The incipit from a piece in the Guardian:

In ancient Greece, people expected their heroes to be different. The first readers of the Iliad didn't imagine they could ever be as great as Achilles. They accepted that he was in a completely different category, a different order of being. And they didn't envy him his superior talent - they admired him for it.

Nowadays, if someone is vastly more talented than us, we don't congratulate them - we envy them and resent their success. It seems we don't want heroes we can admire, so much as heroes we can identify with.

We want to think we could be like them, and so we make sure to select heroes that are like us. We worship David Beckham because he's fallible. If Achilles were around today, the headlines would all be about his heel.

This is the real reason for the astonishing rise of reality TV. We allow halfwits to become celebrities precisely because there is no great gap separating them from us. That consoles us, because it makes us think that we could be famous if we had a bit more luck, or if we tried a bit harder. We can't bear the idea that some people might be better than us, so much better that we could never be like them, no matter how hard we tried. That upsets our democratic ethos, our belief that all people are born equal.


I think the author (Dylan Evans) may be on to something ...