The admitted racist, the accused rapist and how media, not facts, create heroes.
Today, I fully acknowledged, after much internal struggle, that my childhood—which was draped in cartoons, Christianity, and competing wrestling promotions—was more fiction than fact.
Mr. Bill Cosby, who starred in one of my favorite childhood movies, “Ghostdad,” is not the über family man the media consistently portrayed him to be, as, by Mr. Cosby’s own admission, he indulged often in adultery and used his resources to distance the infidelities from his family, particularly his wife.
Mr. Terry Bollea, who made a career playing the invincible character Hulk Hogan for various wrestling promotions, is not the embodiment of Americana the media portrayed him to be, though, as irony would have it, Mr. Bollea’s admission of being “racist to a point,” does, in fact, represent the institutionalized, yet subtle form in which racism lives in America.
When news broke that Mr. Cosby admitted to obtaining Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with, and when it was confirmed today that Mr. Bollea, who no longer works for WWE, said “we’re all a little racist,” many people, particularly young men between the ages of 18-34, saw their childhood flash right before their eyes and end, abruptly.
The media had used images and narratives of these men, not facts, to paint a larger than life persona to which millions of people, like me, then flocked to and idolized, making it that much harder to come to terms with reality.
But reality, if we’re honest, isn’t just the fact that Mr. Cosby is an accused rapist and Mr. Bollea an admitted racist, it’s also the fact that we, as consumers, often have an unhealthy relationship to celebrity and are thus unable to distinguish characters from the actor’s character flaws.
Mr. Cosby is no more of a moral authority than Mr. Bollea, who admits to using the N-word often, is a patriot. But the difficulty many have in accepting this is due, almost exclusively, to the fact that their public personas overshadow their private truths.
The entertainment industry isn’t going anywhere, and I certainly won’t advocate erasing either man from history, but we should all strive to be more objective and level-headed when it comes to consuming media and interacting with celebrities, which is simply a term meaning individuals who are routinely celebrated.
Mr. Bollea and Mr. Cosby, like all humans, they are inherently imperfect. We have to be able to enjoy a person’s offering without putting them on a pedestal and making them center of our world.
Hulk Hogan isn’t real; Cliff Huxtable isn’t real; the chains around 50 Cent’s neck, in his own admission, get returned after he’s done flossing.
The point: The media is a powerful tool and just like alcohol, if we are to consume it, we should consume responsibility.
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Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: AP/Evan Agostini