I fear that fandom has gone too far. Mainstream popular culture is now, more than ever, a prominent influence in Western society. How long did it take you to find out that Adele released a new song? At press time, her new song “Hello,” was released only two weeks ago and it already has more than 253 million views on YouTube. If you didn’t already know that she released a new single, I am impressed. Unfortunately, now you do know. And that is my point: it is near impossible that anyone is able to completely escape the influence of popular culture. Some way or another it will find you, so the best thing for you to do is to remember to remain critical and skeptical.</p>
This is an important feminist issue because popular culture is starting to infringe on the movement. It seems that some female celebrities are being marketed as feminist role models in order to capitalize on that growing interest. I walked into the living room the other day to find my little sister singing and dancing to a Taylor Swift song. My sweet, naive, six-year-old sister then looked up at me and said, “When I grow up, I want to be Taylor Swift.” Impressionable young girls are particularly at risk for falling into the trap of idolizing female celebrities — but truthfully even adults are not immune.
Taylor Swift, Cara Delevingne, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson… the list goes on and on. So many female celebrities are represented as the epitome of “girl power.” In interviews, movies, and press conferences, these women advocate for feminism with very convincing messages. It is incredibly easy to fall for their trap. And yes, it is a trap. What do all of these women have in common (other than shiny hair, nice figures, and a sassy attitude)? They are all trying to sell you something.
Jennifer Lawrence wrote an article about the wage gap issue and spoke about her personal experience of being paid less than her male counterparts. I read the article and loved it. Cara Delevingne admitted in an interview that she suffered from depression with the hopes of telling people that even with success and popularity, everyone is just trying to navigate how to live in this crazy world. I was inspired by her bravery. Emma Watson has come forward time and time again with poignant quotes like “young girls are told you have to be the delicate princess. Hermione taught them that you can be the warrior.” I respected her candor.
No, I am not trying to tell you that what these women said was not powerful and inspiring. But they are not our friends and they are not on our sides. The truth is, in some way or another, they are selling something to us. Each of those women are brands with high net worth because these messages inspire people to hand over their wallets and buy movie tickets, albums, and cosmetic products.
Many people who we never see employ each celebrity and strategically manipulate their messages in order to be exactly what we want to hear. These women are not our friends, but they are specifically engineered to seem like they are. I am completely open to the possibility that I might not be right about this — but you will have a hard time proving me wrong. We will never know for sure if they are genuine when they support women’s rights just like we will never know if Taylor actually dated Harry Styles or if Beyoncé and Jay-Z actually love each other. Unless you personally know someone, you can’t be sure that they are authentic.
Appreciate their messages, but don’t attribute it to the people. When you do that, you might become confused and turn these women into your role models. Just like these women are not your friends, these women are not your role models. It is unhealthy and unrealistic because if you idolize them, you’ll start to change yourself to fit their engineered images. And that is what the marketers want because that is how they make money.
Your role model should be a person who embodies the traits of your ideal self. The idea of a role model is that you will model yourself based on their example, so in doing so their example must be congruent with your goals. Celebrities have goals of their own so they do not make good role models. My advice is that you be as selective as possible, or don’t bother having a role model at all.
I want to point out that this message can be true for men as well. I intentionally didn’t gender the term “role model.” Men are also susceptible to thinking that celebrities are their role models. Men and women need to remember to be more skeptical about the intentions of the people in the spotlight. Don’t absorb content — think about it critically before you say you “want to be Taylor Swift.” She is an image, not a role model.