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Do We Need Heroes or Jenners? : Role Modeling Celebrities in the New Millennium

By Michidael Ceard

Americans live through celebrities. 

With the media now reporting through social networking sites, tabloid newspapers, magazines, and television, celebrities perpetuate almost all the trends that people follow. 

According to information provided by Jo Piazza for the HuffPost, the growth of celebrity news programming and reporting grew after the turn of the millennium. 

Since Americans are swamped with so much information on celebrities, they latch on to them, follow their actions, and even consider them their role models. 

For example, Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner - Olympic gold medalist for track decathlon in 1976 - immediately emerged as a hero for the LGBTQ+ movement when she publicly declared herself a transgender woman in 2015. 

And, some Barry students also consider a few public figures their role models due to the actions they have seen reported in the media. 

Shanieya Harris, freshman Spanish major, comments on the heroism she sees in hip hop culture and believes that celebrities should use their platforms for good deeds. 

“Chance the Rapper is a hero to me because he started as an underground rapper on SoundCloud [popular music streaming website] and he paid money to keep it going for new artists,” said Harris. “He showed integrity and selflessness and I can try to have those same qualities.” 

Junior public relations student Sarah Ruiz also told The Buccaneer of her favorite celebrity hero. She views this celebrity as a hero because this person fights for an issue in which she passionately believes.

“Actress America Ferrera is a celebrity I view as a hero,” said Ruiz. “She’s an actress who has used her platform and fame to advocate for immigrant rights and that’s important.”   

However, not all students believe that we should look up to celebrities just because they have performed a good deed.

General studies freshman John Rodriguez sees the “celebrity-turned-hero” trend as a response to the lack of positive figures in news media.

“I don’t see celebrities as heroes,” said Rodriguez.  “It’s prevalent for people to look up to celebrities and view them as heroes because we don’t have real ones.”

Although following the trends instigated by popular figures may appear harmless, there is a danger in the “celebrity turned hero” culture that America cherishes. 

When celebrities commit wrong, Americans now “cancel” them by shunning them from the public until the media places them in a positive light again. This “cancel culture” has become a new method of holding celebrities accountable through their platforms. 

Earlier in 2018, popular 41-year-old rapper and producer Kanye West was “canceled” over social media outlets due to his "slavery was a choice” comment on TMZ. Donald Trump in 2016 was canceled by liberals for his campaign that relied on American exceptionalism and fundamentalism. 

However, many students strongly disagree with “cancel culture.” 

Rodriguez believes that the new “cancel culture” is unfair to the celebrities who are humans before anything else. 

“Society responds to the wrong acts of celebrities by negating and looking down on someone when they do something wrong,” said Rodriguez. “It’s sad when people are in the limelight and get canceled when everyone else can make mistakes."

Harris agrees. 

“Cancel culture is stupid,” said Harris. “Everyone is human, and we shouldn’t look at them funny when they commit wrong.” 

Are celebrities' heroes? At Barry, this topic can be polarizing. But, reflecting on the purpose of celebrity platforms provides food for thought. 

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