Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), a famous playwright, poet, and author

In particular, one of Wilde's comments, from a trip to the United States, caught my attention:

"The Americans are certainly great hero-worshippers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes."

At the time, I did not take it very seriously. Based on his quotations, Wilde seemed a little bit eccentric and largely narcissistic. But it was conjured to mind a few days later, when I read about the courtroom trial for rapper Akon who had thrown a 15-year old boy offstage during a concert (incidentally also giving the teenage girl the boy fell on a concussion). Apparently, the boy had tossed something at the rapper during the concert; Akon asked the crowd to point out the culprit, then had him dragged onto the stage, at which point he threw the boy back into the crowd. Akon has also been the centre of controversy due to dry-humping a 14-year old girl at a concert in Trinidad.

I stopped and thought about it. I don't know what specifically caused Wilde to make the aforementioned statement, but I could certainly see based on society what might lead to that impression today. We allow teens to take on role models like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton - widely ridiculed for their loose, irresponsible attitudes (not to mention poor parenting skills). We revere hip-hop artists rapping about their "niggers" and their "hoes" and beating (or shooting) the crap out of their rivals. We may frown upon promiscuity in our own partners, but we virtually expect it from our stars. We scarcely even bat an eyebrow at celebrity divorces and infidelity (or if we do, it's usually to drink it in with some kind of twisted amusement).

Now I doubt our European friends are much different from us in this regard, and so Mr. Wilde's haughty attitude is likely undeserved and hypocritical, but the observation is not without its merit... sadly enough.

1 comment:

sandlot said...

There is nothing wrong with having Britney Spears as your idol. Seriously.