By Heather Mullinix
In 1993, Charles Barkley proclaimed "I am not a role model."
Barkley was a star in the NBA. When he retired in 1997, he was one of a handful of players to score more than 20,000 points and collect more than 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. His stats were impressive, but the professional athlete also found himself being called upon to be a role model to young kids who looked up to him and other professional athletes.
This, in his mind, was ridiculous.
"I'm not a role model," Barkley wrote for a Nike advertisement. "Just because I dunk a basketball doesn't mean I should raise your kids."
But still, people look to these celebrity's as examples, and when they fall from the public's good graces, it can be difficult for those who looked up to them. And, based on the reaction these superstar celebrities receive for their misdeeds, those watching the round-the-clock coverage may be learning other messages, like rules don't apply to everyone.
It's not easy to pin the blame for this celebrity worship we have in our society today. What came first, the media coverage or the reader insistence? Media companies, which are businesses, usually strive to give the customer what they want. In recent years, it's been more and more celebrity news and celebrity gossip. The tabloids and paparazzi are now main stream. You even have interviews with senior members of Congress discussing the abuses of the National Security Agency interrupted for live coverage of a spoiled little Canadian being arrested for driving drunk, drag racing a luxury sports car and resisting arrest.
But the networks want to give the public what they want and, sadly, it's often at the expense of what they need — coverage of issues that really do affect their every day lives.
According to the police report and media reports, Beiber was driving a rented yellow Lamborghini at 4 a.m. last Thursday morning. He was charged with DUI, driving with an expired license and resisting arrest. His entourage apparently blocked traffic on the street. The police report states Beiber confessed to having beer, marijuana and prescription drugs in his system.
Now, it appears some of those charges Beiber have been dropped following further investigation and he only faces a charge of resisting arrest without violence.
But Bieber's legal troubles aren't over. He's facing felony vandalism charges in Los Angeles. And though criminal charges aren't likely, there have been photos of the teen smoking what appears to be marijuana, with reports the pop star is partying like a rock star.
Bieber is one of many child stars who reach a certain age and go off the rails, unable to handle their fame. Think Lindsey Lohan, Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus. It's almost like they're consciously saying, "If you can't be a good example, then be a horrible warning."
If we want to change the culture of celebrity worship in our society, it has to start with us. If you don't want your children emulating the garbage they're seeing on the awards shows, the reality shows, or even the nightly news, talk to them about what's wrong with what they're seeing. Or, just turn the TV off. Maybe if we ignore them, they'll go away.
Even better, point to actual role models they have in their lives. From teachers to coaches, to family or friends, everyone needs someone they can look up to.
And then, be a parent to your child. Talk to them about right and wrong. Teach them the values you believe are important and actually model those values as best you can every day for your child. Sure, you're not as glitzy and glamorous as the celebrities on TMZ, but you can teach your children a lot more than the over-priveleged stars.
Like Barkley said, don't expect celebrities to raise your kids. That's your job. That's the job you signed up for. The folks who are famous didn't sign up for that, and we should stop being surprised when they fail to meet our expectations for them.
• • •
Heather Mullinix is assistant editor of the Crossville Chronicle. Her column is published on Tuesdays. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.