Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The problem with role models

I have to preface this by saying that, although Serena's actions at the US Open were dreadfully unsportsmanlike, the racist comments and general dumb-assery I've read on teh intrawebz following that outburst were -- hello?--a million times worse. 

But wow, role models: my kids sure can't pick 'em. My tennis-loving daughter adores Serena Williams. She relishes the fact that the younger sister is just a bit more athletic than older sis Venus and is also into fashion and being fancy. She plays with a Williams sisters racquet and reads every newspaper article about her she can find. We watched much of the US Open together, and every day she would ask, "Is Serena still in?" So I was relieved that she lay asleep in her bed when Serena went nuts on that line judge. My daughter read the entire article the next day, and, well, we had a teachable moment and all, but I could tell that she was a crestfallen about her hero. (She still admires Serena, for the record.)

And this was my older daughter's hero from the 2008 Olympics:

Bong boy himself. That was a fun conversation. More teachable moments than I care for, frankly. 

Now, I know neither infraction is THAT big of a deal. Athletes lose their temper (football, anyone?), young people screw up. People make mistakes. Everyone's lives will go on, and I don't think my little darlings will be too terribly scarred. 

Oh well. At least they don't idolize Kanye. 


Melanie Hooyenga said...

We watched the women's semifinal match and COULD NOT BELIEVE she was yelling at the line judge. I understand getting upset, but that was over the top, especially for someone, as you well know, IS a role model. I haven't followed the online backlash though.

And Michael, ahh Michael.

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

I guess it shows people are human and humans do stupid things sometimes. Of course, I'm not talking about Kanye here. That guy's a narcissistic drunk. The sooner he stops showing up in public, the better.

Janna Leadbetter said...

Yeah, Kanye. A whole different ball park, that one. He needs a swift kick in the ego.

Unknown said...

I don't think there's a person in the world who hasn't done something silly, said something in the heat of the moment or wished they'd kept their thoughts to themselves.
Every day's a new day, I'm sorry to say even for Kanye.

WendyCinNYC said...

Melanie--I know! I like her and felt bad for her, but jeez. Hard to defend that kind of threat.

Debra--That's true. I'd hate for my stupid things to be played out on TV, that's for certain.

Janna--Yes, it seems to be overinflated!

blueeyedadri--Yes, everyone deserves another chance. I wasn't a Kanye fan to begin with, so it's easy for me to write him off. But he could redeem himself with the public eventually if he wished.

Spy Scribbler said...

I think role models are great. They will all fall, to some extent. I would rather see kids with role models who disappoint and spark thought and conversation, than kids without any role models at all: a sad trend I saw more and more. All kids should have role models and plenty of them. They will all disappoint, but we aspire to be the best of them, not the whole of them, just like we aspire to be the best of ourselves.

WendyCinNYC said...

Natasha--That's a lovely sentiment, and so true.

Anonymous said...

That's really the worst part about celebrity role models. They're these distant strangers with their own lives, but they're also the most visible people kids see. Well, at least your kids have someone who can talk to them about why you don't do *everything* your role model does.

Allie said...

It is interesting. I think it is a good chance to reinforce the idea that these are just people - they may have talents that put them in the public eye, but they are people with feelings and tempers and weaknesses like everyone else, and no matter who you are, it's important to handle bad feelings so they don't leak out and hurt other people. I don't remember seeing my role models as human, and I think that's harmful in another way - you always feel like there's some magic perfection to them - like they had something I didn't.

Ed Wyrd said...

What I find interesting is John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors made a career on being complete jerks and cussing up a storm. We loved them for it.

Serena has one melt down and everyone jumps all over her.