Are Celebrities Good Role Models?

I caught your attention, right? I might be playing with fire here (in fact, I’m almost certain that I am), so if you see me disappear without a trace tomorrow, please remember me by using the Wayback Machine. The truth is that these days I feel very revved up and filled with passion, which I think is a shared sentiment in the world right now. We were already experiencing the height of our emotions because of COVID-19, but the death of George Floyd and the ensuing response has shifted us into another dimension of feeling. I don’t really want to take a public stance on current world topics because of just how high the emotions are running right now, but I do think there is much to be said about the flow of information these days. While there is a part of me that wants to assign the blame to social media, at the end of the day, the Facebooks, Twitters, and Instagrams of the world are just tools utilized by people like you and I. They aren’t inherently evil, but the results of their use certainly can be. Then I got to thinking, though, who are the biggest perpetrators of propagating? Is it the 30 year-old virgin living in his mother’s basement? Or is it the 12 year-old rich girl devoid of her parents’ attention? The bloggers? The meme-lords? THE SPAMBOTS? While all of these people (and non-people apparently) are largely real culprits of propaganda, I venture to think there is a bigger group of individuals out there with far more reach than any of us average folk: celebrities.

It’s a very big call-out on my part, but in the process of staying home more because of the lockdown procedures we’ve all come to experience, I’ve had more time to sit back and watch how certain events unfold online. Usually when you’re super busy, you might just catch bits and pieces of the story, but rarely do you get to see the narrative unfold from beginning to finish. Take a moment to digest this thought: in every school, office, club, gang, or organization, there is always a social hierarchy where one or more individuals are the ring-leader(s). They’ve done something to be elected worthy of running the show and they create the standards for their followers. Some leaders are born to do it correctly; that is, they motivate, encourage, develop, and lead by example. However, there is a very realistic set of leaders who only assert dominance and bring nothing of value to the table. I’m sure we’ve all been in multiple roles throughout our lives where we’ve either experienced or been exposed to much of this. Now, let’s expand the original thought a little bit more… unless you are a part of an exclusive forum community or chatroom, when each of us uses mainstream social media, we become one of billions of people who don’t stand a chance of ever becoming the leader. Sure, you might start a Facebook Group where you’re the Admin or run a meme page on Instagram, but in the flood of posts that are published every second, you are no one. So, if you and I don’t have a voice to reach the masses on social media, who does? Well.

Throughout time in many different cultures and societies, celebrities have been and still are considered people with high influence over us. From actors to musicians and athletes to politicians, these chosen have been thrusted into the spotlight of fame and fortune, all supported and funded by people like you and I. At the end of the day, we are largely the ones who have given the voice and status to these entities, so dare I suggest that they owe us some form of gratitude? Some might argue that every movie released, every concert held, every game won, and every election commitment pays back that debt, but I think of it like the chicken and the egg; which one really came first? The truth is that when all eyes are on you, you automatically become a leader. It’s a package-deal and you can’t refuse it. I think many stars have tried to, especially the child actors who had to confront their rebellious teen years in the face of the public eye. However, the problem is that if I decide to smear hate speech all over my Twitter feed, maybe a handful of people will see it and shame me for it. When a celebrity ascends the stage, the audience is waiting to absorb their performance, and the worst part is that the audience believes their superstar is always going to steer them in the right direction because he/she has to be credible. I hate to say it… perhaps at one point in time there was a strict moral code our heroes used to stand for, but it looks like those rules no longer apply. Celebrities are just not required to be good role models anymore, and I firmly believe that many of them no longer are.

What is it that got me to thinking about this? Well, I like many others are guilty of following many famous individuals on social media, with the number of celebrities outweighing actual friends any day. It’s entertainment, eye-candy, promotional awareness, and some degree of admiration that are my main reasons for this. Some people do it because they want to communicate with their favourites or maybe just keep up with the drama, but there is one thing I gather that is for certain; a lot of people are looking to be influenced by the person they lust after the most. It’s almost like a type of long-distance love, only the other person is using you and everyone else to boost their reputation. I’m definitely generalizing here, as there are many celebrity figures who I do believe genuinely connect with their fans and seek to enlighten them, but I feel like I noticed something very different start happening when the world went into isolation. As a society around the globe, we were all mandated to return to our homes and stay there in order to save us all in the long-run. While I’ve already touched on how I feel about the way people went stir-crazy because of COVID, I hadn’t really thought at the time, “how are the role models handling it?” Then I started to notice that they weren’t. The same people who were supposed to be modelling the standard for us all were not doing it themselves. Many would still be attending parties, having family gatherings, going on walks and chilling with friends. To say the least, they were doing the absolute most. I would see fans call them out on it, to which they would respond defensively and start deflecting that it’s their life and they can live it how they please. I hate to burst their bubble, but someone should remind them that the support of their fans at the box office is part of what allows them to live said life.

