Cobain said that he missed the comfort in being sad. And when his visage is presented as an emblem, someone else is, in a very small way, wallowing in that comfort. But he was a guy— a talented guy— but in the end just a guy. We think he was a good guy but we really have no idea; we know he was a drug addict and that he abandoned his family, but many of us overlook that because we think we understand his pain, and who are we to judge. But of course, we can’t do the same for people in our own lives. Forgiveness in real life is much harder and more complicated, which is another alluring thing about interfacing to an iconic image: We get to practice feelings when the stakes are low.
Mark Richardson on Kurt Cobain’s shapeshifting legacy and how we engage it