Go into any newsagent or supermarket these days and you will see a whole host of magazines on the shelves. And there seem to be progressively more of the ‘entertainment’ type magazines; Heat, Now, Reveal, Star, New to name just a few.
And this is great – we all want to be entertained and they are extremely popular. But look on the front of any of them and it’s almost inevitable that there will be someone who has hailed from a reality tv show.
And not X Factor or The Great British Bake Off where you do sort of have to prove your worth.
I’m talking about shows like TOWIE. Made in Chelsea. Geordie Shore. Keeping Up With The Kardashians. Love Island
Now I used to watch Geordie Shore religiously (I so desperately wanted Char and Gaz to be the Geordie Shore version of Ross and Rachel. A drunk, promiscuous, progressively volatile Ross and Rachel. Alas, it is apparently not to be. I can’t imagine why.) I filled our Sky Planner with episodes of Love Island. I enjoyed the first couple of seasons of Made in Chelsea. I’ve caught odd snippets of KUWTK and seen a few episodes of TOWIE.
I’m not saying they’re not entertaining programmes. They absolutely are.
But with Heat magazine’s biggest demographic 15-34 year olds (I’m still in there – just!), with a reach last year of over a million people in this age range, it worries me that the people you are likely to find on the cover are Katie Price. Or Gemma Collins. Or Kim Kardashian.
And the other entertainment magazines have similar figures.
So what message is this sending to the very bottom end of that demographic? The fifteen (and likely younger) year olds who are buying these magazines to see pictures of Ferne McCann’s baby (whom she may name whatever she likes as long as it’s not offensive!)
It sends the message that you can be famous for being on a scripted TV programme and pretty much being told what to say. When they see Charlotte Crosby or Holly Hagan advertising make up or their own clothes range, it sends the message that by getting blind drunk and having sex on tv, you can go on to make a lot of money.
And it’s not just magazines. Social media is amazing but it’s also opening up the world to our children at a far younger age than it was ever opened up to me and my generation. And it’s also the reason for the rise of these reality tv stars.
When a 16 year old sees Kylie Jenner making millions by posting photos of her putting on lipgloss on Instagram, they think that’s normal; that it’s a viable way to make money.
They begin to follow her and idolise her. And for me, it is just fuelling the ever-growing sense of entitlement that young people seem to have (I’m generalising. Go with it.)
What has happened to our normal role models? The parents, the teachers, the friends, the woman you learnt about in history lessons who fought for your right to vote? That guy your Nan told you about who stood up in America on 28th August 1963 and made a speech which started with “I have a dream.” That man you watched run the 100m sprint even though he’s an amputee (not the one who shot his girlfriend in a bathroom – pick another).
People who have made the world (even if it’s just your world) a better place. People who have impacted your world so much that, without them, you and your world would not be who you are today.
These are the kind of people we should idolise. I don’t want my children growing up telling me they aspire to be like Spencer Matthews or Gary Beadle or Joey Essex. I’m sure they’re all lovely people (benefit of the doubt and all that) but they are not inspirational or aspirational. Maybe they have used their fame for wonderful causes. But there are so many ordinary people doing extraordinary things in the world every single day who work tirelessly to make a difference. Not because they’re paid to. Or because it’s good publicity. Or because they want to give back to the world which has made them famous for throwing drinks over their ex boyfriend at an orchestrated birthday party. But because they are inspirational.
One of the biggest news stories of the past couple of weeks was about Gemma Collins falling through a trap door on a stage. Meanwhile, there were nurses at my local hospital saving dying people’s lives. I know it’s entertainment. I know it was pretty funny. But I’m just saying, it’s not aspirational news.
I want my boys to idolise their dad. My husband who sets an amazing example to them. I want them to idolise their grandparents who have played such a big part in their lives and their upbringing. I want them idolise their teachers and authors they learn about. Musicians who don’t have to release albums laced with profanity. Actors and actresses who take on gritty, hard hitting roles which actually make you think, question things or make you feel something. I’m not saying we shouldn’t idolise famous people. I just want my children to pick wisely.
Because I have a dream.
A dream that my children reach their adult years without ever saying “When I grow up I want to be like him off TOWIE.”