Yesterday on Twitter a fan tweeted to the artist concerned a link to a Letter to the Editor regarding a concert the letter writer had recently attended with her daughter. The concert was an all ages gig, and her [early teenage] daughter was a huge fan of this artist and looked up to her as a role model, so they decided to go along. At the gig the letter writer was horrified to see the artist and band come onto the stage with wine glasses in hand, which they drank from during the gig and there was apparently also some profane language. The letter writer was so upset by this that she has banned her daughter from attending any more concerts by this artist, told all her friends and written to her local paper. The artist, upon seeing the tweet, responded ‘Eek’.
I haven’t named the artist in question because I don’t think it really matters who they are. What I’m interested in is the Letter Writers’ reaction and her beliefs about what makes a good role model. I have to say that had the artist in question, or indeed any anyone on stage, come out with a lit cigarette and smoked for the entire performance I would have been outraged too. But that’s just one of my little foibles and I will spare you the lecture on how smoking affects other people in ways that a glass of wine doesn’t because ultimately that is beside the point.
But really, what right to we have to expect other people to be role models anyway? Is it because this person is in the media that they must behave in a way we consider appropriate? I would argue that they should not behave in ways that are illegal but where do we draw the line? Is it inappropriate for an adult of drinking age to consume alcohol in a public place during a performance? Should we be attempting to shield all our children from profanity (sorry [my] kids Mum and Dad fail on this one badly)? Who’s cultural/religious/personal beliefs do we base role modelling on? Is there a standard? Who decides who is a role model?
I’m also wondering if there is a gendered dimension to this. Are women held to higher standards as role models? Is there an expectation of some sort of purity? Do you think the letter writer would have been so upset had it been a bloke they had gone to see? I obviously can’t speak for POC or people with disabilities or any other group of which I am not a member, but if anyone out there has a perspective on that as well please chime in.