She’s Not, But I Am
Before I dive in…. let’s just start with this quote from Jennette McCurdy taken from “Redit” in response to some of the criticism she received after posting some privative pictures of herself on the internet… (or just jump to my commentary.)
I am not a role model.
I don't claim to be, I don't try to be, and I don't want to be.
There was a time when I tried to live up to the aggrandizing title, that pedestal of a thing. Maybe it wasn't so much that I was trying to live up to it. Perhaps I thought I could and I thought I was supposed to, so I gave it my best shot.
It's fine, I can admit it. Back in my adolescence, I was more amiable, bubbly, and on lightly humid days, maybe even flouncy. I was role model material and then some.
Fast forward a few years, I've grown up a bit (emphasis on "a bit"). I might not be any wiser, but I like to think I'm more honest.
With the growing I've done, I realize that to attempt to live up to the idea of being a role model is to set myself up for foregone failure. Sure, I've made some mistakes, but even if I hadn't, people would have found invisible ones. This world is one seemingly most keen on judgment and negativity, despite all the hearts and smiley emoticons.
To remove myself from the role model battle, the falsified standard set by the bubblegum industry, is - in my eyes - to remove myself from the counterintuitive battle of attempting to be something perfect while being glaringly aware of my imperfections.
Sure, I still love my teddy bears. I still love a heart emoji (the white heart in the pink box is my favorite) and I still have a soft spot for American Girl dolls. I still love a cute dress, a good pop song, and a vanilla-scented candle. But these things don't define me or determine that I am any kind of a role model. What defines a person as a role model is the way they live their life. And no offense, but none of you know how I live my life.
Now before you start thinking I'm some sort of derelict that leads a life of crime, let me clarify. I am proud of the way I live my life. I am proud of my choices. I am proud that no one can call me fake or say I don't stand up for myself. I am proud that my friends and family would say that I'm a good person.
But in order to be thought of as a real, true role model, I believe you have to know a person and their actions, inside and out. Calling a celebrity a role model is like calling a stranger a role model. The knowledge you have of a celebrity is no more than a caricature drawn by media tastemakers specializing in selling you an image you’re dying to buy. It’s good to have heroes, but you have to look for them in the right places. They say don’t look for true love in a bar, well I say, don’t look for role models on screens.
For those of you who do consider me a role model, I hope you don't read this and cringe. I appreciate you. I appreciate you so much! I appreciate that you believe in me, support me, and in some way, hope to live your life like me. But please, I encourage you to find role models in the people around you, the people in your everyday life, the people that are your friends and family. I encourage you to base your idea of a role model off of someone you know well enough to see purely, not in the light, cameras, and actions of Hollywood.
She says she's not a role model, but with that manifesto she proved that she actually is by saying what young people need to hear.
Her original problem problem is this in five words: She signed on for this. Maybe she didn’t know it at the time but when you agree to be a TV personality for either Disney or Nickelodeon you agree to live by a specific set of high standards that might be impossible to abide by. There are things you just don’t do – it’s under the “morality clause.” Under that section of the contract you don’t do things like get drunk, release sexy pictures of yourself on social media or magazines, beat up other women or set your boyfriend’s house on fire.
Don’t embarrass the studio or make uptight conservative moms start a boycott and come after you with their thumping bibles. Don’t cause a negative controversy that will cause people to turn away from the show that features you because that makes advertisers and cable companies mad because their investments aren’t giving them their projected turn on investment.
Jennette played a girl who was supposed to be an attractive but asexual perpetual teenager on her show, when in fact she’s very sexual and enjoys being attractive and showing her body off in enticing ways that attract boys. No doubt she relishes in being the object of desire for some men all over the world and felt restrained by the contract she signed with its morality clause. She pushed the boundaries during her personal time and for that reason she show was canceled.
With that rant she perfectly illustrated with what's wrong with modern American culture. There’s something wrong with our society, and it’s something I’ve been saying for a long time. This just adds a new wrinkle. We worship celebrities at the altar of our televisions. The media takes these actors and actresses – or just plain good looking personalities – and creates a façade that we eventually want to emulate. I want to be that person on TV – the one who is better looking than me with a better quality of problems with more attractive women while we consume more expensive (and allegedly better) products than I have. The clothing is perfect, the lighting is perfect, the homes are perfect. There’s no clutter in the houses, the car isn’t trashed with fast-food bags and containers, money isn’t a real issue and their problems are solved before the end of the episode unless there’s a really cool cliffhanger.
We try to emulate these people, follow the rules of getting a good education then a good job so we can have all those things. We’re told to emulate those people especially with abnormally high standards that nobody – not even the actors and actresses – can live up to. (We tend to forget while watching “The Kardashians” that Kim’s original claim to fame was a homemade sex tape that was ‘leaked’ to the media…) When they fail we’re fake being offended while we secretly waited for them to crash and burn. The American Pastime isn’t Baseball any more – it’s elevating strangers and watch them crash and burn.
Miss McCurdy claims she isn’t a role model – but I am. The minute I started The Fedora Chronicles and championed the little guy in the big hats when I thought they were being unfairly I became a role model. When I shared my stories – the good and the bad (and the nefarious) I became someone kids wanted to emulate. And when I told those kids and some of you that I want you to try everything while experiencing everything you possibly can before the oppressive responsibilities of adulthood catch up with you, I became a role model.
I became a role model that caused parents to call me up and ask me “What the hell are you thinking? What the fuck do you mean you want my son to try everything? Do you mean EVERYTHING?!?” I stand up to those parents and say… yes. Within reason, which means get off the couch, stop watching the same three or four movies repeatedly, and do something that adds meaning to your life. Make worthy mistakes worth making. Don’t grow to middle age and regret living your life vicariously via the television and comic books. If there’s something you’re itching to do (and it’s legal and moral) than you should get out there and do it while you’re still capable.
“Do everything” means read those books you bought that are sitting on the shelf unread, try that strange restaurant or market that you pass everyday but never bothered to stop, watch that strange movie nobody else has heard of. Everything also includes going with some friends down that strange path through the woods, explore the abandoned places in your region, take a class at a local college in a subject that interests you...
Here’s where other role model and I part company – besides the products I sell on Café Press and Zazzle (with our name, logos and catch phrases) and products I link to that I’ve reviewed, I’m not out to sell you anything. I’m not out to sell you a sanitized version of myself like Disney or Nickelodeon in hopes you’ll boost our Nielson Rating. Cause we don’t have one. I’m not perfect, and neither are you and nothing in a box or bag from the store can fix that. Excluding your next fedora purchase and maybe a “Modern Fashion Is Death” t-shirt, nothing you buy is going to bring you long term happiness.
Advertizers are geunine liars; buying this brand of soap and that brand of laundry detergent isn’t going to cause a permanent smile on your face. Buying the right beer or other adult beverage isn’t going to cause women to flock to you. We’ve been lied to.
What is going to make you happy is experiences and excepting who you are while rejecting the false and unrealistic role models will make you happier than you could have ever imagined. Experiences – not products – are going to make you happier. Products should only be the things to help you enjoy and record those experiences.
I’m not trying to elevate myself to something I’m not. I’m not perfect, I’m a huge screw-up in some areas of my life with some dirt under my nails and skeletons in my closet. I don’t want everyone to be just like me or the fictionalized version of me. The role of “Eric Renderking Fisk” has already been taken. I demand others figure out who their ideal selves are and become that. Figure out who and what do you want to be, discover what it takes to become that, and then follow that as a guide to become that person.