Celebrity Role Models

An assignment written for my Editorial writing class on Celebrity role models!

In 2000, an 18-year-old Britney Spears performed at the MTV Video Music Awards , or the VMAs. She started her performance with a cover of the Rolling Stones classic, “I Can’t Get No (Satisfaction),” before stripping off her pinstriped suit to reveal a sparkling nude outfit and finishing with her hit song “Opps!…I Did it Again.”

The performance was not well received by parents, many of whom thought the performance was too risqué for their kids.

“Think about those twelve year olds who listen to your music, and think about those twelve years olds who saw you on the VMA’s.” a parent said when interviewed by MTV about the performance.

“I’m not their parents, I’m Britney Spears,” said Spears.

The debate on whether a celebrity is a role model, is ages old. Britney’s performance happened 17 years ago. Years after NBA superstar Charles Barkley proudly declared that he was not a role model.

“Parents should be role models, just because I dunk a basketball, doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” Barkley said in the 1993 Nike commercial.

Say what you want, but our society values celebrity. Before the Internet, fans had to catch up with their favorite stars through tabloids and fan clubs. Now, they can have instant access to their favorite by just logging onto social media.

That increased exposure seems to pressure those in the public eye to walk on eggshells because there might be little eyes watching. This is especially true for famous young women, who are heavily scrutinized. But should they be? Should celebrities have to watch what they say and do because they have young fans?

Considering studies from Bridgewater University and Common Sense Media respectively, that found that 40% of fifth graders have cell phones, and 75% of children aged 13-17 have social media accounts, it does fall on the parents to monitor their kids activity. Parents should filter out the content they want their young child to see. After all, it is the activities of parents that children are face to face with on a daily basis. Parents lay the groundwork for their children and should have more influence than someone their child has never met.

Not to mention these strict expectations for celebrity role models can be unrealistic, at times sexist and racialized.

Women like Taylor Swift are considered “better role models,” mostly because she is less provocative. Never mind the fact that some of her music goes against the feminist ideals she so often stands up for, and the fact that she’s been virtually silent on issues that effect her young fans, like not speaking out for either side in the past two elections.

Meanwhile, women like Beyoncé are slammed in the press for wearing leotards, and having more sexually charged lyrics. Despite the fact that she’s been a strong advocate for equal rights, and that her BEYGood Inviative promotes global charity.

“Beyoncé could not be a better role model for my girls because she carries herself with such class and poise and has so much talent,” said President Obama.

And yet, people like Mike Huckabee have been critical of her, calling her “vulgar.”

Yes, Beyoncé’s music is more adult in nature but it does not make her a bad role model. She, is after all, a married, mother in her thirties. She still allows young women of a certain age, to feel comfortable in their sexuality. Rhetoric against her just shows that girls do not have the same freedom as boys.

And it is a lot easier for men in the spotlight to recover their image. Although he beat his 2003 sexual assault charge, Kobe Bryant was still in the spotlight, especially where children were concerned. Just last year he was named an icon at the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards.

With all the controversy at stake, some might want their child to move away from a celebrity role model and adopt one who operates outside of the public eye. A teacher, a doctor, anyone with a realistic career. And that’s true. Kids can gain a lot by focusing their attention on someone who is in a field that is feasible for them. It is the purpose behind Verizon’s #weneedmore campaign. Promoted by athletes like Drew Brees and LeBron James, the ads are geared towards getting more kids interested in STEM careers, rather than setting their sights on being a pro-athlete.

At the end of the day it is up to parents to make sure their child is looking up to the right person. Just remember, people are imperfect and in some ways they make the best role models.

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