WEIRDLAND: Heroes and soulmates: John Kennedy Jr & Carolyn Bessette, Jim Morrison & Pam Courson

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Heroes and soulmates: John Kennedy Jr & Carolyn Bessette, Jim Morrison & Pam Courson

Investigating heroism in mate choice: An article published in the July issue (2021) of Evolutionary Behavioral Sciences, by Bhogal and Bartlett, sheds light on the importance of heroism in the context of mate selection. Participants were required to read various scenarios (four involving a target with low/high heroism, plus two control situations) and rate the desirability of the target for both short-term relationships and long-term relationships. Compared to men, women expressed greater desire for heroic targets. Nevertheless, heroism mattered to both sexes. Desirability of heroic romantic partners: It is puzzling why heroism exists at all. After all, heroism is quite nonadaptive. According to Dunbar and Kelly, “Brave, courageous and self-sacrificing individuals” should be rare, “both in evolutionary terms (sacrificing self for unrelated others is not an ideal way of promoting your own genes) and in terms of lifetime survival chances (the more risks taken, the greater the likelihood of disaster).” However, we also need to remember the following: While it is true that heroes are risk-takers, heroes’ risk-taking is prosocial. Perhaps this explains why women are attracted to heroic men. After all, care and concern for others are important qualities in a supportive romantic partner, particularly one who might become a parent one day. In their own investigation, these researchers found male bravery had the biggest impact on female choice for short-term sexual partners. For long-term partners and friends, however, altruism was more important. And to the extent heroism relates to risk-taking, it might signal fitness (in mating situations), thus increasing the desirability of the person as a romantic partner, at least for short-term relationships. As Bartlett and Bhogal state, “Through displaying heroic behavior, one can signal that they can bear the costs of behaving heroically, thus making them more desirable in mate choice contexts.” Source:

“Against the exceptional individual are the great numbers of men, trained in a vice that ensnares them.” —Jim Morrison

Jim Morrison talked of his cosmic soulmate Pamela Courson to one of his last lovers, Eva Gardony: “She was a child when we met, and I feel responsible for her because she never grew up. She has been everything for me, my mom, my sister and my daughter.’ And he forgave her a lot of things. Even though at times she was impossible to be with—because she would be stoned or bad tempered—he would say, ‘She’s a sweet child.’ It was touching he just felt he had to take care of her the rest of his life. They argued, both had their grievances, like ‘You done that to me, and for that I done that to you.' But they always gravitated back to each other after every little escapade. He always spoke of Pamela with total affection. Pamela was quick, she was witty, she was funny; she was neurotic. She had the clarity of a child, with very good intuitions, and an innocence that Jimmy loved in her a great deal.” —"Jim Morrison: Friends Gathered Together" (2014) by Frank Lisciandro

"It wasn’t that I didn’t like Jim Morrison. I just didn’t really know him as a friend. One time, I was at the Tropicana Hotel, on Santa Monica, and out of my window I saw Jim and Bryan MacLean standing, face to face. All of a sudden, Jim socked Bryan in the mouth, pretty hard. Bryan made the mistake of mentioning Pamela or something. I actually thought that was the best thing I’d ever seen Jim Morrison do. Bryan said that they were arguing and Jim hit him square in the mouth. I said to myself, “Regardless of what I think, Jim Morrison’s got a heart.” —"Arthur Lee: Alone Again" (2001) by Barney Hoskyns

"Everything that he did with his power, his fame, it was all about some greater good," Rose Marie Terenzio (his former executive assistant at George magazine) said of John Kennedy Jr. "He's truly missed for the way that he gracefully took that mantle of responsibility and lived an honorable life full of integrity—and he's missed for what we all want, which is somebody to look up to and to be proud of." 

Kevin Myron (Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event): John Jr. signifies purity and virtue since the act of publicly shaming his cousins is an attempt to separate himself from those negative connotations. There is also a discourse of family betrayal running through John’s figure, that he somehow broke the code of family protectionism. Here, we see that in life the acceptable discourses for a Kennedy figure might be much more complex and controversial than in death. Last, if we analyze all of the television tributes and coverage of John Jr.’s death, we get the realization of the American dream, where the Kennedy family is seen as American Royalty, with John Jr. as the fallen prince. We get a vision of politics, where liberal is not seen as a dirty word. John Jr. embodies the Kennedys’ brand of compassionate, pragmatic democratic politics even though he never ran for office himself. We saw John Jr. as the newest tragedy from a family virtually defined by the dialectic of tragedy/success. I want to address Carolyn Bessette here now. She is a powerful image and certainly powerful from the perspective of the image of the marriage. She does a lot of things symbolically and from the perspective of a sign to perpetuate this. First of all, she fulfills the popular myth of Camelot. There must be a queen or at least a princess in Camelot, and Carolyn Bessette filled that purpose in a very, very compelling way.  —Celebrity & Spectacle: The Making of a Media Event/Mediated Realities of the JFK Jr. Tragedy (November, 1999) edited by Gregory Payne

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