I Think Young America Needs Old Role Models

The first two times I drafted this, I faced off two “role models” and pointed out the pros and cons of each one, naturally focusing on the role model debate of Miley Cyrus. Yet as I thought about what I was writing, I couldn’t help but think that the VMA “catastrophe” it isn’t exactly Miley’s fault. Sure, you could pin it on her publicist or PR team, but she is acting just like any other 20-something pop star that has come before her. It’s just the way Hollywood works.

I think some people, particularly those in my age range, need to get off the Miley-hating horse and think about what female pop-stars were like during our preteens. Need I remind you of the “X-Tina” age or Britney’s “Toxic” phase? The outrage over J-Lo’s over-exposed full figure? Or even the great head-shave of 2007?

As a whole, we shouldn’t be berating Miley for acting like her teen-year role models. She grew up the same way those Disney Mickey-Mousers did before her: she was a child in the eyes of the media and wanted to make it known that she is now an adult. Rather than bashing her and the tradition of tramp-transformation, wouldn’t it be easier to change the definition of what a role model is?

As an adult, when asked who your role models are, eight times out of ten people will respond with “parents.” But ask a preteen or teenager the same question. High chances “parents” will barely make the top five. Me? My teen-year role models consisted of Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman (I really loved the Bulls, okay?), Bill Clinton, and the queen herself – Britney (bitch). Those are some grade-A role models. Well… more of a C+.

Rodman instilled my love for tattoos, piercings, and weird hair. Clinton taught me cigars, booze, and sex were cool. Britney paved the road of crop tops and dancing like a high-end hooker. MJ is the only role model I can say, with confidence, that taught me anything positive – if you work hard, you too can earn six NBA championship rings. So how are my teen-year role models any different than those who are currently looking up to people the likes of Miley, LeBron, T-Swift, etc.? Hint: they’re not.

While I firmly believe that it’s the parents role to instill morals and values (and possibly a belief system) in their children, I feel that many parents overlook those impressionable teen years with phrases like “it’s just a phase” or “they’ll grow out of it.” Enter Hollywood. The over-exposure to media, thanks to the Internet and television, has really put a heavy bounty on the minds of young America. But instead of focusing on those who choose to exploit their youth and wild rebellion on the air with the ever-nagging moral of “this is why drugs are bad” to little Johnny or Susie, why not add some positive exposure to the negative and let them learn for themselves?

As is basic knowledge, the more someone is told not to do something, especially as teens, the more they’ll want to do it. On the other hand, the more someone is told I have the same chance to succeed as, I don’t know, Meryl Streep? Or Misty May? The more they will want to work towards it. Our society doesn’t give our youth the credit of being smart enough to figure out how to be successful in the world. Instead, they are filled with “what not to do” based on personal past mistakes and mistakes of those in the lime-lite. If I don’t have enough faith in my future children to not emulate whatever trash pop-star is strutting around the VMA’s naked, then I have failed in raising my child.

Just like I am, 20-something artists are still growing up. They don’t understand the true responsibility that comes along with being a role model. They believe that life is being young, partying, YOLO-ing, and “sticking it to the man.” Nowhere in their contract as celebrities does it say that they have to be upstanding citizens. If they are so naturally, then that’s great! But it is unfair to ask them to grow up when they’re experiencing life the way that everyone does at their age – albeit in an extremely rich fashion.

This is why I believe that it’s not the 20-something’s that we should be putting in front of our youth – it’s the 30-somethings.

Sure not every 30-something is applicable to my point here; but it almost goes without saying that by the time these celebrities are 30, their wild phases are over and they’ve figured out their lives. Take Kelly Osbourne for example. If you told me that ten years ago she would be as professional – and gorgeous – as she is now, I would have laughed in your face. It’s hard enough being a regular 20-something; I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if my mistakes were publicized and criticized nationally, being labeled as a bad role model, when I’m still trying to figure out who I am.

Teens aren’t looking at Miley saying “I want to get famous so I can stick my tongue out on stage and grind on someone old enough to be my dad!” they’re looking at people like Neil Armstrong saying “If he can walk on the moon, so can I.” Or, more recently, acknowledging that people like Ashton Kutcher didn’t jump from being a baby to a millionaire. Instead, he worked minimum wage like every teen with a summer job. He understands the pressure that is being placed on the future leaders of America and has a good message to send. It’s people like Ashton that should be put in the view of our youth – not in a forcible “look at me with a foam finger” kind of way, but one that says “look what’s possible if you work hard and try.”

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