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Where Have All The Heroes Gone?
With no-none left to look up to, idiot billionaires have moved in
It’s important to have heroes when you’re growing up.
When I was a kid I liked Madness frontman Suggs, Grange Hill’s Top Boy Tucker Jenkins and West Ham’s strikers Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie. They were all young, successful, talented and free-thinking.
As a teenager I liked Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays, Chuck D from Public Enemy, Prince, Eddie Murphy and Vic n Bob.
I felt like there was a mild cockiness to them, like urchins made good by virtue of their flair and swagger. That was the sort of thing that appealed to me then - and still does now.
These men were positive role models: talented, fearless, authentic and cheeky. A great bunch of lads.
You need great men to look up to while you’re building a personality for yourself. You spot things you like about blokes you admire and try to piece them all together, mix them up with your own experiences, and mould it all into an identity of your own.
During this process, you have to be careful not to look up to wankers. These days, that’s more difficult than ever because - in the public eye at least - the wanker to good bloke ratio seems to have fallen badly out of sync.
These might just be the embarrassing splutterings of a middle aged bastard, of course, but I do worry that there are more wankers presenting themselves as role models these days.
The world has gone back to being pretty elitist: there are fewer working class lads able to make it to the top of their game. Opportunities are harder to come by in the creative fields than they once were. Stats show that, in the UK, the entertainment and media industries are increasingly dominated by the privileged few.
I’m not saying that posh people can’t make good role models. Stephen Fry’s alright, for example. But it means that the talent pool is far less colourful than it used to be. And it is disproportionately filled with the arrogant, the entitled, the unimaginative and the boring.
I’ve got teacher mates who say that Andrew Tate is a serious problem for them . The lads they teach genuinely love him, despite all of his toxic idiocy and despicable antics. They think he’s great because he drives a Bugatti. My mate told his pupils that Tate was an arsehole and they replied ‘But sir, we’ve seen the old banger you drive to work in. Why would we believe your word over his?’
That’s the problem. Late stage capitalism, an elitist society, a homogenised culture and rampant consumerism has created a generation who are impressed by little more than displays of vast wealth and a boneheaded ‘fuck you’ attitude.
Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are planning to actually fight each other in a cage in Las Vegas to settle their business disputes. It’s the sort of thing The Simpsons would have made a joke about thirty years ago but it’s actually happening: two billionaires who made money so quickly and easily that they never really needed to emotionally mature, fighting each other because they are permanently frozen in a state of adolescence.
I think I’ve raised my son well enough to understand that Tate is a wanker and the likes of Musk and Zuckerberg are, at best, dickheads. But even if he knows what men not to like, he still needs other men who he can actively look up to.
He did have Declan Rice, who was brilliant, funny, kind, and, crucially, played for West Ham. But now he’s signing for Arsenal and the one decent role model my son had is tainted forever.
What young lads need is role models who can be brave, cool, funny, tough and all the other things our basest instincts aspire to be while also managing to be sensitive, kind, respectful and intelligent.
What they need is more Tucker Jenkins and less Andrew Tate.
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I recently appeared on this brilliant podcast with host Jason Baker and Reset subscriber/all round good bloke Ben Williams. I recorded with them down in Brighton (my second favourite city) and had a great time, talking about our respective journeys through addiction and recovery. There were a lot of laughs, believe it or not - as well as some dark stuff and a lot of insights that you might find helpful/interesting.
Jason and Ben are great blokes - give this pod a listen.
Here’s another pod I appeared on recently: a brilliant romp through a random back issue of TV Guide, America’s best-selling magazine of the eighties. Ken Reid is a superb comic from Boston and has been doing this legendary pod for years, welcoming guests as varied as Traci Lords, Ted Danson, Micky Dolenz, Mollie Ringwold and Weird Al Jankovic! I was honoured to be in such esteemed company and very much enjoyed talking to Ken about my favourite American childhood telly.
Some dates for the diary
As a Reset subscriber, you are invited to this live recording of the next podcast at Olympic Studio in Barnes, SW13. Just drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will put you on the guest list. Should be a fun night.
I am hosting a discussion at this event in Margate on Thursday (13th) at 2.30pm. The festival is designed to help more young people from under-represented social groups into the creative industries. I will be appearing with the excellent author Dave Whitehouse and brilliant sports writer, Roshane Thomas. I have very limited guest list so if you’re near Dreamland Margate on Thursday drop me a line asap!
Some services, links and phone numbers to help you through the tough times
https://www.samaritans.org/ Tel 116 123
@YoungMindsUK 0800 018 2138
@CharitySane 0300 304 7000