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On Celebrities as Role Models

A role model is someone who by his or her actions sets an example for others to follow. One reason we look up to other people is that modeling our behaviour after others is common. There is an evolutionary advantage to it. It is important for infants to adapt to the environment by mimicking the behaviour of others in the same setting. Furthermore psychology studies have shown we mimic others to increase the chances of their liking us and hence facilitate smoother social interactions.

Usually society looks up to celebrities as role models because they’re famous. We want to be as rich and successful as these people so it’s only natural for us to want to emulate their behaviours. They make all their money and achieve celebrity status because the public willingly pays to see them perform so they owe something back to their fans. As a consequence society demands these people to constantly behave perfectly.

Saying that, I believe celebrities don’t have any obligation to be positive role models for society. They are humans with their own shortcomings too and they have the right to pursue what makes them happy. In 2009, Chris Brown assaulted his then girlfriend Rihanna. However today, they are back together. Since then she has received a lot of criticism from the public because the message Rihanna is sending to young women (many of whom look up to her) is domestic violence is ok and it’s ok to continue dating someone who physically assaulted you. Rihanna is an autonomous individual with her own needs, desires and emotions and they should be respected as such.

Secondly their lives are very different from ordinary people since only a handful of the world’s population will become rich and famous. It would be unrealistic to expect to live the glamourous lifestyle we see celebrities enjoy today. One problem is many celebrities receive more lenient sentences (relative to the rest of society) when they break the law. This suggests to the public the consequences for committing misdemeanours are minimal. However that is a different problem involving the legal system, irrelevant to whether those people are celebrities or role models.

There is also the issue of personal responsibility where people should be taught how to think for themselves and accept the consequences of their actions. Even though celebrities have a strong influence on society, they can’t be held accountable for the actions of others. If Megan Fox wants to continue smoking marijuana or Mel Gibson continues making homophobic comments, that’s their choice. I can’t blame them if I do the same thing and find myself in trouble with other people.

Lastly for celebrities, it’s not their job to be positive role models for society. Sidney Crosby’s job is to play hockey, Brad Pitt’s job is to act and Selena Gomez’s job is to sing. They make all their money and achieve celebrity status because the public willingly pays to see them perform. When I buy a ticket to an Eminem concert, I understand I am going to listen to him rap about sex, drugs and shoving a gerbil up his own ass, not hear him give a sixty minute anti-bullying speech.

I agree with Brande Victorian not everyone is suitable to be a role model. For many people, their role models also include family members and friends. It’s not a title we automatically give simply because they share a close personal relationship with us or are constantly in the media. Being a role model is a distinction one has to earn, not forced to accept due to certain lifestyle choices and celebrities are not any different.

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Categories: Global, Life
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