Chargers: The Purpose Of Role Models.


Should influence alone make someone a role model? 

A few weeks ago Rebel Wilson recounted the story of how she was asked to present an award with Kylie and Kendall Jenner but refused on the basis that the Kardashians as a whole stood for something she very much did not; she had worked hard for a living but Kim had simply made a sex tape. I have been in many a meeting or conversation when the subject of the Kardashians as role models has arisen and tempers have flared. It’s definitely a polarising topic and on Monday Oprah waded in, to say that no one could deny how very hard the Kardashian family worked. Interesting…

See here’s the thing, No one can deny how “very hard” the Kardashians work. Their work ethic is admirable and, yes, they are influential, but, besides making money, what are they using that influence for? And…does it even matter?

Ultimately it does. Coca-Cola works hard – to flog us cans of unnecessary sugar. And the villains in superhero movies work hard – to take over the world. Neither parties are adding something positive. Regardless of hard work and ambition, what we are looking at is the decline in public favour of the superficial and vapid to a rise in the meaningful. As well as being influential, we want our role models to actually represent “something.’

And that’s where the protagonists come in looking to exert change. The culture “bubble” of authenticity, substance and female worth that extends beyond beauty is pushing against the vacuous and female-limiting model in existence. Think of it like a giant see-saw of cultural influence. At one end you have the Kardashians whose value lies in self-promotion, vanity, cultural influence (along with that hard work). At the other end you have Rebel Wilson, Amy Schumer, Jennifer Lawrence, Lena Dunham and a few others whose values lies in talent, positive body image, feminism and, again, hard work. In this instance they are the protagonist “bubble” demanding a fresh perspective on what’s deemed aspirational for women. But do Rebel’s bunch have enough power in their movement to usurp the Kardashian brand? At this point in time the answer is likely no. In fact drawing further attention to the Kardashians, results only in making their bubble bigger and pushing their level of influence higher.

When Oprah chimed in – one of the most influential, accomplished female role models in US history – with her formidable power, influence, fame and hard-working ethic, it was possible for her to swing the balance either way and you may have assumed she would align herself with the protagonists. However, she came out in support of the Kardashians. So if the Kardashians, culture savvy as they are, are beginning to realise that influence and fame alone won’t keep you on your pedestal and are looking to make the move into this “purpose” space, Oprah, who straddles both worlds, may have just held open the door for them.

Think about the Beckhams. Arguably the Kardashians of their generation, respected for their individual careers and initially treated as cultural royalty, they became ridiculed and parodied to the point where their “bubble” was on the verge of bursting. However due to their respective careers, charity work, relatable family values and all-round likability, they gave the Beckham brand new meaning beyond simply fame. They reinvented themselves with new purpose. Indeed, they now both individually and collectively serve as respected role models for modern day culture.

The smartest strategy for the Kardashian clan, is to publicly align the brand with a cause or speak out in support of culturally relevant issues. And silence the naysayers who say they stand for nothing. However, when you’re narrative has always been just about the fame, what will be interesting for the Kardashians is whether they can change that narrative sufficiently so that it is not perceived as yet another self-aggrandising promotional tactic.

I’m talking to you…”President” Kanye.

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Claimers: Strong is Wrong

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Chatter: In an interview with The Guardian, Emily Blunt explained that she is tired of her character being referred to as a “strong woman” when she takes part in an action sequence for example. That men are never told:  “Oh, you’re so strong in that movie.”

Conversation: Using different language to describe male and female role models or the same language with different meanings is becoming more unacceptable.

As Blunt describes, it seems assumed that in an action role a man is strong. But for a woman, it requires pointing out. It is necessary to be more careful with the adjectives used when men and women are being described in order to avoid enforcing stereotypes. Therefore the goal here is to remove gender associated language – for men as well as women – and this narrative from cultural role models will continue to filter down accordingly.

We have evidenced this with retailers such as Halfords being criticised on language advertising used when describing toys to children, for example. And Leo Burnett ‘s campaign for P&G Always #LikeAGirl, the insight for which was based on reversing the negative connotations attached to the phrase in order to change its meaning.



Community: No Spotify for 25?

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Chatter: Adele’s new album 25 was released today. Amongst all the excitement is the discussion that potentially the album won’t feature of spotify, apple music and other streaming sources. According to The New York Times, the streaming services were advised less than 24 hours before release that 25 won’t be available for streaming.

Conversation: Following on from Taylor Swifts removal of her music from Spotify in protestation of its devaluing her music by making it available for free , the conversation has surrounded the fairness of the “Freemium” music streaming model.

At the moment, Adele’s reps have declined to comment. It could be possible that, like Beyonce before her, Adele may choose to release 25 to streaming services at a later point. As this is expected to be her most popular title to date, it may be that Adele and her team are waiting for the initial purchases to be made and promotional value to be reaped. That, at that point, there  will be less financial or artistic impact in allowing it to be downloaded for free.

