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Should celebrities be moral leaders?

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Should celebrities be moral leaders?

To be a leader is to hold the key characteristics that inspire others. Who are the most influential figures of today? Most people would say celebrities. They are frequently deemed as leaders of the world as they influence people with their passion, image, beliefs and purpose.

Why exactly do people follow celebrities’ lives and why are they influenced by them? People not only want to lead the same lives as celebrities but also want to think like them. In a survey we recently conducted with Grade 10s, 68% of the candidates reported feeling influenced - emotionally, psychologically or physically - by a celebrity at some point in time.

Many young people attempt to become more like their role models, whether that be sharing the same interests, wearing the same clothes as them or adapting to their mannerisms. Others around them may do the same, building a sense of community and increasing their feelings of acceptance. Overtime, they may think, ‘Everyone is doing it, so I should too.’ This might make them feel “closer” to their role model. While this does not inherently seem bad, it can lead to unmanaged behaviour when one is unaware of the way their decisions are made.

With social media, we have been given an opportunity to reach out to a wide audience with just a few clicks. Public figures could now use this useful asset to reach out and connect with their fans and audience on a “personal” level. 

Furthermore, following a certain icon’s actions may make us feel like we belong in an exclusive club. We may also begin judging celebrities against a higher standard. We deduced that the reason why public figures have such an impact on society is due to the fact that many of their actions are carefully crafted by them and managers or publicists to not offend the general public.

This leads to the question: can we can trust the influence of celebrities and recognise their wrong doings?

When celebrities do wrong

“Separation of art from the artist” is a phrase commonly used when discussing the wrongdoings of celebrities and whether or not we should support their work. Take for example Harvey Weinstein, a former American film producer. In late 2017, women in the film industry came out with allegations of sexual assault against Weinstein; over the next year, up to 87 women had made allegations against him. The controversy left the public asking the question: “Can I enjoy Harvey Weinstein films without endorsing or condoning his actions?”.

On the one hand, some say that it's possible to appreciate what somebody has created, without necessarily condoning their actions. Not to mention, that these artists are people as well, and people will make mistakes and, depending on the situation, they should be allowed a second chance. This particular stance centers around mainly forgiveness, however, to what extent should we forgive?  

On the other hand, some believe separating the art from the artist is just a poor excuse to continue supporting the artist and ignore their controversies. But if art is a form of escapism, is it wrong to forget about the awful actions of the artist and appreciate their art? When asked, 68% of those surveyed said that they could separate art from the artist, 22% said they couldn't and 10% said they weren't sure, that it depends on the situation.

Judging from this, we can deem that it is possible to separate the art from the artist as long as their wrongdoings are acknowledged. The extent to which one chooses to do so is a personal choice that depends solely on the specific situation and where your personal morals align.

We can deduce that although celebrities can have a great impact on ourselves as individuals, we should avoid letting their voice sway our opinions or become a symbol of political justice.

This is a piece of student work written for a High School Global Perspectives' critical challenge project. A uniquely “UWCSEA” course, Global Perspectives helps students to be more aware of the key personal, social and global issues that inspired and are inherent in the UWC mission and values. With a focus on strengthening critical thinking skills, the course teaches students to investigate and evaluate opposing perspectives, discern biases and to reflect on their own reactions to a wide variety of social issues. 

26 Mar 2019
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