We loved Ken Bone. Until we didn’t.
We loved the huggable character he played. We loved the moment of relief his mere form created in a high-stakes debate. We loved the instantly likable, non-threating canvas which painted our flat screens red. It gave us a moment to collect ourselves when it seemed like everything we believed in about polite society was starting to collapse.
The debate felt like we were sitting at the dinner table in American Beauty, just before the dish of asparagus was thrown. It felt dirty to watch, and we all felt ashamed. For them. For us, for the country.
But then something happened.
Ken Bone stood up and became our antidote.
He fit the caricature perfect. His head was too big, his glasses were too small and his mustache was, well, a mustache. Ken Bone was so well-suited to become an internet phenomenon, it was almost like he prepared for it his whole life. He just needed a break. And we gave it to him.
Ken admittedly never got this much attention before this night. More often than not, it’s safe to assume he had his fair share of bullying and non-existence. Because that’s the kind of ugly society we’ve become. But you couldn’t “not notice” Ken that night. Nor could you forget his endearing story that followed. He ripped his pants for God’s sake, and that’s why he chose a sweater. He had a Plan B with outfits. His grandma followed him on Twitter. Ken Bone was a real life John Candy movie. You couldn't cast a more fitting anti-hero.
America swiped right.
But then, they didn’t.
Because we love to see a hero fall, as much as we love to see one ascend. From the minute he endeared himself to the country, Ken had a target on his back. Internet journalists began digging, looking to complete a narrative. To find the dirt.
At first, CNN grandiosely noted he was the winner of the second debate. Then he became a sellout for doing a bit of “influencer” marketing for Uber. And finally, they delved into his “seedy” past on Reddit.
Ken’s biggest fault was being a person. Not a character. He had a life. He had a past. He had an opinion. And that didn’t fit into our meme culture. Ken was not a flat piece of art we can type Impact font across with funny sayings. Ken was real.
But no one wants real.
Yes, Ken is not a perfect person, but he never claimed to be. He made some rude comments about watching porn. Yes, Ken watches porn, and he talks about. It’s gross, but that’s not surprising, right? If we had to pick someone out of a lineup for watching porn, it would be Ken.
He also had an opinion on the Trayvon Martin killing. May not be the one you or I share, but it was his opinion.
He also defended a rape victim, with an empathy that is not often found on Reddit. So, it’s not all bad.
Why was Ken a sellout? That term really applies to someone who stands for something, then changes that for money. What did Ken stand for? A red sweater fast becoming more famous than the blue dress? Disposable cameras?
Unfortunately, Ken stood for only what we projected on him in that brief interlude. That one question became Ken. America expected him to be frozen in that moment, paused on our dvr for life. Just a Google image search away whenever we needed to feel jolly.
Ken had his 15 minutes. Unfortunately, it was firmly grounded in 15 seconds on a stage. With a microphone. In a red sweater that wasn’t even his first wardrobe choice. The rest of his life didn’t matter.
Until it did.
Tonight is another debate. And interest in Ken should soon subside as the Internet chooses its next victim. But like many before him caught in the crosshairs, Ken will become a memory, perhaps the 2016 version of Mahir.
“Welcome to my Homepage. I kiss you!!!”
Maybe Ken was not made for the bows and arrows of the internet culture. But maybe we should start accepting people as people, not as silly diversions with our own interests in mind.
People aren’t a plate of asparagus that is presented, then thrown across the room to shatter in a million pieces. We are just aren’t made that way.