False Idols: What To Do When Your Heroes Fall From Grace

They say never meet your favourites, because they're sure to disappoint you.

When Harper Jones, 32, was tasked with an in-depth study of author Lewis Carroll for her Master's in Literature, she was over the moon.

Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was one of her favourite books, after all.

Jones told 10 daily what she learned about Carroll during her research -- namely his questionable relationship with the 10-year-old girl who reportedly inspired the classic novel -- left her devastated.

"The funny thing with Lewis Carroll is that the very thing he became loved for is the very thing that left me feeling so icky. He also had a penchant for photography and the images he took of little Alice leave you feeling really uncomfortable," she said.

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"At university we explored the story behind his inspiration, with many theorists suggesting his love for Alice wasn't as pure as you'd originally think. While I still love the stories and the fantastic imaginary world, I can't help but judge the man behind the book. Wrong or right? I don't know."

Alice Liddell in 1858, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's fictional character Alice in 'Alice in Wonderland'. Image: Lewis Carroll/Hulton Archive/Getty.

Fans like Jones can be left gutted when famous people they place on a pedestal reveal themselves to be less than perfect.

It’s easy to fawn over their work and daydream about a person whose talent and gifts must make them remarkable. It’s not uncommon to sadly find out they're ordinary people, with exceptional brilliance in one area.

These icons are often described as having "feet of clay", based on a Biblical story where the king of Babylon dreamed of a statue with a shiny head of gold and a dark foundation.

Celebrities who were once shining stars that "let down" their supporters, either by their actions or words, are plentiful in pop culture.

Beloved actor and comedian Bill Cosby's fall from grace lead to heated debate among his fan base and his most passionate adherents still refuse to believe his accusers, even after he was found guilty of sexual offenses.

Convicted sex offender Bill Cosby is taken out of Montgomery County Courthouse to state prison in shackles on September 25. Image: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty.

The once revered TV dad was sentenced to three to 10 years in state prison  on three counts of aggravated indecent assault earlier this year, after being accused of abuse by over 60 women.

The impulse to dismiss or minimise facts when a person fans admire is found guilty of being "lesser than" is known as "motivated reasoning".

The phenomena is described as "changing one’s mind and lifestyle can be hard work -- people prefer mental shortcuts" by Psychology Today.

When rocker Jimmy Barnes asked anti-Muslim groups such as Reclaim Australia and the United Patriots Front to stop playing his pub-friendly songs at their rallies in a Facebook post, a number of his loyalists felt scorned.

Rock legend Jimmy Barnes shattered the dreams of numerous fans when he denounced far-right rallies playing his music. Image: Ryan Pierse/AFL Media/Getty.

"I thought you were a true Australian... Good day to you, I'm no longer a fan," wrote an irate user.

"How many of us have supported you Jimmy? Never again. You are a bloody traitor," offered one disgruntled apologist.

When fans realise their icons have acted in ways contrary to them it's disappointing -- especially when it plays out on social media, Dr Belinda Barnet, Senior Media Lecturer at Swinburne University, told 10 daily.

"We saw an immediate strong reaction from fans when Kanye West appeared to support [Donald] Trump on Twitter, and this quickly snowballed into a global news story," she said.

"In this age of Twitter and Instagram, celebrities share everything from what they had for breakfast to their political beliefs so we have a live, rolling 24/7 news feed into their life.

"This means sentiment can change quickly. Social media makes everything instant, including changes in public perception."

Featured image: Getty.

Contact the author: samelia@networkten.com.au.