“Won’t somebody please think of the children?” – Helen Lovejoy, in nearly every episode of The Simpsons.
After an incriminating video of One Direction members Louis Tomlinson and Zayn Malik was stolen, showing them allegedly smoking a joint, fans are outraged at the behaviour of the two band members. With other celebrities like Miley Cyrus also lighting up at the 2013 MTV European Music Awards and Justin Timberlake admitting regular use, we must ask, how does this behaviour effect their fans?
With the increase of social media, celebrity gossip and news being accessed at all times through videos, articles, tweets and rumours, organisations like TMZ.com and Entertainment Tonight expose the latest shocking actions of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. This pulls individuals into the cultural obsession our society has with A-list stars. Multiple celebrities won’t hide the fact that they have or do partake in taking drugs and drinking alcohol. Some celebrity deaths by overdose have been glamorised in the media, which might lead young fans to believe this behaviour is acceptable or even “cool”. Celebs easily impact their followers, with teens being the most vulnerable. Their actions, clothes, speech and overall persona can mould a teen due in their most formative years.
With shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, teens are led to believe they can become famous by partying on camera or having a baby at 16. The fact is, they won’t become famous. Instead, it can damage their adolescence – not because they are partaking in dangerous behaviour (teens have always experimented with drugs, alcohol and risk taking) but because they are not doing it on their own accord. Teens need to find their own personality and style, not just mimic their chosen idol. According to David Keatley, a doctor of psychology at Curtin University, we are all open to influence, although teens are easier to manipulate. “We learn from an early age (and evolutionary reasons) to mimic those others who exhibit successful behaviours. Musicians are elevated to a level of success, so we continue this learned mimicry, and try to copy them,” he said.
Throughout adolescence our sense of style, speech, likes, dislikes and even circle of friends can change. We try to find who we are and it can be an awkward time in our life. This makes us a magnet to change and persuasion. Although, humans usually become less impressionable over time. “As we get older, we confirm and solidify who we are much more, and though we can still be influenced, we are more aware of false idols (rather than blindly following role models),” Dr Keatley added.
Too often we hear of teens doing reckless things because their friends or idols are doing it too. Peer pressure is a hard influence to deal with as a young adult, but seeing an idol who you aspire to be like doing things like smoking weed or posing nude can be a huge influence. However, we must remember it’s always easier to blame another for our own actions. “Some individuals will look for an excuse for their behaviour,” said Dr Keatley.
As a celebrity, should people like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus take responsibility for the effect they have over their fans? Their actions can alter a whole generation’s lifestyle and personality. Should they need to change their behaviour because of the consequences that can come about? “While I agree, responsibility of behaviour should be on the shoulders of the individual performing that behaviour. I think we must all be aware of the influence we have on others. If we’re elevated to a state of celebrity or musician, in which our level of influence also raises, then part of that process is to take the responsibility of setting a good standard. Being a good role model.” commented David Keatley.
Although these stars do have an influence over their fans, we must ask, do they deserve to be criticised about their behaviour when parents should also be responsible too? Is it an idol who is influencing a teen so much to do drugs and post barely clothed photos for attention, or is it just a case of bad parenting? – Alana Scott
Screen shot from YouTube.