Role Modelling

A role model is a “person whose behaviour, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people”. That’s from Wikipedia, so it must be right.

I’m reading a lot about footballers this week and about how they are role models. This is whether they actually want to be role models or not and is seemingly not dependent on signing a piece of paper promising such. Footballers are role models and that’s that, no arguments.

What we really mean here by role model is someone who is rich and famous. Excuse me if I have a problem with that. The rich and the famous are so because they’ve made pots of money and have managed to get lots of people to like them (or dislike them – people still give you very well paid work if you are an unsavoury character, as long as the public complains about you a lot on Twitter). The definition of role model, the one we use every day, the rich and famous one, is so flawed it is now meaningless.

When we use the phrase role model, we mean “role model for young people”. Lots of young people aspire to be rich but soon find out only a small number will manage that, and that being famous isn’t much cop, not really. Most young people I know don’t want to be a footballer or marry one, but are largely after jobs and careers that will give them a good life. This sounds sensible enough to me.

I couldn't find a decent role model illustration - everything was an annoying meme - so here's Vicky. A clever, funny woman, seems nice enough.
I couldn’t find a decent role model illustration – everything was an annoying meme – so here’s Vicky Coren Mitchell. A clever, funny woman, who seems nice enough.

To me, role models can be anyone. They can be any gender, be plumbers, teachers, employed, unemployed, disabled, pensioners, politicians (no matter what your pals on Facebook tell you), refuse collectors, whatever. And yes even footballers, if they mind their Ps and Qs. They don’t get the role model badge automatically; they have to earn it like everyone else.

To me, role models are good people, nice people. Good and nice are the only essential ingredients really. Yes they can be flawed and make mistakes. They don’t need to give to charity (this to me is not a definition of goodness, it’s just a personal thing) or do ice bucket challenges or whatever,  but they do need to be fundamentally good and nice.

So, can I suggest that footballers are not role models to young people? Ok, we get told they are, but they aren’t really, are they? Come on. Think about it. You know I’m right.

@cathbore

I have a flash fiction GOOD TIMES in a new book Slim Volume: No Love Lost (Pankhearst, Jan 2015).  

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