It then became apparent that celebrities started turning more and more to social media to occupy their time. While some of us have been trying to embrace a wholesome lifestyle by reading, cooking, binging, and etc., our ‘heroes’ have been showing the world that without their life of social glitz and glam, they are also desperate for social stimulation. Don’t get me wrong… I’m all for checking in with the fans and what not, but what you have shown me is that you are also just as flawed as the rest of the populous when it comes to the lack of self-comfort. While I commend some of these figures for using their time productively, you have to wonder why people like musicians whose lives are based on creating music have been “bored” during this time. This is the one time no one is going to bother you, and yet you have nothing to show for it? I will give kudos to the artists who’ve been working from home. A lot of vocal cast workers have been recording from home, and some TV show hosts have started streaming one-man shows instead. As for those who are turning to their social media… what is it that they are doing all day? This leads to what I really feel is the more troubling issue. With the death of George Floyd and the movement against police brutality and racism, what really caused as many people as possible to get out there and rally? Surely, yes, it was the disgusting video and the fact that this is a repeat trend in America, but with the protesting came anarchy, violence, vandalism, thievery, and more. I truly believe that a big part of what drove the emotions to peak so highly was the undo attention the celebrities gave to the cause, which was just in the interest of their own boredom.

I know what you’re thinking. “Sean, that is a big-ass accusation.” When you take a step back and look at all the celebrities who posted black placeholders and wrote sonnets for the cause, were they out there protesting with all of you? What have any of them done to rectify the issue? With all the awareness that they’ve spread, how many of these people actually took their own advice? Over the span of days, they dug up names and examples throughout history to provoke the topic more rather than looking to the future for a resolution. To me, this is just another classic case of jumping on the band-wagon, especially in light of having nothing better to do. Deep down, the issues were a topic of entertainment/keeping occupied for them as opposed to being s symbol of great oppression. It really got me to thinking about how much power they hold over society and how that power isn’t being wielded in the most purposeful way. I noticed something similar a long time ago with the Bollywood industry, and I still see it happen today. When a woman is raped, burned, or acid-attacked, the stars flock to social media to discuss the grave injustice of their country and how unacceptable it is. BUT… WHAT ARE THEY ACTUALLY GOING TO DO ABOUT IT? Here is the thing… we all know India is corrupt and people like the film actors have immense power where law enforcement may not. It is very plausible that if these figures actually used their connections with better intentions that some of these horrific offenses would not happen. About a decade ago, India started to utilize green carpets at events as opposed to the traditional red in a means to promote a healthy Earth. Yet, the same celebrities who were chosen to be spokespeople for the cause were living their best life leeching off the Earth. If you claim to be green, show me and lead by example. Believe it or not, a responsibility has been attached to the lavish life you lead because you are an influencer, so influence actively rather than superficially.

The fallout of all of this is that we’ve bred a society of talkers and sheep. We have the people who didn’t protest or do shit for the greater purpose, but abused the life out of social media to make it seem as though they were advocates. And then we have the people who did go out onto the streets, but only did it because it was considered cool to do so and because it was the instruction given. It undermines the individuals who actually went out to fight for their rights, freedoms, and the innocent. Those people who actually brought their good intentions and sincere emotions will continue to be lumped in with the people who just seek the attention. I found this was the part that bothered me the most about this experience. What did the girl who stole the cheesecake really accomplish? Though, admittedly, I can’t blame that one on the celebrities (unless I missed the orders to rob The Cheesecake Factory).

My grand takeaway from all of this banter boils down to this advice: people, take a minute to understand that just because someone is in the position of being famous does not mean they can tell you what to do. As with any leader, they need to prove themselves worthy of your time, but also of your ear. The blind cannot lead the blind, and that is what has happened since Coronavirus reared it’s ugly head. Even within their own world of fame, some of these figures have done their part to make the world a better place, but their names have gotten lost in the sea of attention-seekers, just like many of yours have in our community. I believe the days of public relations managers have disappeared because there just isn’t any restraint anymore. Donald Trump is a prime example of a powerful figure who cannot be reeled back in, and what happened with that? People drank bleach to cure the virus. Don’t be a sheep! You are the boss of you, so do what you think is right. Don’t go back a cause you don’t truly believe in or hits home for you just because your idols have declared it to be cool. It’s now more important than ever that we remember the human beings underneath the fame and realize that many of them are deeply flawed too. We can’t fix this and we cannot force any of them to be better mentors, but we can control who we follow and give our utmost respect to. Do some background research and you’ll see, more often than not, the biggest light workers of the celebrity world are the ones who don’t brag about their moves, or, they are the ones that show you what they are doing to enforce change. Alas, just my thoughts!

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