Responsibilities of role models

Kanye fiasco raises questions about the duties of famous figures


Grace Stillman

Recently the question has come up due to the actions of Kanye West and the ultimate glorification of him due to the widespread admiration of his music.  His actions have many wondering what responsibilities celebrities and influencers have to their fans. Many people are polarized on this topic, some believe people shouldn’t listen to Kanye’s music as it’s a sign of support for him as a whole, including his actions, while others believe it is possible to listen to his music without condoning his actions.

However, Kanye and other celebrities don’t have the same responsibilities as influencers. The reason influencers have that title is because their occupation is to influence others, in lifestyle, fashion choices and actions. Musicians, actors and other types of celebrities with artistic professions do not exist to be our role models, they are the physical embodiment of the art they express. 

Furthermore, saying people shouldn’t listen to Kanye’s music because of his actions is just another form of glorification and idealization of celebrities. If celebrities such as Kanye were not glorified and idealized, the consequence to their actions would be much more severe than simply, for example, less people listening to his music. If Kim and Kanye were regular members of your community, people would be telling Kim to get a restraining order.

I feel as though I am also obligated to discuss the role of sexism. Yes, if the roles were reversed, people would likely call Kim the “psychotic ex,” and cancel her immediately. Yes, people are more lenient on Kanye because he is a man. However if you bring up the issue of sexism, it would be ignorant to not discuss the fact that we are largely ignoring the aspect mental illness plays. This fuels the stigma on Black men against discussing and seeking treatment for mental health issues. 

There are many topics we could discuss and many topics we currently ignore but, overall, what we should talk about is do we have the “obligation” to discuss it in the first place . The actual question is ‘What’s the responsibility of the public?’ Do we owe it to our role models to keep them accountable for their actions, given we are the ones granting that power by glorifying and idealizing them in the first place?