Redemption. Heavy stuff. It’s the sort of thing that drives epics, spurs heroes on to defeat the big bads, overcome their difficulties, fulfill destinies and win girls who gradually change from icy cold and wounded to passionate and grateful. In short, it’s the fuel of most stories ever created. But what does it mean to the lay person, to the man in the pub, to the woman on the train and any other everyman phrase writers with little grasp on originality may care to tap out at half one in the afternoon at Hong Kong University (ahem)?
For most the idea of redeeming oneself doesn’t really stretch beyond a well timed bunch of flowers or card with a puppy on it under the word ‘Sowwy’. We don’t have to make a noble sacrifice or save a child’s life to be able to live with ourselves and have other people say things like ‘he’s an alright guy, you know’ though that is not to say that there aren’t some truly great acts of redemption in real life. Famously, Jeremy Clarkson talked about punching out Piers Morgan during their lengthy and self-serving ‘feud’. Now I may happen to think Jeremy Clarkson is an insufferable, incurable, arsehole of the highest order but the idea of him smacking Morgan in his puffed up ball sac of a face makes me want to kiss the man on the lips and recommend him for a knighthood. Therein appears to lie the formula, if you are an unholy seaward you can make yourself look like a saint by destroying an even bigger seaward. At this point Morgan would most likely have to punt Himmler in his dessicated Nazi nuts to make up for his various acts of douchebaggery.
Let’s open it out a bit more, what would Tony Hayward have to do to get people to not want to burn effigies of him? With the oil spill effectively capped the heat has died down a little bit, and any time you get mercilessly spanked by South Park one of two things can happen. People take the piss even worse or they start to go easier on you because they feel bad. The fact that a Lay off Tony Hayward Facebook page consists of just 243 people at the time of writing suggests which path this one is taking.
Another Tony in need of some positive press is Blair. Are we sick of talking about him still? We are? Oh ok then, moving on. If we’re going down the pop culture back passage you might say Robbie William has redeemed himself and made us forget about how much of a tool he is (and how disappointing and slightly cringe-worthy he is without Guy Chambers) by rejoining Take That in the most important item of news to ever hit the world ever! I even saw a mind-boggling article courtesy of the Guardian (who seem to be taking their increasingly baffling collision of left-wing highbrow pieces and brain-meltingly banal cultural flotsam coverage into the realms of an artform) detailing how the new album since Robbie definitely-not-gay-but-who-knows-wink Williams returned is the fastest selling album of the century. God damn. You’ll have to tell me how accurate a headline that is, I haven’t the energy to read it. Apparently we can forgive all the ‘honoury Sean Connery’ lines in the world as long as he does something that tickles our nostalgia centres just right (I think it’s located right near the part of the brain that makes people buy dumb, forgettable shit they don’t need).
This opens another rich seam of easy access redemption for us to mine. Celebrities can make us forget some truly deplorable things we know they have done by simply doing something so awesome it overshadows it. As ever Cracked.com got there before me and wrote a fucking list on it so I direct you to their much funnier work but if you read that list, for the most part and with the exception of Rick James (who is… well Rick James) these people were shamed through awful extra-curricular crap they covered over by doing their damn jobs! Noel Edmunds was heading the Big Breakfast when a member of the public died during a stupid stunt. When he made a head-scratchingly popular game show (along with some mystic mentalness) we all forgot about it and embraced his crazy bearded ass again, despite how terrible the show is. Mickey Rourke screwed up so many times in his acting career even Danny Dyer is like ‘Woah’ but he goes ahead and stars in The Wrestler and moves the entire world to tears in one of the finest film I have ever seen and now his rubbery mask face is everywhere again.
Now famous people know they can work this plan retroactively. If they have enough good stuff in the bank they can get away with all kinds of shit. There appears to be a limit albeit not one that anyone can seem to define. Christian Bale – amazing actor, becomes the god damn Batman, can get away with losing his Welsh shit on set of Terminator: Salvation. Kanye West – could possibly be hip hop’s biggest star, sets the standard for the genre, gets crucified for interrupting a vanilla songstress over some award show that isn’t even important in one of the biggest non-stories I’ve ever seen the world media lose its mind over. I guess they’re still ironing out the rules. The important part is knowing how good your good stuff is before doing something awful. When the quality-of-work/terrible-thing balance is unbalanced there’s no coming back mate (see Brown, Chirs; King, Jonathan).
Where does this leave John Q Everyfucker? Next time you get in trouble with the ladyfriend, do you remind her of those awesome things you did for her a couple of months ago? ‘ Okay so I ran over your mum, but remember when I cooked that dinner? Huh? Yeah? With the garlic and the wine that cost over five whole pounds?’ Not going to cut it I’m afraid. This may have to be another case of one rule for them and one rule for us sadly. You’re going to be working a lot harder at it anyway; it takes more to get one person to forgive than for the whole world to forgive you. I’m sure even Nelson Mandela doesn’t get free passes in personal arguments because he’s Nelson Mandela (but if I was in his shoes I would totally use ‘because I’m Nelson Mandela bitch!’ as an debate tactic). Redemption and all the grand, epic story connotations may have to remain just that, property of the grand and the epic. We normal people will just have to settle for plain old ‘forgive and forget’.
I’m David Hetherington, forgive me!