BY MAGGIE OLSON
Miley Cyrus, once adored as the darling of the Disney Channel, is now slandered because she has taught tweens about twerking. On the other end of the admittedly limited pop culture spectrum, Jennifer Lawrence is hailed as a hero for promoting the importance of a positive body image. Both women have become the extreme examples in society’s discussion about the responsibilities of celebrities as “role models.”
Each individual on the planet tries to live their life in the way they believe is best. We live the way we think is best because if we thought another way to live was better, we would try to live that way instead.
Celebrities do the same thing, but with a larger audience. A celebrity can wield an enormous amount of power, and Spider Man tells us, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Personally, I disagree with Spider Man’s mantra when it comes to celebrities. It is not the responsibility of any celebrity to be a role model.
Celebrities operate on a large budget when indulging their vices, which means the manifestation of those vices can be extreme, and the media can paint even the most harmless behavior to seem malevolent. The extremes of their lives make even the best celebrities into bad role models because their behavior often does not fit into the context of a “normal” life. Emulating celebrity behavior in everyday life can disrupt normal social functioning because it is outside of a celebrity’s social context.
Behavior is socially constructed. By watching the behavior of others, we learn what each of our roles in life entails. We learn what it means to be a sibling, a student and a customer in a grocery store by a kind of social osmosis. The constant barrage of media we are exposed to every day is a major factor in the formation of social identity, and children are especially susceptible. In the case of children, the responsibility falls to family, teachers, day care staff, etc. to set positive examples and to help children understand what constitutes socially acceptable behavior and what does not.
If a young girl learns how to twerk from watching the VMAs, Miley is not responsible. If Jennifer’s promotion of a positive body image helps a young girl find confidence, Jennifer isn’t responsible. That’s right, even a good role model shouldn’t be held accountable.
Certainly, there was some participation from the hypothetical girls in question. There must be something in each girl’s life that reinforces the idea that the behavior of Miley and Jennifer is positive. To blame a celebrity for the behavior of a child is to absolve the child’s family, teachers, and friends from responsibility for the child’s upbringing.
In order for Miley Cyrus to be responsible for the emotional and mental well-being of a child, the child would need to spend more time watching Miley than they spend with parents, teachers, friends and all other human beings combined.
Unless a court declares otherwise, each person is responsible for their own behavior. Celebrities should be held accountable for their own behavior, not the behavior of others.