Can We Live With Imperfect Role Models?
- June 23rd, 2009
- 1 Comments
The big news out of Washington yesterday was Obama signing the new tobacco legislation that primarily limits marketing, especially as it relates to youth. What’s attracting more discussion, at least online, is whether Obama himself has finally kicked the habit. He hasn’t come out and said that he has definitively “quit,” and in fact his spokesperson says it’s “something that he continues to struggle with,” raising questions over whether he is being hypocritical and if it should matter at all.
As a former teenage and young adult “social smoker,” (luckily I don’t have an addictive personality and never got hooked), I found the nuance of someone who has personally struggled with this habit talking about that struggle in the context of attempting to prevent youth smoking to be refreshing. Obama candidly stated, “I know—I was one of these teenagers, and so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time.” It made me think about the power of imperfect or “human” role models.
The other night I watched the movie “Role Models” on demand—it was a raunchy yet sort of heartwarming bromance with a message about redemption. The idea of two very self-involved, imperfect guys who hawk energy drinks to kids at school finding real meaning in their lives through a court-mandated Big Brother-like program was kind of heartwarming. We so often expect role models for teens to be squeaky clean and perfect—I am guilty of this, too (see my post about Jamie Lynn Spears though my point was more about when celebrities are linked to brands).
Obama’s statement made me think about whether there is value in having spokespeople like Bristol Palin speaking out against teen pregnancy or hypothetically, Chris Brown speaking out against teen dating violence. Of course the message and level of sincerity is key, but it could be potentially powerful. The challenge is that we live in a culture that tends to be so black and white/right or wrong. It’s hard for us not to judge people as saints or sinners. Yet we seem to still love our anti-heroes (at least on premium cable!) and a good comeback story….Thoughts?