Community: Fox & Friends v The Daily Show.

Following a video posted online by a Tennessee woman ranting that “leggings ain’t pants”,  Fox & Friends hosted a segment whereby three men were shown three women – in leggings – and were asked to judge whether they were appropriately dressed.

Kristen Schaal of The Daily Show did a witty but pertinent follow up in which she says: “Men Just Don’t Want Any Creeps Staring At Their Daughters The Way They’re About To Creepily Stare At Someone Else’s Daughters.” 

Every week, it would seem, there is another discussion in the US about how women and girls are dressed particularly in the school system.

The argument against banning certain items of clothing that officials deem to be “distracting” for boys is that, by this very action, female bodies are being sexualised. They become objects that need to be hidden or covered to ensure that they do not lead to males losing focus or misbehaving.

For both males and females this is disconcerting. The idea that women must be made aware that they hold some sort of mystical powers of distraction – which should be managed at all times- for fear that men are unable to, or not expected to, exert a form of self-control whereby women become less like objects is insulting all round And arguably, a very dangerous message.

With third-wave feminism maintaining its momentum and the “rape culture” narrative continuing through Social Media, this is a debate likely to rage on.


Image @ Fox and Friends



Conscious: Hollywood – The Only Great Eight?

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Image @ The Hollywood Reporter

Published online yesterday were written excerpts for the annual Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable. Kate Winslet, Carey Mulligan, Charlotte Rampling, Helen Mirren, Brie Larson, Jennifer Lawrence, Jane Fonda and Cate Blanchett were invited to discuss their craft, the gender divide and their own role models.

Showcasing actresses of a wide age range, whose acting careers collectively span many decades, and who have received high praise in Film, TV and Theatre made for an interesting insight into some of today’s most celebrated talent.

However the obvious lack of black, latin or asian actresses making the line-up was something that didn’t go unnoticed. Debate amongst readers ranged from the lack of diversity amongst recipients of roles – and amongst those who write the scripts – to whether it was simply a result of the films that are coming up this year – which in itself is not particularly reassuring.

For what we are seeing here is the ever increasing divide between TV and Film. One commenter accurately argues that TV actresses such as Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder) and Taraji P. Henderson (Empire), for example, are extremely well proven, have large fan bases and are well respected. Yet, if we are looking at next year’s potential Oscar nominees, there is a distinct lack of representation of minorities – in an industry where there is no shortage of talent.

Rightly so, narrative surrounding race is every bit as pertinent as the narrative taking place around that table: women as directors, women playing male roles without the need to change the dialogue, women juggling careers with motherhood and the backlash for speaking out against the status quo.

Whilst The Hollywood Reporter should receive props for addressing the gender issue within such a male-centric industry, it shouldn’t be at the blatant exclusion of another equally important issue – that it is also a white-centric industry. It seems that mainstream media may be struggling to handle more than one discussion at one time but equality is a multi-faceted issue and the argument for handling more than one equality-based topic at a time is rapidly expanding.

Claimers: Lena Dunham: HBO to the Max

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Image @ SNL

Chatter –  Zoe Kazan has been newly cast in Lena Dunham’s HBO show Max, written by Murray Miller and previously starring Lisa Joyce.  According to Variety “Max is described as a comedy set in 1963 and revolving around the stirrings of second-wave feminism, as seen through the eyes of an ambitious magazine writer who stumbles her way into the women’s movement.”

Conversation – Currently in the midst of third-wave feminism, it will be interesting to see the Girls writer’s perspectives on what went before. Female-centric comedies are on the rise at HBO, with Sarah Silverman and Whitney Cummings having projects in the works and YouTube star Issa Rae’s show “Insecure”  (which funnily enough features Lisa Joyce) being picked up for a series.

Claimers: Hailee Steinfeld Is Loving Herself

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Chatter: Tomorrow (November 13th) Hailee Steinfeld releases her debut single from her Hais EP after having been in the acting game since her teen years began. The song “Love Myself” features a video with Steinfeld wearing a “Self-Service” outfit. The song’s masturbation connotations are referenced in an article with Time Magazine in which Stenfield claims the shoot for Love Myself was about her having a “good time”, when questioned about what it may be implying. However she continues “But yeah, that “Self Service” body suit was a conscious decision.”

Conversation: There are two trends at play here. The first is the continuation of the theme of loving who you are and that is certainly one of the “double meaning, or triple meaning, or however many ways people interpret it” messages to which Stenfield alludes. The other trend, largely in the spotlight due to Miley Cyrus and, in part Rihanna, is the changing attitude to the openness surrounding female masturbation. Part of the larger equality and self-expression movements, expect to see both trends as part of the chatter for music for the foreseeable.