People Break Down Which Historical Figures Are Completely Overrated

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It brings us no joy (see also: all the joy) to remind people that John Lennon was a domestic abuser and that Hitler loved animals, Disney, and art.

We're not out here trying to be contrarian just for funsies, though.


One Reddit user asked:

What historical figure is completely overrated and why?

And the responses perfectly illustrate why we think that knowledge is important. Removing someone's humanity makes it easy to cast them as solely heroes or villains. In the movies it's easy to tell who the good guy is and who the bad guy is, but the real world doesn't work that way.

People are capable of great acts and great art while also being terrible people. Terrible people are capable of creating beautiful things and doing good work.

If we can't learn to see humans as humans, we keep looking for "bad guys" and "villains" and miss the reddest red flags because that's not what a "bad guy" looks like in our imaginations. It lets us idolize awful people because they did that one thing we like.

So let's talk about the humanity in our historical heroes.

Imagine

i really like this one the beatles GIF by hoppip Giphy

John Lennon was a wife-beater and an arrogant a$hole to everyone. Pretty much the entire reason why the Beatles broke up.

- Sonishi30

He abused his son as well as his wife. Yet people think he was so great because he stood on stage and said "Yeah, peace maaan." He also spoke out against materialism, yet completely embraced how rich he became. I absolutely agree with you in case you couldn't tell.

- B_9_M_7

Thank you! That guy cheated on both of his wives, beat them, left his first son with no financial support for the majority of his life and all of his will went to Yoko and his second son, as well as being a massive fcking hypocrite.

- paddy_strong_jaw

Not Throwing Away His Shot

Alexander Hamilton.

The musical touches upon some of his downsides but it also made him seem grandiose too much, and glazed over most of his objectionable aspects.

Yes, he cheated on his wife, and that's bad, but he also:

  • advocates for a constitutional monarchy
  • firmly believed that only the wealthy should have a say
  • looked down on those less fortunate, despite coming from less fortunate circumstances himself
  • advocated for corporate interests and motivations in government decisions

Basically by today's standard Hamilton was the typical modern political fat cat clawing for more money and happily supporting big business meddling in government affairs if doing so would benefit him personally.

- The5Virtues

He also made his money by marrying into one of the biggest slave-trading families around, and then helped them expand that business even further. Yet, people keep telling me Hamilton was 'against slavery'.

- Mudders_Milk_Man

Tesla

Controversial opinion:

Tesla.

Dude was a brilliant engineer and was in many was screwed out of his place in history by Edison and historians. But the pendulum swung too far the other way. He's made out to be some steampunk wizard, who could have provided free energy to all the world.

- JimSFWaccount87

Tesla was also a misogynist who supported eugenics and was crazy. Also he believed stuff that was just plain wrong, like alcohol was the elixir of life but caffeine was some terrible poison.

- UnconstrictedEmu

Mother Knows Best? 

Mother Teresa was a narcissistic sociopath and big on Munchausen by Proxy. She kept her patients suffering because she knew it made her look good, she was obsessed with the "power", and knew it was easier to convert the dying to Christianity than it was to convert someone who was getting better.

She purposely caused and prolonged the suffering of people under her care because it benefited her. She was a monster and needs to have her Sainthood revoked.

- InternetKidsAreMean

She considered suffering to be a gift from God, and so didn't really go to much lengths to prevent it in the orphanages etc that she ran.

- BeABetterHumanBeing

An organization of hers called Missionaries of Charity in India was found to be selling babies/children. She knew about the children being sold. You can look this up

- EtceteraWhatnot

The $20 Bill

Andrew Jackson.

He's on the $20 bill, even though he acted against the orders of the Supreme Court and violated the constitutional rights of Native Americans.

- ArchDukeNemesis


He also started a war with the Seminoles in Florida illegally, sending troops down dressed as Georgia militia to start a war that his federal army could intervene in. Then America lost that war.

