Celebrities wrongly overshadow real-life heroes

Mercy Chang Nov 7, 2005
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When we think of heroes, we think of firefighters, Gandhi, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Neil Armstrong. Of course, popular movie stars and television personas come up from time to time as well. But when I hear someone mention that Paris Hilton is her hero, I stop and think to myself how ridiculous the idea is.

How can someone like Paris Hilton earn a status alongside remarkable figures like Mother Teresa when one of her most significant accomplishments (if you can even call it one) was starring in a sex tape? Seriously, who did she have to sleep with in order to earn her spot in the highly acclaimed Hero Hall of Fame?

A recent national survey conducted on teens? views of heroes found that half of the heroes that teenagers named were well-known celebrities. Even more disturbing was that Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man came out as far more popular than Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln. The fact that only half of American teens even have a hero tells us that something is truly wrong with our society and the values we are teaching our children.

I have nothing against superheroes. Batman, Superman, Spider-Man ? they?re all pretty amazing characters. Hey, I?d love to fly, too. But you have to admit it?s sad to see these fictional characters rank in front of real people who have faced real struggles and made a significant impact in their communities.

Sure, these superheroes have saved lives, they have courage, and they fight the villains. But that doesn?t change the fact that they aren?t real people. Just because they can shoot webs from their wrists or drive shiny cars doesn?t mean we should idolize these characters and forget about the real people who make a difference in our own lives. We cannot simply ignore the brother who saved his younger sister from choking to death, the teacher who inspired her class to take a stand against school violence, or the senior citizen who volunteers to help children safely cross the street after school. These people may not have prevented train wrecks or saved the world, but they are heroes in their own right.

A serious problem we must consider is the elevation of celebrities to hero status. Undoubtedly, there are a handful of highly accomplished celebrities. Angelina Jolie is among them. This woman has definitely earned the title of ?heroine.? Not only can she balance her successful film career with being a United Nations goodwill ambassador, but she?s also the loving mother of two adopted children, has a pilot?s license, manages to visit terminally ill children, and has a love life, all at the same time. If all the other Hollywood celebrities took a cue from Jolie, think how much society would benefit from their actions. More importantly, think how much more productive America would be as a result of the inspirational behavior exemplified by our favorite movie stars and music artists.

Then take a look at Paris Hilton. Her activities include occupying a permanent spot in the weekly tabloids, starring in The Simple Life, earning the reputation of a party girl, dating Greek billionaires, and writing books on how to behave like an heiress. How can any of her actions be categorized as courageous or inspirational? But when highly impressionable teenagers are constantly exposed to characters like Hilton, they have no choice but to imitate her outrageous behavior. Because real heroes like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela can?t compete with the incredibly large amounts of exposure Paris Hilton gets, these true heroes are pushed aside into the shadows and what we are left with are heroes who have won because of their crazy publicity antics and downright rudeness.

Traditionally, heroes were individuals who demonstrated the qualities of strength, honesty, courage, and perseverance. Heroes in Greek mythology were reputed to be of divine ancestry. Robin Hood was a hero because he robbed rich landowners to help the poor. Rosa Parks was a heroine because she helped spark the civil rights movement by refusing to leave her seat. Even Mickey Mouse is a hero because of the goodwill that he promotes throughout the world. These characters, whether historical or fictional, have positively contributed to humanity in some shape or form. They might not have been able to end hunger in Africa or achieve world peace, but at least their list of accomplishments boasts more than a starring role in a reality TV show.

Granted it may be entertaining to watch people make fools of themselves on television, but when we sit down and contemplate the trend of American heroes, the future looks exceedingly bleak. If our current heroes are the people who make the most media appearances, or the ones who engage in the most brainless acts, I can only hope that when the day comes that Johnny Knoxville and the rest of his crew from Jackass: The Movie become touted as national heroes, I?ll be living on my own island far, far away, where engaging in senseless acts is not grounds for earning hero status.

If our values are not critically examined soon, this prediction may become a reality much sooner than we think. America needs to be re-educated; heroes such as Helen Keller, Louisa May Alcott, Paul Revere, Jim Abbott, and Susan B. Anthony need to be reinstated to their rightfully earned positions in the minds of Americans. As much as we are entertained by Paris Hilton?s latest exploits, does this really make her a heroine? Do we really want to send the message to the future adults of America that they should aspire to become drama queens and behave like spoiled rich kids who run around partying all the time?

I, for one, do not want my future children worshipping these materialistic, extremely inebriated, and scantily clad ?heroes.? You shouldn?t either.