As much as Americans love celebrity watching, we go gaga for
everyday heroes. We love it when the little guy suddenly shoots to fame and
fortune. We celebrate. We watch for updates. We practically break Facebook over
Americans also love a good downfall, especially when it involves rich beautiful celebrities. We're also on board for the tragic end of a regular guy who once inspired so many. Which explains all the social media shares about Jared Fogle, the once overweight young man who earned millions endorsing an unusual weight-loss plan.
We ask ourselves: how could such a gross person have fooled so many? What we should really want to know is: why do we trust celebrities so readily?
Fogle shot to fame when he became the face of Subway.
A regular guy who lost tons of weight eating Subway sandwiches? What's not to
love? We didn't wonder about his exercise plan. We didn't question his
commitment to sandwiches as a diet food. We cheered for him. He lost the weight, and he turned around and started a non-profit foundation to help
kids fight obesity (sort of). He was one of the good ones.
What we can do is place our trust in people we know. We can look for role models in our communities (How about the high school soccer star who also babysits and coaches little kids, for instance?) instead of looking for the latest and greatest up on that media operated pedestal.
Until he wasn't. Fogle was recently charged with possessing and distributing child
pornography and traveling across state lines to have sex with minors. He plans
to plead guilty to the charges and pay restitution to the 14 victims.
Just to be clear: The everyday hero who inspired many to
reconsider the parameters of healthy eating (e.g., You can lose weight without
spending a fortune)— and who pledged to distribute $2 million to schools and
community organizations to fight the condition that plagued him throughout his
childhood—is now trapped in his mini-mansion wearing an ankle bracelet while he
awaits sentencing for child pornography and sex with minors.
And that's not all. A former Subway franchisee, Cindy Mills,
Insider that she warned the company about Fogle's sexual interest in
children seven years ago and that Subway did nothing about it. Mills claims
that Fogle told her about sexual encounters with child prostitutes between the
ages of 9 and 16 and that she shared that information with Subway in 2008.
What does all of this mean for the rest of us? Why does Fogle suddenly represent our deepest, darkest parenting fears?
The landscape of fear in the world of parenting has changed
over time. Technology brings us closer together, but it also opens up false
trust. We feel very connected, and yet sometimes we feel like we don't know
anyone at all.
Once upon a time you had to wait for a monthly magazine to
arrive in the mail to learn anything about any celebrity. But kids today have
instant access to information. Images, stories and gossip are at their
fingertips at all times. Although this instant access and constant interaction
with celebrity news might make us feel like we really know the Ben Afflecks and
Jared Fogles of the world, the truth is we don't know them at all.
The landscape of fear in the world of parenting has changed over time.
We want to trust the carefully crafted images that fly
across our screens because we want to believe that people are good. We want
Taylor Swift to be the ultimate role model for little girls because we want our
girls to learn to speak up and be true to themselves. If she represents that,
what can go wrong?
The bottom line is that we have to stop looking to
celebrities, athletes and other famous folks as role models. We might want to
trust them to do the right thing, but how can we? How can we say, "Be like this
person" when we have no idea what that person is like when the lights go down?
What we can do is place our trust in people we know. We can
look for role models in our communities (How about the high school soccer star
who also babysits and coaches little kids, for instance?) instead of looking
for the latest and greatest up on that media operated pedestal. We can teach
our children that trust is sacred and their bodies are their own, and we can
make sure they know how to get help.