When you wish upon a star

Aine McCarthy

When I was but a wee thing, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to spin tales of fantasy that took readers on wild, thought-provoking rides.

I wanted to write about average people, and propel them into situations with dire circumstances, something that imparted a sense of anticipatory connection between the reader and my protagonist.

I wanted to be the revered author who kept my fans turning pages well past their bedtime, leaving them in the morning with a fantasy hangover.

This dream occurred because of writers like R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike. Without them, and their engaging (yet sophomoric) novels, I would have stuck to my other pursuits in music, floundering in the five-stringed steps of Jimmy Page or battering the pavement under Keith Moon.

The notion here is that those artistic forefathers instilled in me a sense of purpose — a goal so covetous that I would sit for hours in front of my electric typewriter, or pound away in the dark, moderately-soundproof recesses of my father’s music room. Their successes created a wonderful foundation for my aspirations.

Imagine, however, what would have happened to those dreams had I continued in their footsteps, following them throughout their careers, trying in vain to mirror their accomplishments. Imagine if, instead of Stine or Moon, I followed Milli Vanilli or O.J. Simpson.

Be shocked or dismayed all you want, but “Girl You Know It’s True” was damn catchy, and O.J. was a decent athlete, and a goofy, but entertaining, actor in the Naked Gun movies to boot.

Sure, they’re disgraceful now, but they weren’t when I was a young, impressionable idealist. Had I regarded them so highly, what would have happened to my dreams after their respective falls from grace?

Events such as theirs have huge impacts. Because of the lip-syncing Milli Vanilli, artists performing at the Grammys must do so live. Sure, some live acts are awesome, but to be subjected to Taylor Swift without her auto-tune is just painful.

Furthermore, what about those young girls who aspired to be like Lindsay Lohan when she was a budding star with her little movies and poppy songs? Now, their idol is a drugged-out, DUI-wreaking skeleton with an unshaved… yeah.

And, let’s not forget the other obvious athletes who deserve a spot on the idol walk of shame: Lance Armstrong, Oscar “Blade Runner” Pistorius (maybe), and countless others. I’m sure the bicycling industry will bounce back from
this eventually.

It may take another German group recreating an electronic “Tour de France” tune, but it’ll happen. On the other hand, it doesn’t matter what the outcome is for Blade Runner merely because he’s a suspect, and that’s enough to wreck an image.

Hell, O.J. was acquitted, but he’s never going to be anyone’s hero again. So, will the young hopefuls who idolized Armstrong or Blade Runner still feel that budding desire to be champions, or will the athletes’ disgrace leave a smear on young dreams?

Armstrong made
those dreams by being a bicycling sensation in the U.S. because he was just so damn good. Having (and surviving) cancer merely cemented his phenomenal, cosmic powers.

But, now that he’s come out with a jarring “F… you,” the appeal for the sport is dwindling. It’s tarnished because he was the only household name carrying the American torch in that arena.

Take a handful of truly messed up football players or artists who mimic Armstrong’s ethics, and not much is affected. There’s a whole industry just stock-full of deranged talents behind them, already itching to shove themselves forward, blow our minds with their abilities, and then stomp all over our adoration.

Most of these despicable cretins will face the noise, but then there are those few individuals who, no matter how atrocious they act, are still coveted, still forerunners in their industry, raking in piles of money with nary a care for their actions. Let’s say I’m referring to Chris Brown or Michael Vick- hypothetically, of course.

How does this statement speak to their impressionable footstep followers? It’s a turbulent ping-pong of outcomes for these dreamers. On one side, their hero may do something absolutely abhorrent, and (s)he will fall into that pile of
rubbish to which they belong, taking the dreams with them.

On the other side, the
hero will get no more than a slap on the wrist,
despite deserving the same fate as the former. Not only are idols’ actions creating a dizzying playground for their fans, but they’re also creating an avenue for the possibility that stardom does not merit accountability.

It’s a tough burden to bear for those successful people in the spotlight. Every mistake they make becomes a snarky headline, a few pithy words that sneer at their faux pas. They accept that (except half of Milli Vanilli), and they move on. We even forgive them for some transgressions and move on with them in their shadow as we attempt to follow up the ladder of our own success.

Yet, I wonder if so many of them hadn’t become those moral monsters, would we have been exposed to people like the screeching narcissist Axl Rose, the bouncy megalomaniac Tom Cruise, or even the crotch-thrusting musician-extraordinaire Michael Jackson?

Without their influential heroes, would artists have remained as troubadours or jesters, something novel for entertainment, but not to be idolized
and replicated?

Are our enticing forefathers merely so because of their shocking actions? Maybe it was the rest of us, putting them in the spotlight for being avant garde, that opened the door for maladjusted, albeit talented, miscreants. Maybe when you wish upon a star, you should spit on it instead.

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