Nostalgia – do we love Mavericks more? Do you look at old films and enjoy the movie stars? What makes them “stars”? Is it their looks? Their acting skills? Or is it what they are famous for off-screen?
When we look back fondly, do we associate good times with things (cars, food, music)? Maybe there are famous people we associate with those good times. Maybe we also associate those good times with good friends and close family.
I am sure you will have someone in your memories, where you could catch yourself saying “oh s/he was a character”. Often that is muttered with a wistful smile on our face, isn’t it?
Admit it. That “character” often had a special something about them. It might have been a wicked sense of humour. Perhaps it was a tendency to make their views known pretty loudly. Maybe it was even doing something that would not be considered acceptable in the current day (and probably should not have been acceptable back then either).
I would argue that some of these people that we remember fondly we remember because of their wilful independence of thought or behaviour. And that, in my book, makes them Mavericks.
Let’s look at those movie stars again. Leonardo di Caprio – determinedly taking action to publicise the climate action. Dame Helen Mirren – successful into her eighth decade and still admired for her uncompromising approach. Both of them, I would suggest, are Socialised Mavericks . And on Television, in the arts or in sports – many of the names that stand out to us today were Mavericks. People who chose an independent path and, as a result, found success. Bowie. Maya Angelou. Maradonna.
Why were they so popular? Why is that popularity so lasting? It could be that they were very, very good at what they did. There are lots of people who are really good at what they have done through history, yet we don’t remember their names. The ones whose names we remember, sometimes even if they died before we were born, are the ones whose independence, whose very difference, was their unique factor. And it was onto that unique factor that the public latched, with viewing figures, or fans at concerts or sporting events or books bought.
I would also argue that our retrospective gaze highlights their difference, perhaps even amplifying it. It is their Maverickness that is the thing that makes us love them still and makes us treasure their memory. Their words, their creativity and sometimes even their sheer determination not to take the road well travelled is what we admire. Often we may say “She was uniquely talented” or “He was brilliant – there’ll never be another like him”. Isn’t that celebrating their difference clearly?
If this is why we remember our heroes and heroines so fondly, what does this mean for the current generations making their way? In this information-overloaded age, where success means surrendering your privacy and the pursuit of celebrity (and celebrities) has become a toxic treadmill, consuming people to enable a few tawdry magazines to sell from corner shop shelves, what can young people do? Whatever they do they are likely to be criticised more violently than ever before.
Social media will ensure that.
The need to stand out is heightened, and I suspect this has encouraged behavioural excesses to help people make their fame. Notoriety is held up in some places as still having a currency – someone somewhere will still wear their Yeezies and find someone to buy their spares.
Encouragingly, there appears to be a turning of the tide. The Mavericks of today’s youth in the spotlight appear to be seeking positive impact. Greta Thunberg is globally recognised for her commitment to holding the world’s powers to account for their failure to tackle climate change. Amika George may be less well known but her work to tackle period poverty among girls in schools in the UK has been ground breaking. Kelvin Doe’s incredible technological inventions (home-made batteries to power lights in his village and a community radio station built from recycled materials) are inspiring other children in his home of Sierra Leone and beyond. And Malala Yousafzai is globally famous for her defiance of the Taliban in her advocacy for education for women and girls.
All these young people are inspirational, seeking to have a positive impact on the world around them. And yet I would argue they are all Mavericks. Each has demonstrated their wilful independence of thought and deed. I am pretty confident they will all be thought-of fondly by future generations.
Socialised Maverick  The Maverick Paradox: The Secret Power Behind Successful Leaders – Judith Germain (PublishNation 2017)