When I was young it was all about the father figures. You know, those guys on TV who were sometimes silly, sometimes firm, but always dispensed knowledge. There was Jason Seaver, who somehow handled being a psychiatrist and a father of three rambunctious kids, not to mention a man with a high maintenance wife. And who could forget Stephen Keaton, the former hippie dealing with three kids of his own (one of whom was a staunch republican) and fighting off the constant midlife crisis? He was a man among men. But the best of those surrogate dads was Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, who came into my home every Thursday night and taught me valuable life lessons that I have never forgotten non matter how old I’ve gotten. Yes, Dr. Huxtable was my idol, and he still is. Too many people, though, shackled him with leg irons to a man named Bill Cosby, and therein made their mistake.
Everyone has idols, and understandably so, because we all have that need to look up to others for those traits we wish we had. For some of us they are our parents, for better or for worse, and for others they are an older family friend, but for the vast majority, sadly enough, it is those characters on television who are larger than life, like superheroes who we can aspire to be. We follow their every move like a shadow, putting them on pedestals that have no sound bases, just puffs of air that change like the wind. It’s what keeps tabloid magazines alive and well, but it’s also what crushes us when those heroes inevitably fail us. Because they’re human.
You heard that right. Humans aren’t perfect, no matter how much we say it and how many of us convince ourselves that it must be true. Time and again we are devastated when they topple because we believed they were impervious to kryptonite. Lance Armstrong, Bill Clinton, Robin Williams, Jimmy Swaggert, Tiger Woods, and yes, even the formerly unimpeachable Bill Cosby himself, they weren’t what we thought they were. They weren’t invincible at all. They have issues and problems just like we do. Like Charles Barkley so aptly put it, “I am not a role model.” But they become even more than mere role models. They become larger than life idols with shaky bases that stand for a while before crashing to the ground.
That’s why I still look to Dr. Huxtable for advice but I don’t put the man behind the portrayal of the good doctor on that pedestal, because I know he’s only human. Just like me. That way he can never let me down, because I never knew him, and I never will.