Nobody’s Perfect: The Human Side of 6 of History’s Most Beloved Figures

John Lennon beat his wife. MLK, Jr. was an adulterer. Gandhi was a deadbeat dad. Could it be true that, despite what the media tells us, nobody's perfect?

Have no fear of perfection -- you'll never reach it. ~ Salvador Dali Click To Tweet

It was the waggish words of the womanizing cad multi-millionaire Osgood Fielding III in the classic comedy ‘Some like it hot’ that ever so quaintly put the obvious into perspective. ‘Well nobody’s perfect’ he declared to a shocked and taken-aback-in-drag Jack Lemon, who had seconds before just revealed that he had been a man all this time.

No, this wasn’t a pro-gay love story in which homosexuality was applauded, this was a Billy Wilder screwball classic and the main lead was destined for a life with another man. But ‘nobody’s perfect’, Osgood laments and we can all laugh and live happily ever after. Nevertheless, this final line resulted in becoming one of the best remembered and favored lines among cinema-goers throughout the world.

However, such a facetious gag often said in jest can also result in a deeper meaning, and in some cases, a very truthful one. Throughout history it has been common practice to idolize such people, especially those in the public eye — one can create an image so refined that it can seem impossible to comprehend those blemishes. But is there such a thing as perfection? Most likely not, but as Osgood so charmingly reminds us, nobody’s perfect. . . 

6) Steve Jobs

Possibly one of the greatest minds to have graced the technological minefield, Steve Jobs lead the way in the revolution of smart phones and mobile technology. To some, he is a modern day hero reinventing the way we communicate; to others, a huge jerk.

Jobs was famous for being bad tempered and snarky to reporters, his employees and even his best friends. In his younger days, Jobs secured a deal with Atari in which he needed best friend and co-worker Steve Wozniak’s help. With a big bonus involved upon completion Jobs lied about how much of a bonus was intended and ended up pocketing the majority of the money himself.

No matter how rich Jobs became, his tight-fisted attitude was a re-occurring issue. In contrast to other technology tycoons, such as Windows mogul Bill Gates, Jobs wasn’t as charitable — even shutting down one of Apple’s biggest charity programs. And when asked about the morals of his company later on, Jobs actually argued that sweatshops ‘aren’t that bad’.

5) Roald Dahl

Adored by many and loved by more, prolific children’s author Roald Dahl has entertained both kids and adults for generations. The Charlie and The Chocolate Factory inventor who often displays honorable values with a creepy undertone has often shared some concerning beliefs even his most vile characters might not agree with.

Regularly accused of making racist remarks — once declaring that “there is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of generosity towards non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere, even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

4) Marilyn Monroe

The image and essence of Marilyn Monroe has never been quite replicated since her unfortunate and untimely passing in 1962 at age 36. Often perceived as dippy yet ‘dangerous’, the busty bombshell was far from the ditzy blonde she so often portrayed — on and off screen — as her career itself undoubtedly proved.

However, Monroe was known to be extremely lazy and often reprimanded by film producers, actors and directors for her tardiness. It was also a common occurrence that she would never learn her lines, resulting in numerous takes and numerous quarrels with her co-stars. It was Laurence Olivier who offered the most scathing review, calling her “the stupidest, most self-indulgent tart I have ever come across.”

3) John Lennon

Almost 4 decades after his passing, John Lennon remains an almost god-like figure to many, a ‘working class hero’ who pulled himself up to the loftiest heights by his bootstraps alone. Yet in stark contrast to the other three Beatles and their very real working class upbringing, John was actually raised in middle class suburbia by his self-declared ‘snobby’ Aunt Mimi, who offered the boy some stability in life through his parents tumultuous relationship.

Mimicking their behaviour, his own relationship with his first son was also strained to the point where Paul McCartney actually wrote the boy a song to cheer him up. (‘Hey Jude’ anyone?) Dogged with rumors that he used to beat his first wife, he confirmed the truth in an interview stating, “that is why I am always on about peace, you see. It is the most violent people who live for love and peace.” From taking copious amounts of drugs and conducting extra marital affairs in both marriages, Lennon was clearly a man with issues and with an unpredictable dark side.

2) Martin Luther King

In regards to what Martin Luther King did for civil rights and human justice, he is unquestionably and undeniably beyond perfect. However, just like everybody else, King did have his imperfections. Particularly when it came to his family, and his relationship with his wife.

Adultery was a common occurrence in the King establishment, with accusations that he cheated on his wife numerous times. Even on the final night of his life it was reported that he was with another woman, who the next day was told to stay out of the ambulance and remain silent so that King’s reputation wouldn’t be tarnished. As well as a ‘weakness for women’ rumors of plagiarism have also been a constant issue, with claims that his university papers were mostly the work of someone else.

As if that weren’t bad enough, rumors that the much celebrated and renowned ‘I have a dream’ speech was stolen from a black preacher from the 1950s still persist.

1) Gandhi

As demonstrated above, everybody holds imperfections, even Gandhi. Throughout his extraordinary life Gandhi paved the way for a peaceful and positive world, leading India through a non-violent revolution, promoting peace and harmony along the way.

However, just like everyone else, Gandhi wasn’t perfect and came to have some dark moments that would later become a smudge on his otherwise seamless existence.

Due to his arrest after a protest march, Gandhi was sent to prison and had his wife come with him. After a while, his wife began to get sick, however. Deeming the medicine offered ‘alien’ Gandhi refused that she take it, which actually resulted in her death. Two weeks later, Gandhi contracted the same illness yet when offered the same treatment, readily took it. It has also been contested that, although a Father to the masses, to his sons he was an unreliable and distant dad.

To sum up – yes, Gandhi wasn’t perfect, but he was an astonishing man who did some astonishingly good things, just like the others mentioned on this list. The point of this article is to help us all break from from the idea of perfection a little bit. Perfection is a quixotic idea that continues to be touted by movies and television, yet simply doesn’t exist.

The only perfection to be found is found, of course, in imperfection, and the complicated, enigmatic figures detailed here remind us of that: that despite what we perceive as our flaws, defects and mistakes, we (yes, you and me) can achieve some truly great things, if we are simply willing to accept our humanness in its fullness, and learn from it. 

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