Robin Williams’ recent suicide had me ponder on the relationship between the idol and the consumer. I’m using my own with Williams’ works, as this is a sort of goodbye from yours truly as well.
I’m not afraid to say that I like Williams’ movies. Not all of them, but the likes of Good morning, Vietnam and Hook are the two movies that most often pop my head whenever I happen to discuss him. Before anything he was a funnyman, and it would seem that the old story of funnymen being tormented inside was pretty much on the dot with him. I can’t help but to wonder if he had lost faith in true love, as he had divorced twice over, and these divorces were ruining his finances, and most likely his whole life.
Most of Williams’ dramas felt a bit too forcefully written and intentionally hitting that emotional sweet spot most Oscar baits do. It’s not to say e.g. Dead Poets’ Society was less than it is regarded, but do question whether or not the movie has too much trope trite to hamper it down. Of course, tropes are expected and perhaps for a movie like that they are required to a large extent. In any case, Williams’ performance in the movie is as ever professional.
Williams wasn’t an idol for much like some people regarded Elvis, Jackson or your favourite game developer. He was and will continue to be one of the guys who worked to make products that would entertain. With his suicide, Williams opened a niche tha will be filled with time. Will there be another Robin Williams? Yes and no. Yes in a sense that we will get another funnyman who uses stream of thought and improvisation as his main tools of comedy. We won’t get another Robin Williams, unless somebody is willing to emulate and absorb his style of comedy, which is very doable. What can’t be is his experiences, and well, what made Robin Williams Robin Williams.
When you’re told that you can become anything you so wish to, you’re never told that it requires dedication, work and even more work. Nobody ever tells you that to become the thing you want to be will not be easy. Just like a person can change, becoming what you want takes both commitment and hard work. Of course, certain biological standpoints do apply.
We might already have someone who will become “the next Robin Williams.” A niche left open will be filled sooner or later. Ultimately, it never really mattered whether or not we had a Robin Williams, but the fact we had and that he managed to touch most of us makes it hard to view these things from a objective view.
And that’s where a the relationship between the idol and the customer becomes blurred.
The emotions we attach to the products we consume creates a strong bias. We love and heighten the status of these idols to unimaginable levels, ultimately just to change who we idolise almost on a whim at times. The idols themselves love this heightened status, and often let it get to their heads, sometimes screwing everything up.
Because of the bias we lose the ability to give out criticism properly or make proper decisions. Often this shows itself in form of buying the same things over and over again, going all the way out there to show menial support to the idol under whatever pretense we make for ourselves. Both of my parents are still avid readers, and there were times when I could recognize certain authors taking over the bookshelves.
There is nothing bad in admitting that you like something, that you have your own opinion separate from others and you know what you enjoy. Creating that opinion is often a venture on its own, even more so when you begin to recognize where your bias begins and ends. Yet, it would always be best to recognize how things are outside one’s opinions.
In all honesty, everything is considered shit by somebody else. There’s no going around it. The same goes with idols, but having a living being there to be attached to often adds something to the mix that turns fans into zealots. Before we had people liking the developers at Nintendo, there were just people who liked the games made by Nintendo. With Valve Corporation we have people essentially giving Gabe virtual fellatio over the broadband for offering them sales.
Arguing over what we idolise seems to be the most popular hobby on the Internet.
Perhaps the reason why we take these idols like we do is because we see them giving us something special, especially if that something is out of our own reaches. However, isn’t that the same reason why we may strive for to fulfil goals, like becoming a musician because of some band, or become an archeologist because of Indiana Jones?
There are multiple answers to this, as many as there are people. As much as I dislike using the word, we are inspired by our idols to act certain way and choose certain paths. Even more so if the marketing is done right and the idol’s posse knows how to flip your switches.
Whether or not we see something we want to be, or our goals, in the people we idolise we should always keep in mind that often it’s only a front, a professional mask. Inside their personal lives they can be depressed, haunted by their past actions or incredibly violent and unlikable. Yet, it’s jus as any living, any profession out there. It is their job to be our shining stars in the night to the largest extent, because without those idols we wouldn’t have the current entertainment industry at all.
Now there’s something the Hollywood haters and old zeitgeisters might want to ponder on.
Whether or not the current general view on being a fan and having some sort of idol is a good thing is up to everybody to decide on their own. It is, after all, an opinion we can only form with the information we have, and opinions are the only thing we can argue about. Unlike most people see, facts can’t be argued with.