These pop icons were role models for me; someone who always felt different from others. Spock taught me to be logical, and that human behavior can be rational if you factor in emotions. Superman taught me that even if you must hide who you really are, you can still do good in the world. And Hermione taught me that cleverness is useful but there are more important things, like friendship and bravery. These icons also helped people see me in ways I didn’t have the courage to explain for myself:
I explained how Gene Roddenberry’s vision of Star Trek was something to aspire toward. A fantastical world of spaceships with intergalactic crews doing exploratory research in the deepest parts of space. A world where money no longer existed, headaches and the common cold were cured, starvation and famine eradicated. And everyone had value, and that value was often acknowledged. Spock especially struck a chord with me, having been of two different worlds like myself. And always he would remind me to live long, and prosper and to wish that for others I respect. But also, he was someone who had such deep, intense emotions that he kept at bay with logic and reasoning which I could relate to a lot.
I explained how the symbolism of Hope defines the Superman franchise, emblazoned on his chest for everyone to see. I was enamored with his do-good attitude and was drawn to the ideals of Truth, Justice, and the American Way (which to me was our New World where all were welcome to pursue happiness and protect those who cannot protect themselves). Through my love for him, others could tell I was hopeful and wanted to be a good, upstanding American.
I explained how Hermoine reminded me of myself in school, hand shooting fast into the air because I always knew the answer. Books and learning helped me stave off darker feelings and so I learned obsessively. I was able to tell friends how her pain was one I had felt before by being called denigrating terms akin to “Mud-blood”. And I grew with her, finding strength in my own knowledge and courage in the company of trusted friends.
Sometimes I feel silly for being such a pop-culture addict, but for me, these have been the stories that got me through hard times and helped teach me lessons about myself and how others might behave. I read this article about how the Inuit tend not to have nearly as many instances of rebellious teenagers and adults and disruptive members of their tribes compared to many other Western cultures, and the theory is how their form of storytelling allows them to teach far more intensive lessons about Community and Consequences than Punishment and Reinforcement as teaching tools.
Whatever stories you need to learn to be better at life, toward others, and toward yourself, don’t ever be ashamed of them. What pop icons were your role models?