Monday, April 28, 2008

The Trouble with Role Models

When I was a kid, probably around fourth or fifth grade, one of the more swinging teachers (probably one of the hepcats involved in music or English) had our class write an essay entitled "Who Is My Role Model?"I know Dixie's really Julie London. And I actually admired Kent McCord more than Mantooth. But I found Adam-12 boring. Your mileage may vary. As I continue on for 148 more words, I show the required amount of effusive awe at the knowledge and wisdom of my elders, a hope to someday be as old as my elders, and an appropriate disdain for counter-culture activists.
Nowadays, people mix up the concepts of "role model" and "celebrity babysitter." As I learned back then (in the darkest days of the dark ages long before The Interwebs and before widespread cable teevee) a role model is not someone who partakes in headline-seeking antics, flashing strangers drunkenly, beating up all comers, and warming a plank in the local lock-up.
Unless, of course, that's the role you're seeking.
Back last century, before the state-decreed multiple-birth laws, a kid might have an older sibling to make mistakes (that one could avoid) and achieve success (that one could envy and avoid).
Nowadays, kids just stumble willy-nilly through emulating their imaginary best friends from teevee or YouTube and possibly finding some way to make their parents feel guilty and reward them with something electronic, expensive, and likely to compel them into worse behavior.
But I must give some credit to my peers who haven't tossed their offspring on the Disney bandwagon. Most of them still look "our age" and seem to be busy with their progeny biking, hiking, reading books, sailing, enjoying music lessons, and just plain avoiding all the crap on kids' teevee. Like CSI:Band Room or Law&Order: Special Detention. Or whatever that Dancing with the Lost Ugly Idol thing is about.
I do, however, worry about a couple of kids. The one whose mom installs a stripper pole and the second-generation pop starlet waiting for the one hit that makes her as significant a commodity as her one-hit wonder dad.

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