Culture

Just because celebrities have been seen by millions, does that make them a role model for millions? Celebrities are people so famous that anyone could know them. Celebrities include actors, comedians, sports stars, or even political figures like our own President. Their fame means the public holds them to a higher standard. Many celebrities are famous because they are talented or skilled at their jobs, but that does not mean they are necessarily people to look up to. As many people in the public eye fall from grace, they are criticized for setting a bad example. But should they be an example in the first place? While a lot can be learned from their professional successes, we should all think before becoming obsessed with celebrities.

In a way, we are conditioned to seek out these celebrities. Their pictures are on the covers of magazines. They have to do interviews for their various projects. Being a celebrity is a kind of brand. The Crazy Ones, a show which aired last fall, was marketed as Robin Williams’ return to television. The actor was an advertisement for his show. Celebrities help sell their shows, music, or other work to viewers. The idea is that if they are likable, more people will want to see them. The problem is when that interest goes too far. Instead of seeing people just for the way they entertain or enlighten us, their entire lives are of interest to people. Even if a celebrity does not say they want people to look up to them, admiration and attention comes their way.

Being a celebrity does not automatically make someone a role model. They may share their work with you but they do not have to hold your opinions. That said, we’ve seen multiple occasions where celebrities have done something perfectly legal but are criticized for not being a good role model. But when did these people agree to be a role model? The cast of Glee came under fire in 2010 following a racy photo-shoot in GQ magazine. The Parents Television Council was outraged at the stars’ outfits and poses. While their show is geared toward a younger audience, it is an all ages show at a major network. Much of the cast was in their twenties and thirties. Many of them also had careers before the show, so Glee was not their one claim to fame. Glee star Dianna Agron responded to the scandal at length in her blog, but one important thing she said was “if your eight-year-old has a copy of our GQ cover in hand, again I am sorry. But I would have to ask, how on earth did it get there?” This is an interesting statement because it puts the focus back on fans to decide what content they want to see. Glee is no one’s entire career or personality. It is not the cast’s responsibility to please only children. It is astonishing to ask them to do so.

Keep in mind that celebrities are still people who have a right to their privacy. Some of this privacy is to make their work more enjoyable. As Kevin Spacey once said, “the less you know about me, the easier it is to convince you that I am that character on screen.” I agree with this theory, but more than that, I think stars have to take a stand to protect their personal lives. Recently many celebrities’ phones were hacked, which led to nude photos of them being released. One of the main arguments I heard on the matter was that if they didn’t want those photos out there, they shouldn’t have taken those photos with their phone. This is certainly a cause and effect argument. If there were no pictures, no pictures would have been released. However, that completely sidesteps the issue that no one deserves to have their privacy violated. The idea that they should have expected this because they are celebrities is not fair. Fame is a literal byproduct of a star’s business, but it does not mean they want to share mistakes with the public. They are people, not cautionary tales.

It’s dangerous to assume any celebrity has done all the right things. By that I mean, you do not have to do everything a celebrity does to be like them. A crime is not sanitized because your favorite celebrity did it. Many people have dreamed of becoming rich and famous, myself included. However, I don’t know how many people want to sacrifice their private lives. Think of the Adrian Peterson case that has become popular in the news. He fulfilled his job as a football player which made him famous. Yet, it is now widely known that he is accused of child abuse. Following that, a fan attended his team’s game with his jersey and whip. That fan endorsed bad behavior along with the good, but we must accept that people make mistakes and bad choices. Even the celebrities that have used their fame for good over the years are not completely perfect. We have to decide if we want to endorse people just because we like one thing about them. Being talented is not synonymous with a moral code. We need to think before we put someone on a pedestal. You can learn from someone without repeating their mistakes.

Celebrities may be in the position for us to focus on them, but that does not mean we should. They don’t necessarily want all of our attention or are prepared for it. Even if they do want our attention, it doesn’t mean they hold our values. If you are looking at people who are successful and good at their jobs, there are many people you can look to. However, if you are looking at celebrities to be your moral compass, you don’t necessarily need to emulate someone you don’t know just because they are popular. Even the most inspirational people are flawed. It is up to you to sort the good lessons from the bad ones. Celebrities are meant to do their jobs, not take care of you. Look to the people who inspire you to be a better person. Those are your role models.

Image: Christian Haugen

Culture

For those who have suffered with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, the past years have been ones of little awareness and limited public knowledge about the illness. At one point most of the public only knew the disease as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for a famous baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in the late 1930s. However, with young people eager to spread the word, social media has been converted into a catalyst for the ALS cause via the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It’s difficult to distinguish the exact origins of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but whoever started the challenge is responsible for one of the largest charitable social media efforts to date. The rules of the challenge are that one must pour freezing, ice filled water over their head and/or donate money the ALS Association (ALSA). After partaking in the challenge, the participant will nominate others to contribute to the cause. Those nominees will then have 24 hours to complete the same task. This challenge has brought necessary funds for research along with putting the topic of ALS at the forefront of public attention, which was previously a rarity for illnesses affecting smaller portions of the population.

Despite all of these positive effects, this challenge still does not fully succeed in educating the masses on ALS. In a recent video of the challenge, a 26 year old male, who had just been diagnosed with ALS, expounds upon the disease and the strife it has caused. This video really reminds you of how terrifying the disease actually is for those who experience ALS. The posts on Facebook and Instagram from your friends seem to leave out those harrowing details; they seem to help the cause while protecting their viewers from the chilling truth of ALS.

I was actually talking to one of the kids I babysit after I’d helped her record her challenge video, and she had no idea that the cold water is meant to represent how victims of ALS experience muscle weakness and atrophy. The circulation of these videos have taught the public that ALS is a worthy cause without telling them anything about the disease. Another video that caught my eye was the challenge taped by Charlie Sheen. Instead of pouring cold water over himself, he emptied a bucket of thousands of dollars on his head and explained how he was donating all of that cash to the ALS Association. He also proceeded to chastise those who only dumped water over themselves, which I thought was a little much, but I understand where he is coming from in this situation. Yes, the videos brought attention to ALS, but it has reached a point where some seem to do the challenge in exchange for likes on social media or to poke fun at a friend because they will have to get wet.

What I believe about this whole situation is that the challenge started out as a great idea but has spiraled into something different. The videos were intended to bring awareness, but without illuminating the issues of ALS in the video not much is being taught. Contributing to the challenge is still an awesome way to help with ALS awareness, but don’t forget to mention some of the effects of ALS or even encourage your friends to donate for research.

Image: Flickr