The True Theme of 2016: Never Meet Your Heroes

Hating 2016 and wishing for it to end has perhaps been the meme of 2016. It has been called a dumpster fire and was declared to “even sucked for Kim Kardashian.” Beginning in July and continuing non-stop, this year was deemed to “suck” and we saw a flood of hot takes either labeling it the worst year in living memory or at least asking the question of how bad it really was.

How bad was 2016?

I’ve only lived for thirty years, but am confident this wasn’t even the worst year I’ve seen of my lifetime. 2001 was awful. 2004 wasn’t great either. 2008 had the financial crisis, the rise of Sarah Palin, the death of Heath Ledger, and apparently Elon Musk’s personal rock bottom. Armed with the right confirmation bias and armory of evidence, one could make an argument that really any year is the worst.

It’s also worth noting that not every take on the outgoing year is as reductive and hyperbolic as “the worst!” Jia Tolentino called it “The Year We Played Ourselves” in The New Yorker. Stephen Pinker pointed out that, if you ignored headlines and value facts, 2016 is better than its previous years in almost every way. It was arguably the best year ever for black filmmakers and apparently the year that solar panels finally became commercially viable. The Economist, meanwhile, awarded “The Economist‘s country of the year award” to “plucky Estonia.” Congrats Estonia!

But there is one theme I see everywhere I look, from the Nobel Prize to the election of Donald Trump to the author of Harry Potter. One piece of wisdom, one particular theme, one pervasive lesson: the classic advice that you should “never meet your hero.”

heroes
Yes, this article is about heroes and 2016, and Bowie sang about “Heroes” and died in 2016, but it has little to do with Bowie.

To recap exactly how this theme presented itself throughout the last year, I’ve catalogued a list of disappointing heroes and their disappointed fans from the last twelve months.

Why shouldn’t we meet our heroes?

Before we jump in, it’s worth reminding ourselves of why exactly we should never meet our heroes. Ultimately, it always comes down to disappointment. They aren’t who you thought they would be. They’re not doing what you wanted them to do. The things they said that made you admire them? Either your hero never meant those things or they don’t mean them anymore or they never meant what you thought they did.

And now, let’s take a look at all the disappointment heroes unleashed on their admirers. Continue reading “The True Theme of 2016: Never Meet Your Heroes”

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One Month Later: Regarding Joyce Carol Oates and Dinosaurs

Something that never ceases to interest me is how different the world can be, depending solely on what news you consume. I noticed this more than ever one month ago, in the situation in which Joyce Carol Oates, in her confused glory, tweeted a very confused tweet about dinosaurs and Jurassic Park.

You can click on the link above, if you want, to figure out what I’m talking about if you were lucky enough to miss it when the news agencies mistook it for news. The situation is not worth rehashing, especially because everyone has already forgotten about it, as it never mattered in the first place.

We are talking about the author of one of the most widely-anthologized, beautifully-written, intelligent stories by a living author.
We are talking about the author of one of the most widely-anthologized, beautifully-written, intelligent stories by a living author.

The fascinating part to me is the way different magazines, websites, and blogs reported this story-that-should-never-have-been-a-story. Specifically, how did they describe who Joyce Carol Oates is? Did they assume their readers already knew her? If so, what did they say? If not, how did they explain who she is? Continue reading “One Month Later: Regarding Joyce Carol Oates and Dinosaurs”