Friday, January 8, 2010

The Role of a Role Model

In one of those sad magazines I’m addicted to, I happened upon an interview with actress Megan Mullally, who portrayed the awful – and awfully funny – Karen Walker on Will and Grace. In the article, Ms. Mullally recalled a fan who joyfully told her that people often compare her to Karen. Ms. Mullally’s response: why on earth would you want them to do that?

For those of you who didn’t watch the show, Karen Walker was an uber-rich alcoholic, pill-popping, mean-spirited woman. She did, however, spout off some of the show’s most memorable and hilarious lines – the character’s only saving grace. I say character because that’s what she was: a work of fiction, the creation of someone else’s imagination.

She was not, nor ever should be, considered a role model.

A role model must be someone we admire and whose traits we strive to adopt as our own. We should feel some sort of connection to our role model. Sure, we can select a fictional role model, so long as she possesses something that’s real -compassion, wit, charm, etc. We must prepare ourselves, though, for any fall-out that might occur should we place certain expectations upon our selection.

Years ago, after the release of Bridget Jones’ Diary, several women I know jumped on the Bridget bandwagon. They felt connected to her because Bridget was a ‘real woman’ who struggled with the same issues that they did: social-awkwardness, dating, weight struggles, etc. Bridget gave them hope that they, too, would find their Mark Darcy (smart, handsome, charming). Problems arose, however, when Mark Darcy didn’t show (one friend called me in tears upon discovering that Colin Firth, the actor who portrayed Mark, was actually married to the absolutely stunning Italian filmmaker, Livia Giuggioli). I gently explained the difference between movies and real-life. In real-life, Bridget never would have stood a chance with Mark – harsh, but true.

Let’s keep an element of reality with regard to our role models, and focus only on those characteristics toward which we aspire. Let those characteristics include charm, grace, and intelligence. Strive to find someone who contributes positively to society. Strive to find someone who’s never appeared on reality TV. Strive always to be your best, for you may very well wind up being someone else’s role model someday.

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