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The biggest 2009 show-biz lesson: Celebrities are NOT role models!

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With the arrest of Charlie Sheen — jailed on accusations of domestic violence — it’s happening again as the year draws to an end. Many readers are calling for celebrities to “realize that they are role models” and that famous folk should set an example for the rest of us impressionable people.

Oh, dear. If there’s one sub-set of human beings I don’t — and don’t think anyone else should — take cues from, it’s ordinary mortals with varying degrees of talent in movies, TV, music, and sports, who make loads of money and sometimes feel they’re above the law.

Commenters on EW.com and other entertainment sites seem compelled to insist that with great fame comes great responsibility, whether you’re the lucky co-star of Two and a Half Men or a mighty athlete like Tiger Woods or a baby-faced singer like Chris Brown or a brash up-and-comer like Adam Lambert.

(Which also raises the question: Why are so few women celebs roped into the they-should-be-role-models notion? Could it be because women are better-behaved? Or are the ones that do get in trouble, such as Amy Winehouse, arrested within a few days of Sheen for breaking up a British Christmas pantomime — a panto show for kids, for pete’s sake! — are so far beyond the pale no one expects them to be role models? Both reasons seem unlikely, don’t they? Is there sexism even in scandal?)

I’m not equating headline-making behavior that ranges from hitting a woman (Brown) to simulating sex on network TV (Lambert). The first example fills me with repulsed disgust; the second, amused bafflement.

But just because you admire the talent or the appearance or the whatever-allure of a famous name, why on earth would you imagine that he or she has any better sense of self-control, morality, or law-abiding instincts than anyone with lesser talent or worse hair? Making an actor, a singer, or an athlete your role model just sets him or her up to disappoint you, no matter how “nice” he or she seems. Idolizing celebrities to the point of outrage when they disappoint us infantilizes us. And remember this year’s most sensible phrase from a new celebrity, Adam Lambert: “I’m an entertainer, not a baby-sitter.”

Besides, if we all stopped calling for famous folk to be smiley saints, just think of the residual effect it would have for the good of the nation: Half the tabloid tv shows, websites, and newspapers would have to alter their agendas if their audience didn’t become huffily enraged when his or her favorite entertainer does not lead a totally virtuous life.

Am I wrong? Do celebs automatically get a Responsibility Membership Card the moment they make their first million or sign their first autograph?

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