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Eminem And Other Unlikely Role Models
A role model, as defined by dictionary.com is "a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people."
Some would argue that celebrities have absolutely no business being role models, especially considering that much of their public images are manufactured to achieve maximum popularity.
I beg to differ. In a lot of ways, famous people's lives are in the public spotlight. Every little thing that they do turns up on TMZ. So they're not like regular folks who get to hide their flaws and mistakes from the world. These celebrities sometimes have scandals and tragedies as well as personal failures to overcome, just as we may, but they have to do their thing in the public eye. We see their flaws and, sometimes, they succeed in spite of them - or even because of them.
One celebrity role model that a lot of kids emulate is NBA superstar Michael Jordan. Despite the fact that he's won multiple NBA championships in his career, he didn't even make his high school basketball team the first time he tried out.
Is Eminem A Good Role Model?
I read an article recently about Detroit rapper Eminem as a role model. At first I was a little incredulous. This is, after all, a man who got famous in part because of a song about killing his wife and dumping her body in a lake - in front of their very young daughter. The man actually has a song called Role Model - granted, it was written before Slim Shady went and got all respectable.
"Now follow me and do exactly what you see / Don't you wanna grow up to be just like me! / I slap women and eat shrooms then O.D. / Now don't you wanna grow up to be just like me!"
- Eminem lyrics from Role Model
Yeah. I couldn't see Eminem as a role model.
But... then I thought about it. The man has overcome obstacles that would have felled most of us, like drug addiction, his entire train wreck marriage(s) being played out in the public eye, the loss of beloved friends and family to early and sometimes violent, deaths. Still, he came through it all as one of the most popular and respected entertainers on the planet (depending on who you talk to).
I realized that there are tons of folks out there who may not fit the classic definition of a role model, but manage to fill those shoes anyway. They may have come from nothing, overcome something tragic (that they may have even caused) or maybe society at large thinks a little less of them than I do.
I have compiled a list of five people who, like Eminem, I think make unlikely yet amazing role modes. If I had kids, I'd hope they'd look up to some of these folks.
Why Angelina Jolie Would Make A Good Role Model
Yes, Lara Croft stole Rachel Green's old man. It happens. Does this make Angelina Jolie evil? Not to me, seeing as how I never liked Jennifer Anniston, anyway.
Jolie, the Academy Award winning daughter of Academy Award winner Jon Voight, has done some really strange stuff. Not only did she give her brother a really (weird) kiss on the lips that threw Hollywood into a tailspin and she wore her husband Billy Bob Thornton's blood in a vial hung around her neck, she's also done a lot of amazing things.
Lately, Jolie is just as celebrated for her humanitarian work as she is her acting and her famous brood of children. She has taken the fame that her career has afforded her and put it to good use by visiting areas of the world that have been defined as places where refugees are suffering due to war, famine or other causes which are determined by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). She has visited places like Cambodia, Pakistan and Sierra Leone to bring the world's attention to the plight of these people and to keep them in the media spotlight. She has established foundations with Brad Pitt, to aid humanitarian causes.
Angelina Jolie trivia: In 2006, Jolie and Pitt sold the rights to the first photos of their daughter Shiloh to an American magazine for $4.1 million, and donated that money to UNICEF.
Why George Carlin Would Make A Good Role Model
George Carlin will always be remembered for his Seven Dirty Words That You Cannot Say On Television routine. I'd write those seven words here, but HubPages would probably ban me, even though this isn't television.
Though many folks didn't agree with his political views, few can deny the man's massive intelligence. He wasn't just a fan of the English language, he was a master in the art of using words. But this isn't why I think Carlin makes a good role model.
This man stood up for what he believed in. You may think he was crazy for getting arrested with Lenny Bruce - Carlin was asked for ID and was arrested when he told the arresting officer that he didn't believe in government issued identification - but he followed his heart. He was informed and educated and did everything he could to try to open people's eyes. Sure, his HBO specials were so funny that watchers couldn't eat or drink anything during the show for fear of laughing and choking, but he was a master of presenting his views in ways that were easy for people to understand. He was also one of the few people who encouraged people like me to think for ourselves. He didn't want us to agree with him, he just wanted us to wake up.
When I see things like the Occupy Movement, I think that maybe Carlin did have a hand in something much bigger than himself. Maybe you don't agree with their issues, but you cannot ignore the fact that some of these people are paying attention. Maybe there is no hope for apathy.
One skinny little hippie funny man in faded jeans and t-shirts can change the world. Though George Carlin is gone, he will live forever.
George Carlin trivia: Carlin provided the voice for the VW Bus hippie character Fillmore in the Pixar movie Cars. Fillmore's license plate read "51237," which was Carlin's birthday.
