Who did you look up to as a kid? Sure, my mom taught me endless valuable lessons; my babysitter taught me how to be a kid as well as how to grow up. But if we’re being honest, when I was younger, the people I wanted to be like were the females I saw on my television screen. And if you’re anything like me, it’s likely that you were the same way.
The actresses and singers I grew up listening to and watching were the figures I wanted to be like. They were successful, beautiful and had stand out qualities that I tried to mimic. Amanda Bynes had a stand out sense of humor and always managed to keep her image as “America’s Sweetheart” no matter how out there her jokes were. Lizzie McGuire was the epitome of clumsy yet boys like Ethan Craft and Aaron Carter still managed to like her.
Not only did I relate to these women, I looked up to them. They were girls like me that found a way to become something; and I admired that.
But should we be looking up to fictional characters? To people we’ve never met?
I can’t answer this question with a simple yes or no. Because there are pros and cons to idolizing a celebrity. Let’s look at the examples above that I provided. When I was growing up in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Amanda Bynes was untouchable. She was funny, charming, adorable and relatable. Even portraying some of the most hideous characters, such as Courtney, Bynes managed to keep a positive image.
This was the Amanda I looked up to (well, maybe not this exact image), and I only grew from my admiration of her. Because of her, I was able to come out of my shell and let my sense of humor show.
Now, we all know Amanda Bynes has changed a lot as she’s grown up. And I’m not here to judge Amanda’s life journey; that’s not what the purpose of this post is; but it’s clear that she is a very different Amanda Bynes than the one that starred on “The Amanda Show” or “She’s the Man.” Her transformation goes to show that while it’s okay to emulate a celebrity, it’s important to find separation between yourself and them. Although I was bummed out when I saw Bynes begin her downward spiral, it didn’t personally affect me. Because although I incorporated parts of her image into who I represented myself as, I didn’t rely on her image to define who I was. Another lesson this taught me is the unreliability of emulating real life celebrities; they are, in fact, real people just like us.
To juxtapose this point, I want to look that the difference when emulating a fictional character; in this instance, Lizzie McGuire.
Lizzie McGuire, and a handful of other fictional characters for that matter, were created in order to give viewers, mainly young girls, a character to look up to. Lizzie McGuire was relatable yet admirable; this is because she wasn’t real. She was created by writers and actress Hilary Duff, who had the ability to create this character in any way they pleased. The goal was to pour a positive influence into the lives of little girls, which is exactly what Lizzie McGuire achieved. Heck, she even had a cartoon self conscious; what young girl doesn’t want that?!
I think many girls my age agree that Lizzie McGuire set a great example for how we should be when we go through our adolescent years. She went through many trials and tribulations, from boy problems to buying her first bra, yet at the end of the day, she over came each obstacle.
Looking back, yes, I think it’s okay to look up to a character that doesn’t exist; that’s why she was made in the first place! But it’s important to make the distinction between fiction and reality. When I encountered a specific problem, I couldn’t just ask, “why didn’t Lizzie have to deal with this?” because she isn’t real; she technically didn’t have to deal with anything.
I don’t regret looking up to Amanda Bynes and Lizzie McGuire growing up, nor should you regret who you emulated. It is important, however, to find a sense of identity and independence in the quest of growing up and finding out who you are.