You want to know what my dream is? It’s not that I do something so cool I can make a living showing up at convention centers and selling autographs. That would be quite nice, but it’s not the grand prize. It isn’t vast wealth, either, but I wouldn’t turn it down. If you’re talking about a real life Konami Code (up up down down left right left right B A start), money is it. You cannot convince me a billionaire still understands how actual humans live. They don’t buy first class plane tickets. They own the airline.
No, I want to to achieve something so spectacular you’ll forgive me for anything.
This is a touchy one. I got stuck in the goo today by naming a name, because those come with a lot of baggage. If I get too specific, I’ll be forced to roll the die and make saving throw against intersectionality. No, I’ll let you decide on the sinner’s identity. Take your pick of your favorite celebrity or politician. Who is your guilty pleasure? Which musician did something reprehensible yet you cannot stop bopping to their groove? Who did you campaign for even though they did that thing you don’t agree with, because it’s complicated, right?
Here is the human algebra I always mention. Achievement is the secular Hail Mary. Success is absolution. We’re all weighed by each other. Are we worth it? What have we done?
It’s simple, really, to assume people will have some quirks or flaws. We all deal with imperfect people every day and we strain ourselves trying to see their admirable attributes. The silver lining scales up, though, like tax breaks for massive corporations compared to your measly relief, and the pain, excruciating for you, scales down to a pinprick for them. I’d love to blame capitalism or society, but whatever the cause, the tiny bit of mercy you’d personally receive if you robbed a bank is multiplied a million fold if you hold the global economy in your hands and you’re charged with robbing the American people.
If you’re a great artist who invented a genre, a captain of industry who developed a product that changed the course of human civilization, or a producer who made one of the greatest films of all time, maybe there’s more mercy for you when you’ve been accused of heinous crimes. You might not always be able to directly murder someone and remain free for long, but indirectly? Place a few levels of organization between you and the target, and you’re solid. Anything less than that also seems to be fair game. Repeated sex crimes, violence, embezzlement, you name it. These are the perks of being somebody.
Strange karma is at play here. Everyday folk who may not have much to their name often get by on charisma. Fame is a multiplier. Wealth, even more so. We’re obviously fine with this because it’s made clear every single time we’ve cause to discuss it. “Everyone did that back then,” we say, or, “You have to ask yourself why you’d say that.”
Better yet, we’ll say, “You have to separate the art from the artist,” or, “They understand how politics really work.”
Something about this makes religion sound nice. How refreshing it would be if you all answered to God, but then there’s another problem. I’ve seen video of a retired warrior who stood in front of his congregation and told them how he ate the hearts of children, which imbued him with their life essence. This was acceptable, though, because he’d asked God for forgiveness. We cannot do with an absentee landlord, either. Perhaps a Great and Powerful Oz of our making, a robot of apocalyptic proportions, would suffice, but if it were well designed it would put us out of our misery shortly.
There are complications of who one is or what one looks like, and NeoLiberals still struggle with this race to the bottom of equality for the famous, as if it translates to equality for the rest of civilization. “If two people are multi-millionaires separated by a scant few million, why should one make more than the other?” they ask. “If one man beats his wife and has a career, and the other beats his wife and also has a career, why do you mention one more than the other?” they inquire. Surely utopia will spring forth across the land when we’ve achieved equality for celebrities!
There is a notion that notable, rich, and/or famous people elevate everyone who identifies with them, but how is this demonstrated to be so? Have police officers shot less civilians? Have less people been brutally beaten to death because of the way they’re dressed? The system, as it does, will grab issues we hold dear and make them seem instrumental in its plans only to simultaneously demonstrate their ridiculousness and futility when couched in NeoLiberal thought.
How many actors and politicians does it take to stop a pipeline? How many t-shirt sales does it require to stop fascism? If these are quantifiable things, why not pursue those finite numbers? We have transportation capable of moving Hollywood to North Dakota. We have wonderful t-shirtmongers who can and will provide the cloth if science says, “This number will make freedom and justice blossom from the cold earth.”
There are no people of fame or power exempt from my ire. It is not reduced, it is multiplied. As long as we persist in this way of life, I’ll always question authority, always, but it doesn’t always come with a big oak desk flanked by flags. Authority can also be the person who wrote your favorite series of books. It can be a beloved cartoonist. It can come from the diocese down the street or the man yelling on the radio. Because someone speaks the name of someone you’ve likely never met and it means something to you, they hold influence. Such appointment can only be met by the checks and balances of public opinion, and sadly those often lean towards deification instead of scrutiny.
I am sad that I felt forced to write this in defense of a what began as a stupid joke. The person in question was not important to me, and it was a throwaway comment meant to get laughs. This is my non-apology because I am not sorry I said it. I am only sorry I didn’t have room to post this first.
It is tiresome to spend hours and a thousand words explaining a 140 character tweet, and I probably won’t do it again. If I deem it prudent and I have room, I may list the relevant celebrity crackers who’ve done worse (sorry, David Bowie). Otherwise, consider me shitty and erase me from your life, if you must.
By the way, the money shot:
I’m so sorry I said “paradoxical time-travel cultural appropriation couldn’t have happened to a better guy.” The 59 peecam victims say hello
Marty McFly didn’t invent Rock ‘n’ Roll. He learned it from Huey Lewis and the News, who learned it from Chuck Berry. It’s a paradox when Marvin calls Chuck. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Luckily, in this case, we know it’s Chuck because we lived it, and it’s a work of fiction.
Insensitive or not, if you’re worried about your legacy, maybe don’t commit crimes against dozens of women. The music is still good, but I’m going to stand by my initial statement: Michael J. Fox sang it better.
If some repetitive three chord tunes are enough for you to erase the experiences of all those folks and berate me for saying so, I don’t know what to tell you. I hope that Chuck Berry prize is worth it. It’ll be coming in the mail any day now, I assure you.