Like the narrator of Byron’s Don Juan, this age seems to lack a hero, despite the best efforts of the popular culture to produce some (a process that tends to substitute mere celebrity for heroism). And in fact, I suspect that the last thing an egalitarian, demotic culture wants is someone who might remind people of their own uncomfortable shortcomings. Better to call attention to celebrities who in fact embody cultural flaws on a large scale, be they slatterns (Remember, Kim Kardashian’s big break came when her sex tape was allegedly promoted by her mother), ignoramuses (Clan Honey Boo Boo, anyone?), hedonists (Hello, Ms. Lohan), or nihilists (a tip of the hat to Mr. Cobain).
But even if we can get by without heroes, we absolutely require villains — someone on whom we can look down, someone to “otherize.” And on that subject, I’d like to refer you to a brief essay by David Foster at Chicago Boyz. Give it a look.