When Heroes Go Bad

I’ve been asked what to do when someone you considered a hero does something you can’t forgive. What happens when someone who has inspired you becomes someone you can’t trust any more?

This is happening more and more as the world becomes smaller. The more information that is available, the more likely we are to see something about our hero that would let us down. Andrew Carnegie was a hero to many, but his treatment of union workers would disqualify him from some people’s Round Table. Marion Jones was a hero to many girls wanting to be sports stars, but she lied about taking performance enhancers and fell from grace. Some people made her their hero because she finally told the truth.

It’s a great learning experience. I urge people to learn from their heroes and when the hero falls, it’s one of the best opportunities to learn – and the last. It’s as simple as saying, “Now I know what not to do.”

In more detail though, it is a chance to observe the situations in which people make bad choices. What were the factors that led to their change in behaviour? What else can you learn about the event? Is it as you thought it was, or are there other concealed matters that you haven’t taken into consideration? This is especially important if your hero and their fall are covered by the press.

The other thing to consider is what does it say about you? Was this person a hero for you ten years ago and you’ve changed? Have your expectations of your heroes changed? Have your needs changed? If you read the Hero Interviews on this site, you can see some differences in the types of heroes people had as children and the people they consider heroic now. While these change are over a long period of time, the idea is the same. If someone was your hero in high school and you’re in college now, what priorities have changed?

Who did you used to consider a hero, but don’t now? Why?

4 Responses to When Heroes Go Bad

  1. Whitney Johnson November 27, 2007 at 7:11 am #

    What a great topic to explore.

    I have had some heros which were based on a projection, like Sydney Bristow, in Alias. Hers was a character that generally fit the Psyche archetype. Sydney was capable of saving the world, yet the world that was important to her were family and friends.

    Because I liked the character Sydney, I, in turn, liked Jennifer Garner. For me the fall from grace was rather silly I suppose, but when she married Ben Affleck who I didn’t esteem anywhere nearly as highly, it just wasn’t the same.

    As for real falls, as with Marion Jones, I am wondering if it is because we are corrrupted by our power. We believe that we want/deserve something so badly that the rules don’t apply to us, failing to pass The Galadriel Test – which I did finally write about. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

    My best,


  2. Matt Langdon November 27, 2007 at 11:06 am #

    I do believe power corrupts. Perhaps the more powerful (in any way) one becomes, the more temptations they encounter. Heroes that give into temptations create a fall – they’re no longer heroes.

    Galadriel showed why she was so revered, compared with Saruman who failed the test. Both were leaders in Middle Earth, but when the temptation of Sauron’s power arrived, Saruman failed and Galadriel passed. One is a hero and mentor to the Fellowship, one is an enemy.

  3. sb November 29, 2007 at 5:45 pm #

    Hi I go Overland Park Elementry, and I just wanted to say that you came to our school and taught us about who are heros and who are not. I think that u r right, about how Cristina Auglara is a hero. My teacher, Mr. Psota said that u were a great help to us for our hero projects.


  4. Matt Langdon November 29, 2007 at 5:52 pm #

    Thanks SB. I think you mean Angelina Jolie instead of Christina, but I’m glad your teacher thought I was helpful. I hope you enjoyed it too.