Thought Journal: How important is it for celebrities to act as goodrole models?

by - 16:00

Today I'd like to talk about two celebrities that I've followed, loved and sometimes really disliked over the last few years. Both have a following of over 40 million on Twitter and Instagram and although they are exceedingly different in their style, career paths and outlook on life, they both have something in common.
 
They are both massively influential people, purely because there are so many others that follow their every move, word and thought on the likes of social media. And so, that begs the question: how important is it for celebrities to act as role models and use their influence responsibly?
 
KIM K 
CC Image courtesy of Eva Rinaldi  on Flickr
 
Last week, Kim Kardashian posted a picture of herself in the nude on Twitter and sparked a number of low-level-passive-aggressive comments from a fair few people (namely Bette Middler and Chloe Moretz) who suggested that it was wrong or shameful to have posted the image. (Find original tweet here)
 
Let's be honest, it's not like Kim Kardashian is the type of person to never show off her figure (both in and out of clothes) and she wasn't breaking any rules by posting that image. As an individual, Kim is free to post any picture she likes of her own body (she brought out an entire book of selfies for crying out loud) and, in my opinion, there was a good balance between her making the post funny and also giving herself some self love. Because, come on, she knows she looks good.
  
Chloe's comment directed at Kim was almost reprimanding her for posting the picture by suggesting that Kim should be 'setting goals' for young women and using her influence 'for good'. Kim and her family have done a number of 'good' things, from supporting charities and donating to the less fortunate to promoting acceptance/self love and discouraging bullying. But without even mentioning that, people will take from her actions whatever they want to take. If they want validation that it's okay to post half-naked pictures online (or even just to take them) then that's what they'll get. If they think that she's promoting behaving in a 'slutty' manner than that's what they'll see. If they think she's promoting body acceptance and celebration then, again, that's what someone will take away from it.
 
Personally, I saw it is a light-hearted bit of self appreciation. Her comment about "having nothing to wear" followed by a picture of her, frankly amazing, naked figure works well as a sort of juxtaposition between normalising herself and showing off her unbelievable body and is very much in the style of Kim.
 
When I started watching Keeping Up With The Kardashians, I never thought that one of the things I would take away from it would be this really present connection and loyalty towards your own family. The sisters are so close and they seem to really care about and support each other. So, in a way, they have been a type of role model for me, and that's definitely a good thing.
 
I agree that younger, impressionable girls who follow and admire Kim may see this image and think it's appropriate to post nude/revealing images online but it's not exactly like these girls couldn't get the same idea put into their head from a number of other places that expose and promote the same thing. Plus, is it really the sole job of celebrities to teach young girls and boys that they should be cautious of taking nude images?
 
Kim Kardashian is by no means perfect (although she may think so - and that's okay!) and I don't think it's fair to berate her over a scanty image and suggest that she isn't being a good role model. Also, don't even get me started on whether the same backlash would have been given if this had been an image of a male celebrity.
 
 
MILEY  
https://www.flickr.com/photos/karinasaskia/13092435923
CC Image courtesy of karina3094 on Flickr
 
Next is Miley Cyrus. The squeaky clean (ish) Disney channel star turned bad ass, party animal, pill popping diva, turned weed-loving, vegan, LGBQT supporting hippie definitely doesn't hold back in self expression and acceptance. While drugs are not something that should be taken as an influence, she's journeying to find herself and is promoting a lot of really worthy causes and things to remember along the way.
 
She uses her platforms - mainly Instagram - to express her opinion on everything from support for the LGBQT community to animal rights campaigns to AIDS charities. She regularly posts images that could be seen as being in the same league as Kim's recent nude pic, and she definitely gets her fair share of hate for doing so.
 
Miley is a unique celebrity in that she has grown up in the public eye and made all her decisions (and mistakes) in front of anyone and everyone who may be watching. She's a young adult and, although her influence is massive in terms of how far she can reach, she's still learning herself and should be free to experiment with how she wants to be without being told to behave a certain way so that she is a 'good role model' for her fans.
 
It's this kind of thinking that has resulted in many celebrities who joined the business at a young age ending up in very undesirable places and some are lucky if they manage to keep their dignity intact, let alone their career and subsequent influence.
 
There are good qualities that can be taken from anyone and used in a positive way (i.e. to create a role model) but if you're looking for someone who is going to behave in all the ways that you want them to, you're going to be disappointed. People will be people, and sometimes you only see what's on the surface, so to say that somebody is or isn't a good role model based on what you see in the media is unfair.
 
Social media breaks a barrier and also acts as a platform. Celebrities have the choice to share a lot, a little or have somebody else run these platforms for them. At the end of the day, I think we forget that there's still a human behind all the professional make up, designer clothes and music/movies/photo shoots. Humans aren't perfect and although you could argue that this is the reason that celebrities have PR agents (to prevent or minimise bad exposure) who is to say that it's fair to only receive an all-glittering version of the celebrities we know and love?
 
 
JUST FOR WOMEN?
 Just one final point: how often do you hear the same pressure of being a 'role model' applied to male celebrities? Certainly not as much as you hear it being applied to famous females. Either this is a way to shame women in the media by suggesting that they can't behave in a way which could influence others negatively and to encourage them to only behave 'one way' lest their behaviour makes somebody behave in the same way because this celebrity is their role model.
 
It's that, or we as a society are convinced that young women are unable to think for themselves and must have role models in the public eye to look up to, or they won't possibly become the cookie-cutter individual that is so unrealistically promoted. Oh, and these role models can also only behave in a way which is not too sexualised - but not too prude, not too outspoken - but not too shy and successful but only in the right areas.
 
We should be teaching impressionable girls (and boys) how to rationalise and form opinions of their own, without expecting them to map themselves onto a public figure who has no presence in their life and is, essentially, uncontrollable. When I was younger, I remember being a massive sucker for needing validation for my actions (which I often got from celebrities) but I never felt as though I should be copying them like for like.
 
Maintaining a balance between what the public, media and any other influence in your life wants AND still being yourself is impossible to do and you just can't make everyone happy. I'm not sure why Chloe Moretz assumed that she was in a position to be telling anyone how they should behave (let alone Kim Kardashian) and, if I'm honest, I now think much less of her for doing so; although it's always fun to see a good Twitter spat ;-)
 
What do you think? Should celebrities with a big influence behave more conscientiously? Or is it more important to teach young people how to think for themselves?
 
Stay inspired, 
 
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