Public Figures Should Not Be Obliged to Act as Role Models Essay

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Public Figures as Role Models

Should Public Figures be Obligated to be Role Models to Young People?

There is an intrinsic desire in people to seek out and imitate others whose behavior is considered better than one's own. Children idolize their parents as role models. As a child gets older, they may seek out role models from other places including public figures. It is this susceptibility to other people's influence that has many parents and politicians alike concerned about and arguing for an expectation of moral and even admirable behavior from public figures.

For the most part public figures act within the confines of the law, just as any other citizen would. When this higher standard of conduct does not happen, the public becomes disenfranchised with that public figure and often turns against them, resulting in an end to that particular public figure's career. On the other hand, there are many public figures whose life is spent shocking the public with their often outlandish actions. To these people, the media makes every attempt to remind the public that they should not be considered a role model, and yet they continue their career and their impact on young people.

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This double-standard view of the actions of public figures brings into question whether public figures must be role models to young people, simply because they are public figures or whether public figures deserve the same benefit of the doubt that every other citizen receives including the freedom to be imperfect. A public figure is anybody that's pervasively involved in the pubic such as an athlete, entertainer, musician, reality-show star or maybe even a politician. Basically, anyone who is in a career that draws attention to themselves. A role model, on the other hand, is someone who serves as an example to others or someone whose behavior is worth emulation by others. When all points are considered, public figures should not be obliged to be role models, it should be a choice on the part of a certain entertainer, athlete, musician or politician to carry themselves however they desire.

Argument One: High Level of Scrutiny

Essay on Public Figures Should Not Be Obliged to Act as Role Models Assignment

According to the above definition, public figures are who they are because they draw attention to themselves through their career. Public figures are seen by thousands, if not millions of people. Their lives are closely followed by the media and public. In fact, even the most private of details, such as hospitalizations, are constantly aired for the public's knowledge. With that many eyes watching, there is absolutely no way that a public figure's behavior is going to please everyone.

Imagine catering a dinner party with over 2000 guest in attendance. The chef releases the menu in advance to wet the appetite of his guests. Instead, he becomes overwhelmed with phone calls and emails. Some are thankful for the time and effort he is putting into his work. Most of the remarks, however, are negative including complaints by some that meat should not be served, complaints by others that the food choices are not allergy friendly, and even worse, complaints by the local licensing committee that his recipes pose health hazards to his guests. The reality is that no matter what the chef served, not every guest was going to be happy with the menu. There is a sense of doubt that lingers after such an example as to whether it was the fault of the chef that these people were not pleased or the fault of the guests for placing false expectations on the chef.

This same principle applies to public figures. Over the past four years, the media has become more and more focused on the actions of celebrity mothers with their children. The media went crazy every time Angelina Jolie breast fed her children. There are even articles in magazines specifically interviewing her on the subject and often criticizing her for breastfeeding in public (Jessen). When Alecia Silverstone mouth fed her son, the media not only reported it, but many physicians responded in interviews, stating how "unhealthy" of a practice this was (Lynch). The Silverstone posted a video that she considered cute and spent the next several months being interviewed about that instead of her career. Public figures are so over scrutinized that those seeking them out as role models would be led down more rabbit trails then actually receiving guidance.

Argument Two: The Media Over-Reports Public Figures

There was once a time in the not-so-distant past when public figures were asked permission before being interviewed, photographed, or filmed. When Franklin Delino Rosevelt was president, the public was unaware that he required a wheelchair (Freedman 112). This was not because the man was reclusive, but rather because the media respected his right to privacy and understood the importance of the president appearing strong. Were Roosevelt running for office modernly the media would not only focus on his disability, but also report on everything from his brand of wheelchair to the fact that he doesn't exercise enough and then this same media would spin it to make it sound like he would be an incompetent president because he is in a wheelchair.

The standard by which the media may report information on public figures has dropped so low that public figures anticipate having their reputations ruined by the media and not being able to do anything about it. In the legal system, it is considered an act of defamation when anything untrue or inaccurate is published about someone (Cameron 10). A normal person can sue and collect damages from the media for these mistakes by simply showing that the reporter was negligent in their investigation and reporting. Public figures, however, are not afforded this luxury. Because the media is constantly reporting everything there is to know about a public figure, the public figure must show that the untrue statements were intentionally published regardless of their falsehood (Cameron 15). In other words, the media can add as much fluff or fail to verify sources of information when reporting on public figures simply because they are public figures.

The media not only over-reports stories of public figures, they beat the story into the public's mind until everyone on the street knows about it. During the OJ Simpson trial, the media shot everything. The entire trial everyday, interviews afterward, replays of previous stories, and then ended the broadcast with expert commentary on the trial (Brown 267). It was impossible to turn on the television without at least being exposed to a commercial about the "up-to-date footage" being offered.

It is not just the larger indiscretions that the media reports either, the media specializes in reporting even the most mundane occurrence by a public figure and blowing it out of proportion.

There is an old saying that "No news is good news." This is the opposite of how the media operates. To the media, the opposite is true, the more controversial the story, the greater the public interest. These news outlets have gotten to the point the they will report anything small that a public figure does that is even remotely wrong. For example, this article appeared on Fox News on December 3rd:

Nick Lachey kicked out of Bengals-Chargers game for excessive trash talking

98 Degrees singer Nick Lachey wrote on Twitter that he was kicked out of Sunday's Bengals-Chargers game in San Diego. Lachey, a Cincinatti native and huge Bengals fan, first tweeted a photo of Chargers stadium. Then, about three hours later, he tweeted: 'Just got kicked out of the chargers stadium and couldn't be prouder! Go Cincy Bengals! Finally, Lachey added: 'Bengals win again. i'd talk trash to everyone in SD, but what's the point? you already had me kicked out of the stadium and you still lost.'

According to TMZ, which published a short video from another person in attendance showing Lachey and a friend or two of his pointing fingers at other fans while leaving the stadium, Jessica Simpson's ex was kicked out when security officers determined his trash talk had crossed the line. it's unknown what Lachey, 39, said. (Nick Lachey)

This "news story" accomplishes nothing but reporting some alleged gossip, which the singer is actually proud of. Even more, people are escorted out of sports events regularly for such behavior and the media never reports on their misbehavior. This over-reporting of public figures by the media makes it impossible for a public figure to serve as a role model because they are not afforded enough privacy to be human, so of course they are going to make mistakes and get caught doing so on camera.

Argument Three: The Life of Public Figures is too Different From the Public's Life

There was once a show on television called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. The purpose of this television show was to show the public how different public figures' lives are from those of the ordinary person. Since this show stopped airing, the public seems to have forgotten how different the lives of public figures… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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