10 Worst TV Role Models of 2011

What are kids learning from TV characters? By Sierra Filucci
10 Worst TV Role Models of 2011

When it comes to sex, violence, drinking, bullying, and other sensitive topics, you want messages about right and wrong to come from you -- not, say, Snooki from Jersey Shore.

But surprisingly, Snooki might be more of an ally than you think. Talking about TV characters and their choices can be a great way to start conversations with your kids about their own behavior. We encourage you to get familiar with the characters kids are watching -- whether you love or hate them -- and sneak in a little parental direction between Snooki's visits to the bar.

1. Snooki, Jersey Shore
Not only is she not the brightest bulb in the bunch, but she drinks constantly and to excess. And while her drinking sometimes gets her arrested or leads to iffy sexual behavior, she gets lots of attention (and a big paycheck) for her antics.
Why it matters: Kids who watch shows with alcohol use are more likely to try drinking than those who don't.
What you can do: Use these moments to talk to your teens about drinking and whether they think the depictions on television are realistic. Take time to share your opinions -- and expectations -- about drinking. Be a good role model by not abusing alcohol in front of your kids.

2. Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen), Two and a Half Men
He is an alcoholic womanizer (who has since left the show, but can be seen in a bazillion reruns). And worse than that, the real-life Charlie got way too much attention for being a drug user and hanging out with prostitutes, all while flouting the idea that there was anything problematic with his behavior.
Why it matters: Adolescents who watch a lot of TV with sexual content are twice as likely to get pregnant or impregnate someone as kids who watch fewer of these shows. And treating alcohol overuse as a punchline sends a mixed message to teens who might be thinking of experimenting with alcohol.
What you can do: Watching shows that include the negative consequences of sex has been shown to be educational for teens. Talk about preventing unintended consequences such as sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies, respecting the opposite sex, and not taking decisions -- like having sex -- lightly. Additionally, talk about how drug and alcohol use has affected Sheen, from his appearance to his dignity to his relationship with family members.

3. Kim Kardashian, Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Her fame is based on ... not much. Aside from having a bodacious body and a knack for self-promotion, Kim and her sisters are the ultimate celebrity role models with nothing worth copying.
Why it matters: By middle school, kids are looking to their peers for a sense of what's socially acceptable or desirable. And celebrities, with their 24/7 presence in the media, become a gigantic super peer, whether you like it or not.
What you can do: Use celebrity news as a pathway to media literacy. Talk about how these stars make their money. Is it from making positive choices and living mild-mannered lifestyles? No. It's from getting attention for their misbehavior, their love lives, and, especially in the Kardashians' case, their physical appearance. Also, point out that stars like Kim K. get paid to promote products through Twitter, etc.

4. Goku and Gohan, Dragon Ball Z Kai
While the father and son team from this hugely popular anime series do put forward messages about loyalty and good triumphing over evil, they solve their problems with violence -- including hand-to-hand combat and superhuman powers, and others on the show use guns. And their shows are marketed toward kids as young as 7, who are just learning to distinguish reality from fantasy.
Why it matters: Exposure to lots of media violence can increase antisocial activity and bullying and decrease empathy for victims of violence.
What you can do: Limit violent imagery in movies, television, and games, especially for younger kids. Explain the consequences of violent behavior, and teach conflict resolution so kids have a vocabulary to use when disputes arise.

5. Tyra Banks, America's Next Top Model
Though she talks a good game about appreciating different body types and encouraging positive behavior among her young recruits, she continues to reinforce ultra-thin physical standards and showcase backstabbing behavior on her show.
Why it matters: Girls are bombarded with messages about their appearance that reinforce unrealistic standards of thinness and beauty. Studies have shown that these messages have damaging effects on girls' self-esteem and can contribute to eating disorders and other extreme weight loss measures.
What you can do: Place less emphasis on how your teen looks than on what she can do. Show that you value her intelligence, creativity, and other traits that have nothing to do with looks. And expose the myths behind the supposed perfection of models and celebrities -- use Top Model as a jumping-off point to talk about how photos can be digitally altered to make women appear thinner or remove blemishes; talk about how stylists, make-up artists, lighting, and other special effects create the illusion of perfection.

6. All the Housewives, Real Housewives of Orange County, Beverly Hills, New York City, New Jersey, etc.
These materialistic drama queens are poor role models for many, many reasons. But we particularly dislike the way they constantly gang up against each other and form mean-girl alliances.
Why it matters: Being mean to others is so much easier in today's 24/7 digital world. Between social media, texting, and email, being a cyberbully has never been so easy.
What you can do: Encourage kids to think before they post. And remind them not to say anything online that they wouldn't say face to face. And if they've been bullied -- online or otherwise -- teach them how to respond.

7. Blair Waldorf (Leighton Meester), Gossip Girl
Backstabbing and always out to be queen bee, Blair is the ultimate mean girl ... with a killer wardrobe.
Why it matters: Blair's fashionable ways and runway style make her a key target for young viewers to look up to. And when kids who visit the Gossip Girl website can buy the clothes right off the backs of their favorite characters, Blair and her prep school buddies become covert salespeople targeting a key demographic -- your teens.
What you can do: Arm kids with the critical thinking skills to help them see through the hype and understand when they're being marketed to. Kids hate to feel manipulated, and when they understand that underneath promotions, free downloads, movie websites, or apps is plain and simple advertising, they'll be warier.

8. Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker), Weeds
She makes consistently terrible parenting decisions, getting her sons caught up in a world of drug dealing, crime, and violence.
Why it matters: Outrageous -- not to mention illegal -- parenting behavior sends a message that abandoning responsibility is the only option when life gets overwhelming.
What you can do: You'd probably never miss a soccer game or back-to-school night, but do you know the ESRB ratings of your kids' favorite video games? Do you let your little kids surf the web unsupervised? Did you know that your Wii can surf the web or that your kid has a MySpace page? Get involved in your kids' digital life so that you can make informed media choices.

9. Strawberry Shortcake, Strawberry Shortcake Bitty Berry Adventures
OK, she's not actually that bad. But her character has morphed from a cute, plump kid in baggy jeans to a svelte tween with a glamorous hairdo. What's up with that? On top of that, she and her berry-named friends tend to needs lots of reassurance for every decision they make, and their vocations tend toward the stereotypical (food, dance, hair-care).
Why it matters: Girls are increasingly being sexualized in the media at a younger age, leading to a limited sense of self.
What you can do: Watch out for stereotypes in TV shows and other media, and point out when girls are rewarded for their looks and boys for their strength. Teach kids to question these messages and reinforce behaviors that don't emphasize their looks.

10. Candace (Ashley Tisdale), Phineas and Ferb
Her primary motivations are pleasing her boyfriend and getting her brothers in trouble. All while being a screechy, whiny stereotype of a girl.
Why it matters: In the media, women are still too often relegated to the roles of love interest, sex object, selfless saint, or nitpicky nag -- despite overwhelming real-world evidence to the contrary. When kids see characters portrayed that way over and over, it reinforces gender stereotypes.
What you can do: Talk to your kids about strong female role models who've achieved success through hard work, intelligence, discipline, or business savvy. These can be everyday heroes -- like your child's teacher -- or famous women your family admires or even a strong female character on television.

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About Sierra Filucci

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Sierra is a journalist with a special interest in media and families. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, and she's been writing and editing professionally for more... Read more

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Comments (43)

Kid, 9 years old

If you read dork diaries, Tyra Banks is pretty much nikki's IDOL. She says a milloin times somthing like "I just love that girl!"
Teen, 15 years old written by sweets73002

I beg to disagree, Kim Kardashian might not be the best role model but your taking this to far. Mrs. Filucci your not making any sense. I can be fashionable without getting in over my head. Your nitpicking. The only persom who thinks this is you. Its kind of stupid. No actually it is.
Adult written by Kiyaaorta

I admit I have neverseen Dragonball Z Kai but I did watch DBZ for a few years(last bit of the Frieza saga through the end of the Cell saga) and I would say that Goku and Gohan are DECENT role models. They aren't great but I wouldn't say bad by a long shot. They,iirc, are sympathetic and prefer to use words instead of fists/magic energy beams. A good replacement would be Spongebob Squarepants and Patrick Star. I am not an avid follower of Spongebob but still, not a role model I'd want to follow.
Adult written by Justanotherdude

It seems as if you're not trying to get rid of stereotypes, you're trying to reverse them. I bet if Goku and Gohan were girls they'd be on the top role model list.
Teen, 14 years old written by IMT

Goku and Gohan are not bad TV role models! Dragon Ball Z is the best show ever!
Kid, 11 years old

NOBODY in DBZ uses guns except for maybe the farmer in episode 1...Goku and Gohan have never used guns in the series.
Kid, 11 years old

WHAT? REALLY! HAVE YOU EVEN SEEN ATLEAST THE FIRST SEASON OF DBZ. Goku saves the entire universe with his powers. He was born an alien race called a ''saiyan'' which is an evil race that loves killing people and instead Goku, saves the world.
Adult written by FlamingQuill

Goku and Gohan also teach us to put forth all our might in preventing or fixing bad things that happen to our loved ones. :P It is acceptable to fight if that is your only option to protect yourself and those you love.
Teen, 13 years old written by red316

wait, there are no guns in dbzk except for literally, one scene for about ten seconds. i know, cuz ive seen every episode.
Teen, 13 years old written by red316

list seems fairly accurate, except for goku and gohan. they never fight others without reason and almost always give their enemies a chance to surrender.
Teen, 13 years old written by Dylan09

You know what's funny? Snooki's baby is due on the day that the Mayans predicted the world will end
Kid, 10 years old

why goku and gohan they are great rolemodels,and arent you suppost to fight to defend yourself?
Teen, 14 years old written by kuriboh

Goku and Gohan are one of the best role models. They have a strong bond and save the universe.
Kid, 11 years old

Why are Goku and Gohan on there!? They beat up evil people, like, um, basically any other living thing with superpowers. WTF!?
Kid, 9 years old

