I am a fan of Stephen Fry and his work, but I am under no illusion that he is perfect, unflawed or above reproach. He has “put his foot in it again” by speaking out of turn about those who have suffered with sexual abuse. Add this to the bag lady comments at the BAFTAs and many other occasions he has opened his mouth without engaging his brain and he is strangely similar to you and I.
He makes mistakes.
If our every word was scrutinised, pondered over and reproduced in the press then there is no doubt that we would also find ourselves in trouble more often than not. I know that my idiot brain can spout the biggest load of codswallop possible at any given opportunity – and like Stephen I am also bipolar. I’m not comparing us in any way – I just want to show how the illness can impact on our mouths.
At times, both in manic phases and depressions my mouth can engage without my brain being fully aware of what is said – an off the cuff remark can be ill thought out and not something, if written down, would get past our internal censors. This is not to excuse the rude or downright wrong things that are said, but hopefully puts them in context.
Beyond the issues of mental illness though Fry is no different to the Kardashians or any other person in the spotlight. The cult of celebrity is a dangerous one and to expect these individuals to sit on pedestals unscathed is moronic. We need to be more realistic with our expectations.
Who set him up as this perfect polymath in the first place? Well I’d argue we did. Successful in numerous areas he has the ability to communicate well in several media making him a “go to” for newspapers, TV, film and online writers. He has been pushed into a limelight that we know he can struggle with and we sit with bated breath for words of wisdom to pour forth from. When he gets it right I would argue that he deserves his lofted position because he can articulate ideas in a loquacious and rich way.
But he often gets it wrong too. And rather than castigating him we should be asking ourselves why we need people like Stephen Fry and why we look to them in our society. Are we replacing the politicians that we don’t trust? The religious leaders we no longer follow? Or, as I suspect, are we scared to speak up ourselves for the fear that we too would be lambasted by society for saying something?
With Social Media we are all now part of a more democratic world that permits us to post opinion and counter-opinion, but we hide behind that keyboard if things go wrong. Fry has taken a position that we are scared to – a public spokesperson. I would argue that we can’t really shoot the messenger if we appointed him.