Sunday, February 8, 2009

Current Events Round-up: Roll Me Another Role Model, Dude!

Shortly following the release of the now infamous photo that got Michael Phelps in hot water, a morning news show aired some man on the street interviews, and a middle-aged woman commented (to paraphrase), "I thought he was a role model just like any other athlete, but now I don't know . . .)

A role model -- like any other athlete? I'm assuming her generalization excludes the baseball and football steroid scandals, or the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, or Mike Tyson's appetite for opponent's earlobes. Or O.J. Simpson, period. No, ma'm, athletes are not known for their reputations as role models. Their known for their obsession with image, or their shameless pursuits of self-indulgence, or their fierce competitive hunger. At least Phelps was only harming himself, and even that is a consistent topic of debate in society.

Christian Bale's uber-satirized tirade against the Director of Photography on the Terminator: Salvation set faces similar criticism; I've been following the comments on the MSN story, and many contributors have made the same claim, that Bale blew it as a role model. I've tried to be an advocate for kids against certain pop culture phenomena on more than one occasion, but in this case I don't think Bale's Bale-stic tantrum demands a Bale-out -- instead, I think parents finally need to evaluate who they dub "role model" more carefully.

Simply put, the more people we claim as "role models," the more we'll be disappointed. At this rate, anybody famous, from politics to sports, from music to film, qualifies -- so I'm not surprised our children are in a perpetual state of victimization and that America's parents boast a constant feeling of outrage. So, Phelps' successful worldwide representation of the United States means nothing in contrast to his private recreational use of marijuana? Bale's summer-long blockbuster box office status suffers when he flips out for a few minutes?

My buddy Brent summed it up quite nicely in an e-mail I hope he doesn't mind my quoting here: "[Bale] doesn't need to be a good person to be Batman. He doesn't need to be nice, or cool, or calm, or fun. As long as he's a good actor he can make me believe he's all those things while playing a character. That's all I need to know."

Remember when parents seized news stories like this to teach life lessons, instead of leap at the chance to claim offense? The lesson should be clear: "Now, Billy, sometimes even Batman gets mad. Nobody's perfect. What matters is that you try to be the best you can be at what you do, like Michael Phelps does, and when you make a mistake broadcast on the Internet someday, hope for the same kind of understanding we'll give them."

Then maybe you should add, "Because if you don't, Billy, we're through professionally! I mean it, we're done." Because America's enraged opinion that Bale's enraged opinion about a terrible work performance is a terrible work performance makes a lot of sense in the first place.

1 comment:

johnny_justice said...

I don't know that anybody should go around considering celebrities to be role models.

So shouldn't parents aspire to fill the role of model for their children instead of being angry and disappointed when Johnny's favorite celeb blows a fuse and gets caught blowing a dude in a car?

I'm just trying to figure out why the Bale-rant audio was released...

I heard that the studio "had to send it to their insurance company, as Bale's freak-out could be used to support a claim" in case the actor's eruptions caused the film to screech to a halt or something.