Jackson started that war because Florida and the Seminole nation were a refuge for runaway slaves, but many black Seminoles were second or third generation, or the descendants of Africans who were never enslaved. The war was fought mainly to prevent Jackson and the army from rounding up and enslaving the black Seminoles.

The treaty of that war became the legal precedent for the Emancipation Proclamation.

- Thompson_S_Sweetback

Important For India, But Not A Good Person

Mahatma Gandhi Help GIF by INTO ACT!ON Giphy

Gandhi. Horrific racist towards Blacks and (other) Asians as well as White people. He was important for Indian independence yes, but not a good person.

- GaVossler

Indian here. It is actually believed by some (based on well-established and recorded facts) that Gandhi actually postponed India's independence by 20-odd years by actively discouraging armed revolutions, which were beginning to create a serious impact.


His 'ahimsa' (non-violence) policy was very partial, ignoring heinous tortures by the then government upon the prisoners of revolution, but condemning any act of violence by the revolutionaries. He actively opposed Subhas Chandra Bose, who is considered one of the greatest contributors in the freedom struggle of India.

- loopystrings

No stranger to taking a sandal to his wife, too. Baldy little bastard.

- LegendaryCelt

And because he was a racist pervert who thought Black people were apes and sleeping naked with his closest followers' wives and daughters was a good idea to "test" his own chastity.

- Filgidus

Riding Daddy's Coattails To Greatness

Alexander the Great.

Little pissant rode Philip of Macedon's coattails all the way to historical greatness. He would have been nothing without the army and the military strategy built by his father. The oblique cavalry charge was a stroke of brilliance, and Alexander was such an ungrateful little sh!t that he murdered his best friend for reminding him where his military might actually came from.

- Foxclaws42

I'm not sure if Alexander so much rode Philip's coattails as he stole Philip's coat and kicked him out to freeze. It's suspected that Alexander had him killed.

- PM_me_your_molars

JFK 

JFK, he did almost nothing and expanded the disastrous Vietnam war, I really don't get why he is such an iconic figure

- malu_saadi

Don't forget extreme nepotism and and a list of ladies a mile long that would #MeToo him in this day and age.

- rapter200

Don't forget about actively blocking Civil Rights for black people.

- jdb888

If you get killed, what you did doesn't matter much. You'll be glorified because no one wants to criticize a dead guy, especially someone who was assassinated

- kunfushion

Barely Qualifies

A lot of "successful businessmen" are super overrated, not just as people but as being intelligent, successful, or even ruthless. Leland Stanford, for example, was a bumbling idiot who was looked down on by his co-conspirators in the railroad business because he was so stupid. It's just that he was willing to be immoral and dishonest in order to get lots of money handed to him.

It's weird reading about historical figures like him and then looking at someone like Trump and how much worship there is of his "business acumen" while listening to him speak and seeing how his business ventures worked out and realizing he barely qualifies as a used car salesman.

- Personage1

Winston

Winston Churchill. He was a good military tactician but an awful politician driven by narcissism and greed. He was a racist who committed atrocities overseas and was a misogynist who didn't think women should be allowed to vote.He was no more opposed to killing innocent bystanders than Hitler or Stalin - and the Irish were only ONE of the groups he slaughtered. As well as all that, he was by pretty much every account you can possibly hear of him, an extremely nasty man.

- B_9_M_7

I think people then kinda realized it though, you have to be a pretty big douche to be a wartime hero and still get voted out during said war.

- I_Will_One_Up_You

To add onto that, three words: The Bengal Famine

- StuckInDreams

Nice Plane, We Guess

Charles Lindbergh. He was denying the Holocaust before it was cool n 1939. The "Final Solution" wasn't approved til 1941, but in 1939 Lindbergh was loud and proud about denying that Hitler and the Nazis were discriminating against the Jews (cause that's just Zionist lies.)

