We don't appreciate our heroes for being paradigms of chastity and virtue. We revere them for inspiring us to the point that overlooking their imperfections, however numerous, becomes reasonable. A new favorite writer of mine expanded on this point in the most recent edition of Esquire:
"This magazine recently commissioned a survey of twenty- and fifty-year-old American men, and when asked to name the coolest man in the country, both groups chose [Clint] Eastwood by a wide margin. The guys born in 1960, the ones who grew up growling, 'Feeling lucky punk?' to their friends, make sense, but the ones born in 1990? How did they end up picking the old guy from 'Space Cowboys' over Clooney and LeBron?
"The answer is simple, really: During all the real and imagined crises of American masculinity that the past half century has coughed onto our screens, Eastwood has been the one stable figure in the midst of the darkness and the turmoil, a man entirely apart from the boring and draining established types that have dominated movies for four decades -- macho pigs, lovable schmucks, merry pranksters, and impossibly cool hipsters.
"Eastwood's endurance is the endurance of saints, and what he embodies more than anything is the definitive virtue for American men both then and now: restraint. He rides the line between his own terrible desires and the world as it is with the grace we all aspire to."-- from "Why is Clint Eastwood Still the Man?" by Stephen Marche; Esquire, November 2010 (with the ravishing Minka Kelly on the cover)