My interpretation of what interests and confounds me ....

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Celebrities as Role Models - A Myth?

Movie stars sure attract eyeballs. It’s always great to have them to bring attention to important environmental issues. However, even if we concede for a moment that they do add the oomph factor to environmental issues, how does one excuse their profligate and extravagant lifestyles that stand in stark contrast to the cause that they try to espouse? Is it the right metaphor for simple living and high thinking?

Ladies and gentlemen, today I am in the mood to demolish some well-cultivated myths associated with celebrity endorsements of conservation and environment.

There is no dearth of “eco-celebs” routinely partnering with NGOs to generate buzz for a specific campaign or benefit. Actor Harrison Ford calls for stopping deforestation on a Conservation International public service announcement. Leonardo Di Caprio and yesteryear's Hollywood super-star Robert Redford sit on the Board of Trustees of Natural Resources Defence Council, one of the most potent environmental action organisations in the USA. In our own backyard, we have the likes of Shabana Azmi, that dare-devil diva who took on the might of the Mumbai administration and brought to a halt, the eviction of slum-dwellers in Colaba in South Mumbai.

What however, calls their bluff is the janus-faced, unbridled display of wanton consumerism. On the one hand they collaborate with nature conservancy to promote sustainable materials in the clothing industry, while on the other, without batting a made-up fake eyelash, they endorse a Jimmy Choo tote in authentic crocodile leather. What price green endorsement?

Who hasn’t heard about the misdemeanors of that iconic star, Salman Khan? If he isn’t killing black bucks - an endangered species in Jodhpur - you can find him hunting chinkaras - endangered species again - in Ranthambore. And we have mindless followers root for him and his ilk, as a role model. I can only pity their misguided sense of hero-worship!

A role model ideally represents a person whose behavior, habits or attitudes are imitated by other people, especially the younger generation. The role model should lend herself or himself for easy adoption of lifestyle as the impressionable youngsters tend to absorb and adapt for their lives, many images received of the role model through the mass media. This is a sort of shortcut, an easier way than setting up their own way of act or living. But, when the role starts slipping away from the model, and the make-up starts wearing off, you find them donning their true colours. That, is a reality show worse than Bigg Boss. No amount of grease and paint can hide the ugly underbelly of star behaviour, and the less the aping generation is exposed to that unglorified life-style, the better.

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