Why Robert Downey, Jr. Would Make A Good Role Model
Robert Downey, Jr used to be a walking joke. He has said that he became an addict at the tender age of eight. His addictions were so bad that multiple arrests (including one for wandering into his neighbor's house while high and falling asleep in one of the beds) that most people thought his career was over before it had even really begun. Hollywood didn't want to take any more chances on an erratic, unreliable addict.
After being released from prison in 2000, he joined the cast of the amazingly popular show Ally McBeal in a critically acclaimed role. Then came another arrest, and he was fired from the show. His career, if not his life, could have been over at this point. Woody Allen wanted to cast him in his production of Melinda and Melinda, but no insurance company would bond Downey.
After a successful attempt at rehab and a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, Downey was ready for a comeback. He has been sober since 2003.
Then came Iron Man.
Downey is now one of the most respected actors in the world and has seen success that many can only dream of. Most people couldn't have survived the things that Downey has done to himself. To his credit, he has never denied his addictions, unlike many in Hollywood that care more about their images than being straight up with their fans, and this is one of the reasons why I think he makes a good role model. Yes, he did some dumb stuff and yes, he could have not only lost his career but his life because of it.
The point is that he manned up and made the changes that were necessary for him to be successful. If that's not inspirational, then what is?
Robert Downey Jr trivia: Downey Jr was hired for a part in the movie The Singing Detective in 2003, but no insurance company would bond him without an excessive premium that the studio would not pay. Who came to his rescue? Mel Gibson, who paid the premium out of his own pocket. Though the movie wasn't that memorable, it was the beginning of one of the most successful comebacks in the history of the entertainment business.
Why Johnny Cash Would Make A Good Role Model
Johnny Cash is a good role model.
Yes, he had a long, public battle with alcohol and drug abuse that nearly cost him everything - more than once. Yes, he was known as a rebel and someone that most people wouldn't want to pick a fight with. He was arrested several times for illegal drug possession, most notably in Walker Country, Georgia, where he also attempted to bribe the sheriff's deputy. He also got sued by the federal government for starting a forest fire, believe it or not.
Cash was also (and still is) one of the most influential musicians in the history of music. While primarily considered a country singer, he is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Gospel Hall of Fame. Though he faced obstacles that could have torn him apart were he a lesser man, he came back from those things and became someone that people the world over have emulated. He has also sold over fifty million records.
His story has a romantic twist, too. Though his early years were fraught with drugs and violent behavior, he married his soul mate, June Carter, in 1968 and they were married until her death in 2003. He followed her to the grave less than four months later. Some say he died of a broken heart, but there aren't many people who wouldn't want a love like Johnny and June's.
Johnny Cash trivia: Cash's birth name was JR Cash. Just plain old JR. When he enlisted in the US Air Force, they wouldn't accept the initials so he became John R Cash. He became Johnny Cash when he signed a contract with Sun Records.
Why Stephen King Would Make A Good Role Model
Stephen King is one of the most successful writers of all time. He's sold over 50 MILLION books. (I think I've sold three.)
So why is he an unlikely role model?
Consider his subject matter. A car becomes possessed and kills people. A mother and son are terrorized in a car by a rabid Saint Bernard. A plague causes most of the population to die off and the survivors are split into good and evil where the good guys are terrorized by a demonic Walking Dude. (M-O-O-N, that spells Tom Cullen!)
One of the biggest reasons why Stephen King is an unlikely role model is his activism. In 2008, he criticized proposed Massachusetts bill HB 1423, which would have restricted the sale of violent video games to people under the age of eighteen. It's not that Stephen King believes that young children should be committing mass murder in Resident Evil, he believed that politicians were attempting to make pop culture the scapegoat for bad parenting.
King is also a target of some right wing media folks and was once quoted as saying that ultra-conservative media personality Glen Beck was "Satan's mentally challenged younger brother." He has also survived substance abuse as well as being hit by a car while walking - either of which could have killed him.
He does advocate policies that would have wealthier Americans pay more in taxes and has one of the coolest homes in the world. (Google it, and make sure you find a photo of his front gate!)
Stephen King trivia: Because of his prior substance abuse issues, King has admitted that he doesn't even remember writing his bestseller The Tommyknockers.
The Best Role Models
Well, that's my list and I'm sticking to it.
Maybe, according to society, the best role models are those folks who always do the right thing or come up from nothing to be somebody, to make something out of themselves without any taint or scandal or hint of corruption. Personally, since I am an imperfect person, I'd prefer someone who has done some really stupid stuff yet still managed to come out of it all the better for it.
Who was your role model when you were a kid? What did they teach you? Do you think my top ten role model list could use some improvement?
I'd love to know! Comment and tell me about it!