Debate: After Jodie Foster's speech at the Golden Globes, do celebrities have a responsibility to be role models?


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The Independent Online


What's going on?

Our magnificent man in Los Angeles, Tim Walker, wrote the following on this morning: "In a frank, emotional and occasionally baffling speech, Jodie Foster spoke publicly about her sexuality for the first time last night, as she accepted the Cecil B DeMille Award at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles.

Foster first announced to the assembled Hollywood dignitaries that she was single, before explaining, "I already did my big coming out about a thousand years ago in the stone age, in those very quaint days when a fragile young girl would open up to trusted friends, and family, co-workers and then gradually, proudly, to everyone who knew her." Now, she went on, "every celebrity is expected to honour the details of their private life with a press conference, a fragrance and a prime-time reality show."

This has led to all sorts of frenzied debate online. Should the 50 year-old, who has such a huge profile, have come out decades ago, to strike a blow for sexual equality? Or is privacy something to which celebrities are perfectly entitled? What this comes down to is: do celebrities have a responsibility to be role models?

Case for: Public service

Celebrities have made a pact with the devil: if they want the financial and personal advantages of being in the limelight, they should accept the responsibilities that come with it. In any case, all the evidence suggests that societies at large, and young people in particular, follow the example set by celebrities. They should accept that they are moral torch-bearers in our society, and accept the responsibility that comes with it.

Case Against: Privacy for all

Asking celebrities to be moral guardians for society is akin to putting a drunkard in charge of the brewery. Many of the problems of modern life come from the excessive influence and power of famous people; appointing them role models would just make matters worse. In any case, by what logical leap do we confer the task of role model on people in the public domain? Jodie Foster is an excellent actress who has made many films. Leave it at that.