Fictional superheroes seem to be as popular among adults as they are with youth. At least that’s what I’ve observed regarding popular culture. The proliferation of superhero themed movies, games, and stories seem to bear this out. Personally, I’m not into this culture but I don’t mind what other people enjoy. I’m sure they derive something besides entertainment value from superhero culture.
This came to mind when I saw another advertisement for a videogame yesterday on YouTube. I wonder if the creators of the games understand that they influence the lives of their audience-consumers. After all, anyone who has a place in mass culture or in the public life will be an example to many people. They will observe your behavior and words and emulate what they perceive as success. If they like what they see, they are willing to do what it takes to get it. Does this mean they will also absorb your morality and virtue as well?
I’m not sure whether or not video games and famous athletes directly contribute to social misbehavior and violence. That debate is still ongoing even though it’s been placed on the back burner for the time being. I do wonder to what extent kids and young adults use superheros and famous athletes as templates for their own attitudes. At least in the case of athletes and celebrities, they are role models for youth regardless of the athletes’ intentions. The athletes, celebrities, and content creators say they did not set out to become role models, but the fact that their actions and work is available for public sonsumption makes them role models by default. In many instances, parents are absent, so kids only have their peers, entertainment media, and school teachers as role models.
In my opinion, people who position themselves in the public light need to remember that they provide an example to their audience and followers. This can be done without becoming sanctimonious moralists pushing certain agendas. Like it or not, people fall in line behind official leaders and famous public figures. Such people influence opinions directly and virtues indirectly. These are indisputable aspects of social behavior–intentional or not.
For example, a person achieves the position of high governmental officer. Hopefully she or he will take themself seriously and will employ wise, experienced advisors. They will oversee the administration of government in mindful ways with the interest of the nation as a whole being first and foremost. The citizens will observe the official’s actions and speech and more or less follow the official’s directives. On the other hand, if the high governmental officer does not consult wise advisors and decides to rule with mainly personal gain and misbehavior and derilection of duty as considerations, a certain share of the nation’s citizens will likely follow that official’s poor example.
Whether one is a self-appointed or an officially appointed role model, she or he must keep in mind that regardless of how much positive, good behavior and speech they do, there could be one thing that they will be tormented about. That one negative action, large or small, will stand out among all else about the role model. A good leader or public figure remembers that she or he is a role model so from the very beginning, they must be careful about both their public and personal lives. When word of wrongdoing in either case fickle public opinion will be negatively swayed. If one intends to be a positive influence on society, she or he must be incorruptible.
The same guidelines hold true for parents, teachers, and mentors. People who have close, personal relationships with children and adolescents are obvious role models. They provide the most visible templates for forming personal character and behavior. This is quite obvious but often taken for granted. Close, personal role models stay closely connected to the concerns and welfare of the children under their charge. What the role model does is more influential than what the role model says, especially if role model’s behavior does not match what they say. This is easily and often overlooked.
These are some points I’ve observed over the years. Like other people, I’ve monitored politicians, celebrities, and public figures. Many of my friends and family members have become parents or teachers. Meantime, I’ve been privileged to mentor two young people in the past for which I’m grateful to the parents for entrusting me to help their kids. I hope that I have not compromised my integrity. It’s been important to take care and be mindful of being a good example as a mentor. This is also what I aimed for when I was a broadcaster. I hopefully continue to improve this mindfulness as I post articles on this blog.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Canadian Hall of Fame hockey player, Bobby Orr. “Once you turn pro and you’re making the big money and kids are buying your sneakers and your skates and your gloves and so on, you are a member of that role model club.”