Burn your idols

I’m sorry it upsets you, but it’s important to remember that our favorites are human and they will make mistakes and do or say bad things. This does not necessarily mean they are bad people, nor does it mean you cannot like them - all it means is you should acknowledge their flaws and that they should be held accountable for them.

—Your Fave Is Problematic[1]

A graffiti mural with a variant of this phrase, written in a femme (Hello Kitty) style.

Burn your idols (also kill your idols, murder your darlings) is a phrase that intends to implore people to remove the special status of a person or character as beyond criticism. It intends to remind people that role models can say and do problematic things. When we idolise people we often forget that the object of our admiration should also be subjected to the same criticism and judgement as any other person, otherwise we risk a double standard.

"Burn your idols" does not mean one must not look up to people for inspiration and motivation, nor that one must not respect and appreciate what others do. The phrase simply raises the important point that nobody is perfect, nobody is impervious to judgement, and nobody should be placed on a pedestal.

Most importantly, "burn your idols" does not mean that one must not forgive (if appropriate) their role models for problematic behaviour, ideologies, or words. It does not intend for one to judge their role models by a higher standard. It asks for a fair evaluation of our heros using the same rigour we would criticise anybody else, bearing in mind that famous or highly privileged idols tend to have access to many people, the media, and other sources of power. For example, a racist with no platform is significantly less dangerous than a racist who has access to the ears and minds of thousands of people.


Burning idols does not mean that all forms of "worship" of role models must be expunged, provided the "worship" is healthy and critical and the idols are chosen based on conscious choices and not merely social pressure or conditioning.[2]

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