Yay or Nay: Celebrity Role Models?

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