Time for Heroes
BEFORE CHRISTMAS, I INTERVIEWED ROBBIE WILLIAMS. You may remember him as a semi-famous relic from the early 2000s, or from that one music video where he strips down to his skeleton surrounded by roller-skating women, but he was once very important to me. I was lucky to get to the interview. After failing to adequately crack the North American market in the early aughts, Robbie stopped doing press here. This meant that, despite my best efforts, his people were never interested in having him talk to me. When he released a new album in November, it gave me an excuse to ask again. Thankfully, enough evidence of my adolescent fandom remained that I was able to inspire a publicist to work a miracle, and I got the interview that would have blown my teenage mind.
I had hoped to write some epic masterwork about heroes and nostalgia and what it means to have a conversation with one of your idols and come away feeling validated. I still might. After all, even grown men need heroes. We search for them — especially ones that don’t crumble under the weight of real world interaction. We gravitate towards heroes that either share traits we already possess, to justify ourselves through vicarious living, or we select ones that have a quality we lack, to inspire personal development. Why I loved Robbie Williams says more about me as a 15-year-old kid, and I don’t know if that’s something the Sharp Man is clamouring to read about (if I’m wrong, feel free to drop me a line — we can talk about your high school affinity for Master P, too).
There will come a time when the media won’t relate any and all discussions back to Trump. Whether he deserves to be or not, he is a hero to a broad swath of American men. Does he justify, or inspire? Either option is foreboding. In Canada, we have a different, if related problem: our Prime Minister may just be a better role model than he is a politician. Still, as someone who name-checked Pierre Trudeau along with Robbie Williams in his graduation quote, I’m much more content with the latter, even as I realize that, despite rhetoric and influence, political leaders are probably not a good reflection of the heroes we need.
But we do need heroes. We tend to think of idols as markers of childhood — things we discard as we discover who we really are. But, that’s conflating arrogance with maturity. As I get older, I’m realizing that manhood is about finding the balance between following in the footsteps of the people you look up to, while also, yes carving your own path so that you can mentor others. This issue — like all issues of Sharp, actually — has several men worth emulating, wholly or in part. From Science Hero Bill Nye, to our cover star, most famous for playing the role of the Heroiest Hero ever to hit the screen. And that’s just two.
Here we come to save the day. All of us.