And that's just one of the sh*tty things he did. He was also a prolific adulterer, an ardent white supremacist, a shill for dictators and authoritarians (as long as they were white and not Communist), a life long eugenicist, and a general a$hole.

To be fair, none of those things were really unusual in his time but it's amazing how everyone only knows him as that guy who flew a plane cross the Atlantic.

- LordOfHats


Also, it's possible he caused his son's death as a prank.

- PaxInernum

Too Hot To Breathe

Constantine the Great. He grabbed onto Christianity to make himself popular and also murdered his son and wife. Not a great dude, and actually had his wife killed by locking her in a sauna and making it too hot to breathe.

- Cad-Banes

I attended a lecture by a medieval scholar who told a story of how, before chariot races, it was common for statues of Roman gods to be rolled around the arena and everyone would bow down to them. Once Constantine "converted" to Christianity, he had the heads of the statues knocked off and replaced with his own head, and the same ritual would be performed: thousands of people bowing down to the emperor-at-the-head-of-the-gods even though he claims to worship the Christian god. Then there's also the 40 ft. colossus he had built of himself. It seems he had a very large ego.

- neworleanssaintsfan

The Soundtrack Is Pretty Great

hugh jackman dance GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment Giphy

He's not exactly "historical" but P.T. Barnum is a racist guy who enabled slavery. And people are applauding the movie The Greatest Showman?

- RebelSaintJude

Rebel Flag, But Not A Rebel

Robert E. Lee

He was, in my opinion, maybe a worse person than any southerner that believed in slavery. Why? Because he actually didn't believe in slavery or secession, but was willing go with "his people" strictly for the reason that they were his people.

Lee didn't feel comfortable being an ACTUAL rebel and abandoning the society he happened to grow up in for his own personal sense of right and wrong- he put blind loyalty over the well-being of millions of slaves, soldiers, and innocent American townspeople.

- devilthedankdawg

Happy Columbus Day

Christopher Columbus.

In America we still teach kids that he was the "1st to discover America." We conveniently leave out the fact that he was a murderer and slaver who destroyed many lives and cultures.

We also don't mention how the Native Americans migrated here through the Bering Straight, or that the Vikings reached the "New World" long before Columbus.

- Steff_164


Columbus was worse than you think. Firstly, he was not the first European to discover the Americas. (It's believed that Vikings discovered the Americas as early as 900 CE). He actually landed on a peninsula in Venezuela. He treated the Natives like garbage, and was even known to feed some of them to dogs. So, yeah. Happy Columbus Day.

- TheBoldK

Christopher Columbus

1.he kidnapped Carib women and gave them to his crew to r*pe

2.he kidnapped and enslaved more then a thousand people on Hispaniola

3.he forced the natives to collect gold for him if they didn't he would kill them

4.he would abuse the men in his crew

5.he r*ped and torture a lot of women because he saw them as gifts


- wolfeye18

A Cheese Grater To Your Brain

Ayn Rand. None of her stories/philosophy makes sense if you try to approach them from a logical viewpoint. And besides all that, the writing style is so dry and stilted that it feels like reading one of her books is like someone taking a cheese grater to your brain.

- pierre_x10

Beethoven 

I went through every comment and was surprised by no mentions of Beethoven.

Was he an amazing composer/pianist? absolutely! However, he was a terrible person. I don't remember the full details and would encourage you to look up more reliable sources than some random chick on reddit, but he was basically just an ass. Not to mention he drove his nephew to suicide.

- ventext

Other Countries Did It Without Killing Tons Of People

Abraham Lincoln.

Being famous for ending slavery by killing a good chunk of the population is not really that honorable or prestigious. If I am not mistaken, few countries had major issues abolishing slavery as a whole, let alone ensuing a civil war. So what happened with America?

- Mighty_Typhoon


Finally someone said it.

- Icarus8798


Dude. You seen how bad we took having to wear cloth masks in public places?

- paraouji

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