In the aftermath of the Caitlin Moran Girls interview debaucle (though debaucle is putting it mildly) I did a lot of reading of blogs and tweets to try and formulate a response to it and adjust my view on the show, the media, privilege, racism, feminism...you name it. And while I'm no way near close to forming a response to that yet, I did have some thoughts about how this incident reflects on my perceptions of Moran and others I idolise. I initially submitted it to popular feminisn-lite blog The Vagenda, but it was shot down (I imagine the milidly inflammatory remarks about certain journalists the member of the team I dealt with wanted to impress, along with suggestions that we form our own opinions independent from internet influence, came into play). So I will publish it here.
Everyone has heroes. Like the modern equivalent of gods for the largely athiest public consciousness, a hero is someone to steer your life by, to map your goals through, and to act as a handy cultural fingerprint for who you are. As a hero, the way you behave is inextricably linked to how you are perceived as a public figure - see the backlash Rihanna faced, and now the ridicule attracted to Leona Lewis when she suggested Chris Brown would be an excellent choice to play Christian Grey.
But you are only human, of course. It's a truth universally acknowledged that everyone, at some point in their lives, will behave in a totally cuntish manner. From extra-matiral affairs, making the joke that you should never make or answering truthfully when the person you don't really like gets the person/job of their dreams and asks the rhetorical 'are you happy for me' question, everyone will, inevitably, on a small scale or in front of a massive audience, be a total cunt.
Ignorance is bliss, especially when it comes to heroes. In the same way that the deluded Republican member of the US government's science committee proudly proclaimed that he believes the Big Bang Theory is a lie made in the pit of hell, looking too closely at something you idolise can only end in tears. Look at all the disenchanted formerly religious kids and the students-turned-graduates who hate the Liberal Democrats. Like religion before it, the modern-day pop culture icon has only a faint shroud between it and the prying, inquisitive deductive reasoning powers of a crowd fascinated with it. Like Greek gods on pedestals, we study these idols, fascinated, but if we get too close, we see cracks.
(Moran - a feminist, yes, but still makes mistakes)
I try not to dig too deeply into the back stories of my chosen idols. I feel sad that I can no longer fancy Michael Fassbender knowing he beat up his ex-girlfriend (yes, sorry everyone, Google it) and I know I crush dreams when I raise the point that John Lennon and Steve Jobs were really not very nice men. Witnessing the crushing of your idol, seeing the gilt statue come crashing down, is always a sad experience, and one we meet with more and more as we get older and start to have to accept that we don't live in Narnia or Never Never Land, that the world is a nasty place and that people can be horrible. Especially on the internet, the unerasable time capsule that can give us an up-to-the-minute account of when the gloss came off our idol. And, what's worse, we can see it happen for ourselves.
You've probably figured out by now where I'm going with this - last week, following the publication of an interview with Girls creator Lena Dunham, Times columnist, new-wave pop feminist figurehead and all-round legendary nutter (edit: see the comments) Caitlin Moran caused quite a storm by, flippantly and in keeping with her usual off-the-cuff style, successfully alienated a large proportion of her fanbase, namely those who aren't white middle class women. From a flippant response to a single tweet from the type of Twitter user who treads the fine line between making a point and looking for a fight to a full-blown block-unblock segregation shitstorm in a matter of hours. Other journalists (similarly from the white middle class area of society that seems to breed journalists) crowded round to mock the growing numbers of women (and men) taking offence to the handling of the situation. The gods, high on their broadsheet pedestals, mocked the little people and poured their distain down from Mount Olympus, their self-congratulatory glasses of Prosecco mixing with the lonely tears of their fans.
Overly poetic and silly, yes. But as someone who has met, liked, laughed with and idolised the work of Caitlin Moran from wide-eyed studenthood to still-wannabe journalist, my heart bled for the de-glossing of my idol, joining an ever-growing collective of those with but a thin veil (often as thin as a piece of printed journalism) between us and them who feel the veil is unpenetrable and who behave badly behind it, often at the expense of their fanbase. Professor Green publically mocked a bipolar fan of his because the fan dared to challenge his appaling treatment of a writer who gave him a bad review. Leigh Francis (the man behind the caustic comic creation Keith Lemon) blocked every single film journalist who tweeted a bad review of his film. Grace Dent threatened to have fired the writer who made a derogatory comment about her on Twitter, forgetting that the PR firm he worked for had her on their books. Do not mock the gods.
Watching Moran's Twitter feed the day after the whole palaver, seeing her tweet messages of thanks to those who stood by her, uncharacteristically ignoring the criticism and reading her and her colleagues' jeering putdowns of the nobodies who dared to question them, was a sad moment in the continued shaping of my feminism. But, as with all these instances, it opened my eyes to two things. Firstly, that there is far more to feminism than just one (famous) woman's (humourous bestselling) perspective. She is still a brilliant journalist, and her interview with Dunham, though poorly researched, was excellent positioning. She is just, like us, sometimes not a very nice person. And while we can admire the writing, if we idolise a person we must, and have to, observe when they stray. And secondly, because of this, that there are no gods and idols among mortals. And we should never allow any people to have that much power. Take back the mob rule and make up your own mind.