Public Figures as Role Models Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Take, for instance, a day in the life of an athlete. According to an article written by Deidra Anderson and Tony Morris, athletes live a regimented day from sun up until late into the evening. Their meals are typically pre-mixed and prepared by professional nutritionists to ensure their bodies have the necessary nutrients for their particular needs. After breakfast, they report to their coach for practice. Their may be some press interviews and a game and then their day is done (59-62). In fact, experts have reported that once an athlete retires and enters the working world, they require career and life counseling similar to that which a soldier receives upon returning from duty (Hill 7). If a person is incapable of taking care of themselves properly, then there should be no doubt as to their ineptitude as a role model for young people.

In a recent episode of the reality show, Cake Boss, the true incompatibility of public figures and regular young people is made most clear by the appearance of public figure, "Snookie" from the show Jersey Shores at the bakery. While at the bakery, she requests a birthday cake for her mother's party featuring her as the character that she plays. When approached by a young delivery man from the bakery, she gives him a hard time about not having a proper tan (Snookie). This woman's life centers around her own appearance and fame. This is not what a normal life is like.

Additionally, when young people are presented with stories and images of these public figures, they become easily discontent with their own lives. In response to what they see from these public figures, they may dress differently, act differently, pick up bad habits, or even run away from home to try and make a life for themselves. Public figures live in a different world, one that should not so readily be impressed upon the minds of young people.

It can be argued that public figures give young people a means to set goals for themselves. In the United States, capitalism has always taught young people that if they work hard enough they can accomplish their dreams. However, the opposite is usually true of public figures. Athletes, actresses, and musicians are typically discovered at young ages and immediately rise to stardom. So to encourage young people to strive for such a goal is futile and setting the child up for failure.

Argument Four: A Public Figure's Guidance can only be Indirect

Every parent wants their children to have positive role models that send out the most desirable messages. Parents hope that their children will take in the good and filter out the bad messages provided by public figures. However, even the overall good messages that celebrities present are so generic that they are entirely inapplicable to most young people. In her book, Young People and the New Media, Sonia Livingstone presents many of the messages being taught in the media and the implications of those messages. Common messages sent out by the media include vague ideals such as "don't smoke," "stay in school," "don't do drugs," "eat healthy and drink milk." (5-15). While helpful, these messages are only the tip of the iceberg of what a young person must learn and integrate in order to become a responsible member of society.

These messages are even more convoluted when the public figure sending this message engages in opposing behavior themselves. For instance, it is becoming exceptionally common young public figures to take a stance on staying away from drugs and alcohol and yet most of them are caught at ages as young as 18 getting intoxicated or worse. Young people do not need generic messages from people who cannot even follow their own advice.

It could be argued that regardless of the message being indirect, young people still wish to emulate the public figure's behavior, thus their behavior must become worthy of young people's emulation. While this is a valid argument, consider the issue of liberty. A public figure is protected by the same laws as the rest of the population. When that public figure wishes to make a public speech, they are given that freedom to do so by the same laws as the rest of the population. So, given that public figures are the same as the rest of the population in the eyes of the law, is it truly fair, or intellectually honest to expect them to have exceptionally moral or upstanding behavior. Instead, it would likely be more constructive for parents to discuss the negative actions that the public figure took and why those actions were wrong. Given the media coverage of public figures when they are in trouble, a parent could easily teach their child a valuable lesson in consequences. But the key is that it takes the parent's guidance, not the public figure's behavior.

Argument Five: Role Models Should be Tangible People

Consider for a moment how reliable the human memory actually is when it comes to relationships. Is it easier to remember a favorite athlete from 15 years ago or a special teacher? There is a reason why it is easier to remember the teacher, that person was actively involved in the life of another; whereas most people will never come into direct contact with a single public figure. Simply put: young people require real role models. People who are tangible and active in the daily lives of the person they are seeking to help. Charles Barkley put it best in his 1993 Nike Commercial, "I am not a role model. I'm not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court. Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids." (May 443).

In recent years, more and more studies have been released on the advantages of tangible role models. In a study conducted by Jean Rhodes it was found that even a year of direct mentorship has great advantages for young people. According to Jean,

Speci-cally, youth in relationships that lasted for a year or more reported the largest number of improvements, with fewer effects emerging among youth in relationships that lasted from 6 to 12 months. Those in relationships that terminated within 6 months reported decrements in several indicators of functioning, including signi-can't increases in alcohol use. (213).

In other words, the most positive role models that young children can have are adults that are directly involved with the child's life.

Argument Six: Public Figures are not Worthy of the Pedestal they are Placed Upon

It is human nature to idealize those who we see through the media. When actors play heroic roles in films, it is only natural that people see that person through the light of their role, not through the light of how they truly are. When this happens, people then assign that desired set of morals to the public figure. Then, as always happens, this public figure does something questionable in real life, leading to a feeling of betrayal and disappointment by those who considered that person a role model.

It could be argued that the public figure chose to step up onto the pestle and put themselves out as a public figure, and therefore, they should act accordingly. This argument, however, raises the question of how a public figure must act and by what standards they should be held accountable. In reality, it is far more useful to concentrate on having personal morality, and this is much more impacting on childrens' behavior.

Counter Claim One: Public Figures Work for the Public

There is a common argument used in response to public figures being expected to be role models that the public figures owe proper behavior to the public because the public is the one assuring their fame. It is commonly argued that, for example, people pay to see sporting events when their favorite athlete is playing. Therefor, that athlete should show good behavior. This argument is flawed in one simple way, the motives behind the public's sponsorship of the person. When someone buys a movie ticket, it is not usually the first thought on their mind as to whether they should see that movie because of the actors, rather the plot of the movie. Additionally, politicians are voted into office for how they will ensure their voter's needs are met. Politicians are not voted into office because they are good people. In fact, very few good people exist in politics because it is such a tricky career. Thus, it is ridiculous and arrogant to demand public figures to act in a manner that may be opposite to their nature, simply because they are a public figure.

Counter Claim Two: Pubic Figures are Deceptive if they Act Differently in Private than in Public

Another common argument used to persuade others that public figures should be role models is that they are otherwise deceptive people if they…

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