Celebrity role models exist only in fiction

By Assistant Campus Editor

A typical standby of the media is reporting on the less-than-optimal behavior of celebrities. Former child stars Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus have received some of the worst criticism recently and parents of young fans aren’t pleased with the influence such bad behavior may have on their children.

Despite entering their 20s, Bieber and Cyrus are still expected to tailor their work, performances and personal life choices to a prepubescent audience, which is incredibly unfair. Celebrities, whether they began their career as a child or an adult, should not be held to a role model standard unless they explicitly state that they want to be, and most of them do not.

When Bieber was arrested and charged with drunk driving without a valid license and resisting arrest Jan. 23 in Miami, media outlets exploded with criticism, most of it based on Bieber’s label as a role model. Although his recent actions are reprehensible, it is not his responsibility to be a role model for anyone’s children. Bieber signed up to be a singer and performer, not a poster boy for appropriate adolescent behavior.

It’s understandable why society holds someone like a politician to a high moral standard; their job description clearly states that he or she is representing the people. But Bieber and Cyrus are not representing anyone but themselves. Their job is to entertain, and they have certainly done that. Making a difference as role models is just something they can do because they have the privilege and power to, but it’s not something that should be required or expected of them.

Parents and the media often tell children they should look up to others in order to mature gracefully. The fundamental problem with this is that youths should not aspire to be someone, they should aspire to do something, and telling them otherwise is ultimately a disservice to them.

The media circus has converged on Cyrus since the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards, when Cyrus received an enormous amount of criticism for suggestively twerking, yet Lady Gaga performed at the same awards show wearing nothing but a seashell bra and a G-string and somehow received much less criticism. The criticism she did receive was not about her inadequacy as a role model, though. The explanation for this double standard reflects the two singers’ different audiences and what their different fan demographics expect of them.

From the beginning of Gaga’s career, her music, performances and overall image were never meant for the teenybopper audience, in contrast to Cyrus, who initially targeted her music to juveniles when she began her Disney Channel career at the age of 13. They both performed provocatively at the VMAs, but Cyrus received more backlash than Gaga solely because her audience is younger, which somehow made people irrationally think that her actions were more inappropriate than Gaga’s.

The bittersweet curse of celebrities who found fame on the Disney Channel is that they often carry that audience with them for the rest of their careers. Even when they are no longer teens and have matured as entertainers, they are still expected to be teen idols. Fellow Disney veterans Hilary Duff, Lindsay Lohan and Zac Efron have also been held to this standard. While some have handled the burden better than others, it’s unfair to expect stars to tailor their work to a young audience for the entirety of their future careers.

Bieber was never a Disney Channel star but initially acquired a young audience because he was also young. Despite avoiding the Disney Channel brand, he is a star who is still suffocating under the restrictions of a young audience.

It’s already enough pressure for Bieber, Cyrus and celebrities like them to be good performers, but putting additional pressure on them to be role models is ridiculous. Not allowing celebrities to grow out of their childhood phases, to grow as performers and as individuals, is crippling them in more ways than one. It seems as though it’s been forgotten that just as Bieber and Cyrus have matured, perhaps their audiences have as well. If the audiences are allowed to grow up, child stars should be allowed to as well. There will always be someone new to fill the role tweens across the nation crave, which will hopefully give Bieber and Cyrus a break.