Ten years ago, I grew up in a culture filled with Saturday morning cartoons, crayon drawings, light-up shoes and dolls. I had no idea who the popular celebrities were or what scandals they were involved in. Britney and Justin’s breakup had no relation to my life. Teenage pop stars impregnating women or socialites corrupting the meaning of marriage did not consume my childhood. But times have changed and technology has advanced. Now, my 10-year-old cousin and his 8-year-old brother know more about pop culture than I do. They find out about and absorb celebrity scandals before I do.
What lessons will elementary school students, middle schoolers, and even ninth graders take from celebrity scandals? At 31-years-old, Kim Kardashian has gone through several failed relationships, including two divorces. Her latest divorce from professional basketball player Kris Humphries has been publicized as a possible publicity stunt and sham marriage, since it lasted only 72 days. This divorce has played out through the media, and has even been incorporated into a Saturday Night Live skit that generated quite a bit of attention.
At the same time, Justin Bieber is caught in a paternity battle with Mariah Yeater, who claims that the pop icon is the father of her baby and that he “took advantage of her” in a bathroom stall following one of his concerts. Yeater’s claim includes Bieber choosing her out of a selection of other young girls that his management team picked out after his concert.
Some teenagers may brush these two situations off as celebrity gossip that has no effect on the lifestyle choices of ordinary people. However, these two major pop culture dramas have more of an impact on our lives than we can perceive.
It’s scary to think that my baby cousins will grow up thinking that the examples that these two pop stars, and also many other celebrities, are setting are acceptable. Celebrities have complete control over how we view our society and culture; we watch their every step, praise their every accomplishment and obsess over their mistakes. Unfortunately, I can’t send out a message to Kim Kardashian telling her to get her act together or to Justin Bieber telling him to learn how to be a better role model.
Still, I can’t help but worry. My AP Psychology class has been discussing the difference between nature and nurture and has come to the conclusion that the environment in which we live has a huge impact on our lives and the way we develop. When kids and adolescents grow up in an environment filled with divorce, paternity battles, inappropriate celebrities and immoral decisions, nothing good can turn out. Their futures are at stake because of the environment that is being created; young kids watch E! News and are tuned in to the celebrity gossip flowing from TMZ and Perez Hilton. We should not let events like Kardashian’s divorce and Bieber’s paternity battle pass us by as just celebrity gossip; events like these shape our culture and change the mindset of the next generation.
Personally, I do not want young boys trying to act like Justin Bieber and having flings with girls at such a young age. I also don’t want girls to think that relationships have no substance and merely go from one marriage to another when they grow up. The future lies in our hands: How we choose to deal with similar public situations will subsequently affect kids that are growing up. Our actions will affect our children and our grandchildren. Generations change and new ideals come into view. What will be the ideals for our generation? Hopefully, they will not be pioneered by people like Kardashian and Bieber.