Tsk. Tsk. Haven’t parents learned by the Britney Spears insanity that pop stars do not make good role models for their children?
Yet, millions of children have chosen their role model to be Hannah Montana, the fictional Disney character played by 15-year-old Miley Cyrus, who lives a double life as a student and a rock star. Therefore, when Vanity Fair photographed Miley Cyrus with tousled black hair, a satin sheet covering her front and her back bared, parents were outraged.
Part of the problem with having celebrities as role models is that people cannot differentiate the character from the real person acting in the role. A picture of Miley Cyrus on the beach wearing a bikini would have been more socially acceptable (and more revealing), but parents are upset because Hannah Montana would have never agreed to the artistic photo shoot, even with her teacher and grandmother present at all times.
Characters are usually predictable, but the actors are not. In the ’90s when guys were drooling over pictures of Britney Spears and girls wanted to be her, who could have guessed that Spears would end up shaving her head and attacking the paparazzi with an umbrella?
I’m not saying that parents should throw a bag over their kids’ eyes and not allow them to be exposed to pop culture. First, it’s impossible to shield someone from something that’s plastered all over the Internet, billboards and merchandise in stores as well as being on everyone’s gossipy lips.
Second, ignorance is part of the problem. It’s easy to get lost, seeing only the glitz and the glamour of being rich and famous. Celebrities have more money than they know how to spend, and everyone knows their names. Yet, parents should point out to their children that not all that glitters is gold. If celebrities were happy, they wouldn’t constantly be thrown into jail and caught doing drugs. It’s okay to enjoy an actor’s work as long as a healthy role model is established (such as a parent, relative or someone successful in the child’s aspiring career path).
We shouldn’t ignore celebrity dysfunctions, however, because they serve as representations for the larger picture of our society. Tabloids exploit celebrities’ dirty laundry so that we can push our own under the rug. Britney Spear’s divorce depicts the ugliness of custody battles. Lindsey Lohan represents the desperation of drug use. Jamie Lynn Spears, pregnant at 16, exemplifies the statistic that just under one-third of girls in the United States will get pregnant in their teenage years.
An article written in the May 9 issue of Entertainment Weekly brought up a good point about the Miley Cyrus debacle. Female stars reap more criticism than male stars, showing that this country is still sexist and women have a ways to go before they will be considered equal to men. As they reported, there was very little criticism to Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz’s 2005 nudity or 2007 sex tape. Yet, Disney forced actress Vanessa Hudgens to apologize for her nude pictures as a lapse in judgment. Lindsay Lohan was severely criticized for her Marilyn Monroe poses even though Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe suffered very little heat for taking an entirely nude role in the play Equus.
The next big controversy will most likely be Dakota Fanning’s new movie Hounddog, scheduled for release in July. In her first mature role, Fanning plays a 12-year-old girl who is raped. The sad thing is that people will mostly get caught into a web of criticism protesting Fanning’s performance and lose sight of the true message that everyday girls suffer from sexual abuse. Is it too much to ask that this enlightenment brings relief to victims, rather than criticism?
If we stick our heads in the sand and just try to restrain children from becoming adults, nothing will be done to help the upcoming generations make healthier and happier life choices.