Welcome back to Culture Critique. I hope you all enjoyed my last post, based around the topic of misogyny in music – if you’ve not read it yet, click here!
This week I’ll be discussing the idea of celebrity children and the influence they have on society and our young people. The idea that ‘all publicity is good publicity’ has never been more prevalent than now, especially with the young celebrities that are currently exposing themselves to the ever harsh limelight. I can’t help feel like this notion is somewhat irresponsible and has led to the glamorisation of criminality and bad behaviour. The idea that drawing attention to one’s self in any way possible is a good thing is shaping the way our young people view the world, as well as the moral decisions they frequently face. But hey… that’s just what I think. I hope you’ll read this post and form your own conclusions. I would love to hear your opinions in the comments!
The biggest story currently dominating our headlines is the Justin Bieber saga. I doubt anyone reading this doesn’t know who this kid is, but in case you’re one of those rare people who never watch the TV, go online, or venture down the magazine aisle… he’s a singer that was discovered busking in Canada. After being signed he became a global (and generally squeaky clean) phenomenon. However, after a few years of being hailed as the biggest star the world had ever seen and generating a Beatles-esque fan base of predominantly young girls, things started to go wrong. Images emerged of him smoking marijuana, spending nights with prostitutes and the worst of all in my mind, spitting on his own fans as they waited for a glimpse of their idol outside his hotel.
I’ve always been of the opinion that people can do whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t hurt other people. If someone wants to smoke drugs and sleep with hookers… fine, as long as they don’t expect any sort of respect. However, I do think that ‘famous’ people ultimately have a responsibility to the people who are spending their hard earned cash and valuable time on filling these peoples bank accounts and promoting their brand. It’s thanks to the 12 year old girls that beg their parents to buy Biebers new album, that he is where he is today. If I’m honest it doesn’t feel like he understands the word gratitude. The ‘god complex’ he seems to have developed through spending years surrounded by people telling him how amazing he is, is typical of so many young people in the spot light today; they feel they can do no wrong. So when they go drag racing, whilst drunk, they don’t seem to fathom why the world might have something to say about it. The Mirror (US) says “gone are the days it seems when kids […] wanted to become role models when they left school. Now they want to climb aboard the ‘Fame and Fortune’ express” – (read full article here)
I go back to the wider picture – how does it affect our young people? I’ve spoken to many people about the recent Bieber arrests (for the for-mentioned drunk drag racing, as well as assault of a limo driver), many of whom are still defending the star. Surely justifying drunk driver’s actions is one step too far. Our young people are subconsciously removing the criminal reproductions to these law breaking situations. You wouldn’t defend a random person you meet if he told you he’d just driven drunk, so why defend a pop star? ‘Free Bieber’ was a hashtag trending on twitter for days! Why should he be freed? Many young people, consumed by fandom, seem to be blurring the lines between right and wrong and to me this is far more worrying than anything else.
Before you misinterpret this post as an ‘I hate Justin Bieber’ musing, I’ll just add that I hugely admired him. He seemed to have made it big based on his talent and not money like many people. I genuinely started to feel bad for him as things started to go wrong; he is clearly surrounded by the wrong people, who are motivated by money and not him, and his fans best interests. as well as clearly not caring about the image he’s promoting to impressionable young people. He’s not the only one to have me worrying about the lapse in judgement of our young people. I could sit all day and list examples of so called role-models that are warping our perceptions of what is acceptable.
However, this is by no means a new phenomenon. The 80’s TV show Different Strokes is the perfect example of young actors succumbing to the terrors of fame, which became nicknamed the ‘different strokes curse’. Several of the stars became plagued throughout their lives through substance abuse, with two of the stars Plato and Coleman suffering early deaths as a result. Drug use became normalised. Offenses of assault and further drug abuse occurred, despite each star supposedly being worth over $1,000,000 each. You know what they say… money isn’t everything. Especially when you’re loved the world over and enjoy more success than most people can dream of. Oh the irony. Is anyone ever happy?
These young people are placed on a pedestal by the media and then attacked at every opportunity. It’s not hard to understand why they often fall into a downward spiral; one minute everyone is telling you how amazing you are and the next making up stories which shape the worlds view of you. With very little private life, it’s not a total shock that these young people buckle under the pressure and form a negative and downward spiral. However, do not mistake this as a justification of these teens behavior. I do not condone any of these illegal or hurtful actions. I am wholeheartedly saying that they should know better; although it’s not always black and white, the difference between right and wrong is encoded within most peoples conscious. Glamorizing drug use, driving under the influence of alcohol and assaulting people is wrong, both in the eyes of the law and the ways in which their actions are portrayed to our young people.
Now Miley Cyrus, in my opinion, should not be tarnished with the same brush as those young people promoting drug use and general law breaking. She often claims “I’m one of the world’s biggest feminists”, which has always intrigued me. If you’ve not seen her wrecking ball music video, click here and I’ll allow you to draw your own conclusions! However, in a mild defense from me, I would not group Cyrus with the likes of Bieber or the Different Strokes cast. The former Hannah Montana star often speaks out against the double standards between the way men and women are allowed to behave. She’s caused controversy with several of her stage performances, which is obviously not the best way to inspire young people, but I can’t help (with a somewhat guilty conscious) admire her. She’s not scared of anything and is experimenting with boundaries, the same as most young adults her age. She’s not committing crimes and being arrested or being disrespectful to her fans. Now, i’m not saying I feel anything but uncomfortable when watching her lick a hammer in her latest music video, but a part of me thinks she’s brilliant; she’s using one of her strongest tools (her sexuality) and using it to promote her music and increase her fame, without hurting anyone in the process. Sociologist Catherine Hakim says “She’s using it for her own purposes, she’s increasing her fan base, she’s making a lot of money, and she’s doing what she wants to do.”
So what I’m trying to say is pushing the boundaries and experimenting with your identity is not a bad thing, perhaps not something that should be anything but influential to the young people of today. It is at this point in our lives when we make bad choices, embarrass ourselves and ultimately discover who we are. The problem is, illegal behavior is being promoted by some of these young stars and this is what scares me. The use of drugs, getting in a car drunk and attacking people is not anything but wrong and I hope people my age (and younger) have not been led to believe otherwise.
– Thanks for reading, I would love to hear your opinions!