Iconic Illusions: Manufactured Heroes in a Postmodern World

May 4, 2023

Imagine a public bus driver suddenly taking his hands off the steering wheel and proclaiming loudly, "Nothing matters anymore; everything is an illusion." Witnessing a situation like that would raise safety concerns and incite chaos on the bus. But what if the passengers applauded and cheered the driver's such absurd behaviour? If you think the latter scenario seems Kafkaesque and ludicrous, hold onto that thought for a moment.

Celebrity worship has been an inherent part of societal disposition. People en masse have displayed the propensity to look up to and revere the smartest hunters, bravest warriors, skilful fighters and so forth since time immemorial. One thing that has plateaued throughout the ages is the extreme level of celebrity worship. From Roman gladiators' sweat used by their fans as perfume back in the day to letters written to modern superstars by their rabid fans in blood, intense celebrity worship has known no limit. However, the postmodern world has constantly seen the emergence of manufactured heroes: public figures who are bestowed with unchecked power and ensconced on a pedestal of blind trust and adulation, public figures whose repute are primly crafted and sanitized in the public domain by their army of PR and marketing personnel.

Modern corporate leaders are seen no less than celebrities, especially when they are seen as world saving heroes or if they present themselves as such. Take the world's richest man, owner of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk for instance, given his visionary profile as someone who wants to save humanity by colonizing Mars and electric vehicles, he is seen as a saviour, almost as a real-life superhero who will lead the exodus of humans leaving the dying planet of Earth for a better future on Mars. Behind this marketed veneer of a saviour, rarely do people learn about the problematic issues encompassing this capitalist, whether his turning a blind eye to racial discrimination prevalent in his company, his neglect of his workers' safety; or sourcing of materials for his electric vehicles from countries where child labour and exploitative working conditions are prevalent which contradicts his own world-saving philosophy; or buying a social media company only to later have a buyer's remorse and then lay off almost half the workforce to save his skin from this failed venture; or many other problematic issues where he indulges in environmental degradation for the production of electric vehicles. One wouldn't find these criticisms about him in mainstream media as only a few independent journalists shed light on these at the risk of facing flak from masses who worship him. If one argues that his problematic conduct is necessary to maintain the profitability of a corporate house and dominate the industry which is how the world works, then that would only defeat the argument about him being the hero saving the world, or it would just go to show that the shiny image presented to the public is nothing more than a PR exercise in motion. Musk is only a tip of the iceberg of those billionaires who reside in the list of elites. No country is impervious to corporate leaders who are ready to jettison loads of money to maintain the image of a country-building or world-building saviours. To put things in a nutshell, if the capitalist heroes have the power to turn Mars into Earth, they definitely have the power to turn Earth back into Earth.

The modern age saw the proliferation in popularity of entertainers and the mystique around their glitzy personalities. Their burgeoning fan base came to know no bounds, with these superstars - whether attached to movies, shows, music, or mainstream sports - commanding immense and, at times, fanatical followings. This hero worship, which often leads to blind trust from their fans, can unlock potential dangers while absolving them of any accountability. There have been instances when superstar celebrities have endorsed quackery on social media at the height of the pandemic. However, when they themselves needed medical assistance, their first recourse was to seek modern health resources. Despite making unsavoury comments in the public domain or influencing people to take objectionable actions, certain celebrities are viewed as unequivocal champions of the greater good. However, people fail to discern their feigning altruism, activism, and endorsements that are often aimed at furthering their own interests. It is disingenuous of most, if not all, celebrities to remain oblivious to the pressing issues that surround them. These cabals of coxcomb revel in the power of influence that is created in tandem with media and marketing machinery.

The news media has a significant role in shaping public opinion and influencing political decisions. However, in today's world, prime time news anchors have created a fan base for themselves that is biased and polarizing. Instead of providing scrupulous and fair information, they use sensationalism and opinionated analysis to attract viewers and increase their TRP ratings. News anchors have become like potters who can easily shape the perception of the masses and their mood with every prime time show. This approach has resulted in a distorted image of the truth. To propitiate masses of prejudiced viewers, popular news anchors have abandoned coverage of critical issues in favor of sensationalism. As a result, viewers feel entitled to take extreme positions and demonize those who disagree with them.

The culture of hero worship sprawls even across the realm of politics, a field where individuals are vying to be public representatives. The halo effect in the form of hero worship possesses the dangers of shielding politicians from their responsibilities and keeps their followers from holding them accountable. The problem with hero worship is that it creates a dreary atmosphere of insecurity among their fans who pull out pitchforks in a heartbeat at the slightest criticism seen against their favourite politicians. Public representatives have jobs like any other profession, with duties and responsibilities that must be carried out, and yet that is not how it is seen in many parts of the world. Crowning a celebrity status to politicians leads to blind faith in them and their policies, regardless of whether they are actually beneficial for the people. Public representatives who are idolized by their followers often become unassailable, making it difficult to hold them accountable for their actions. This can have disastrous consequences, as seen in the rise of authoritarian leaders who have led their countries down dangerous paths. In short, the hero worship of politicians can be dangerous, as it leads to a lack of critical thinking and accountability, and can ultimately harm society as a whole.

In conclusion, hero worship in the modern age is akin to giving unbridled power to an entity, be it a person or an organization. A person driving a bus has a responsibility to drop people from point A to point B. Now, if he abruptly jumps out of his seat while the bus is still running, you wouldn't applaud him for this absurd act just because you are fan of his driving skills, would you?





By Glaxson D'Lima
Glaxson D'Lima is from Santhekatte. He is currently working as a social media executive for a firm engaged in digital media marketing, based in Doha-Qatar.
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Comment on this article

  • Kevin Mascarenhas, Mangalore/DXB

    Fri, May 05 2023

    Just to expand on what I mentioned earlier: The practice of blindly putting public figures on pedestal becomes a massive bone of contention among people who look up to their favourite icons. Any online discussion ends up becoming a toxic fight among fans of famous individuals once you even minutely criticize them.

  • Kevin Mascarenhas, Mangalore/DXB

    Fri, May 05 2023

    It is unfortunate that public figures hold so much power that they can literally influence and steer the mindset of gullible public. Diehard fans in large numbers idolise them and assume they can do no wrong.

  • Abigail Fernandes, Mangalore/Dubai

    Fri, May 05 2023

    I am a huge fan of your vocabulary. well written

  • vishnu bhat, bangalore

    Thu, May 04 2023

    societies and people that have no self confidence or faith in their abilities manufature and worship heroes. those who have a purpose need no heroes.

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