Your forgetting that all the Kardashians and everyone on jersey shore are bad role - models and those should be listed as casts not just Snooki or Kim. Charlie sheen is a real nut job so I surely feel that that was 100% right of you to finally drop the bomb on guy with " Tiger blood" . His character or just him in general are both bade role-models for kids and adults. And don't put down Tyra Banks because of visual appearance it doesn't mean her inside is raw. And seriously cartoon characters.
Teen, 14 years old written by Flaming Pencil

EVERYONE on Jersey Shore needs to be on this list! The entire show is a complete waste of time (According to my mother)
Adult written by hwarming

I don't think Goku and Gohan belong on this list, sure the show is violent, but Goku and Gohan try to avoid conflicts, preferring to talk, instead of fight. Gohan would rather be a scholar than a fighter, does that sound like a bad role model to you?
Teen, 15 years old written by Einstein27brandon

Goku and Gohan? The Z fighters in the dragonball trilogy show exceptional qualities as friends, family and allies. Numerous episodes show that good prevails over evil, and qualities such as trust, honesty, bravery, honour, faith and patience are displayed throughout all three series. Dragonball, Dragonball Z and Dragondall GT are far better cartoon series to watch for children aged 4 and up. Violence in children often stems from wrestling shows, not from the fighting pleins of Namek.
Teen, 13 years old written by Kaonis

Goku and Gohan? Are you kidding me? First off, they're great role models. Before you write something like this, please try to watch an episode. Gohan is the son of Goku. He loves peace, and only fights as a last resort. Goku loves martial arts. He fights to make himself better in tournaments and the like, and never fights to kill. The only times Goku actually kills are when he's fighting in defence of his friends and the earth against the supervillains - which he gives plenty of chances to stop their evil ways. They're great role-models, and I believe I am a much better person than I would be if I hadn't watched the Dragon Ball Series.
Kid, 11 years old

Snooki - Hate her. Hate her hate her hate her. Erm, remind me again, WHY is she famous? For flashing? For being on a worthless TV show? Hmm, not so sure. Charlie Harper (Charlie Sheen) - Never actually took him seriously, I've only seen 2 and a half men once or twice. He's a TV character, anyway. Not like I'd copy off him, it's made for laughter. Kim Kardashian - I know why she's famous, and I think she's dumb. A 72 day marriage and the worse singing voice ever. Yup, I REALLY want to be her... Goku and Gohan - I'm sorry, who? Tyra Banks - I watch ANTM and I'm not sure why. I think the girls get treated like meat and if they gain a little bit of weight Tyra doesn't let it slip. She says stuff like "The industry needs plus sized models." Yeah, well, why don't you GET some plus sized models? They're not really plus sized, they're a normal, healthy sized. ~ This was written by an 11-year-old.
Teen, 13 years old written by Novalita

To IAmBeth~ True dat! I agree with you 100% as a 13 year old. Adults don't give us enough credit!
Kid, 12 years old

I'm 12 and I most definitely know these are some of the WORST role models anyone might look up too. Personally I don't consider any of them role models. I was a bit surprised though to see cartoons on there.
Teen, 13 years old written by JinxIsMeJ

I have to disagree with #4 in the list because they are animated characters that have super powers and they don't use guns. I do agree with another commenter who said that they should have been replaced with the main characters in Twilight, more specifically, Bella and her annoyingly stupid obsession over one person. I agree with all of the others for the most part
Kid, 12 years old

You may want to revise the section about Goku and Gohan. In Dragon Ball Z (original, not Kai) Android 16 says to Gohan to fight Cell because "there are some who words alone will not reach". Gohan is, by nature, a peaceful child and only loses this quality when he becomes Super Saiyan 2, which he rarely utilizes and only uses against the most cruel villains such as Cell and Spopovich (Spopovich isn't shown in Dragon Ball Z Kai, only DBZ). Same with Goku. He gave Frieza and the Ginyu Force several chances to leave Planet Namek peacefully without being harmed. He defeats them because they ignored his warnings and continued attempting to kill. Also, neither Goku nor Gohan have ever used guns. Guns are only used by a few civilians and the army, never the Z Fighters.
Kid, 11 years old

If you were a kid, I doubt you'd be using words like that. ~ IamBeth reply to Teddybear123456789.
Teen, 15 years old written by ishaan sharma

1) Goku and Gohan have never used guns in the series. 2) Both of them, Gohan in particular, only fight as a last resort, when their friends or family are in danger. 3) Goku NEVER fights to kill, and hates violence. He always allows people that he fights to live, giving them a chance to leave their evil ways. Of course, this only worked with Vegeta, but for the other times, the bad guy refused to give up, it was no fault of Goku's.
Teen, 13 years old written by railene77

Fairly irritated that none of the men on Jersey Shore were mentioned yet Snooki is front and center. What is she doing that the men on this show are not? They just as violent, drunken, materialistic and into casual sex as Snooki yet their names are left off,why? This list seems to be reinforcing that girls are far too stupid to realize when someone is not acting in their best interest. Common Sense......
Kid, 9 years old

I know right? I totally agree like expressed in my comment I feel that the jersey shore cast as well as the Kardashians should be listed not just one person.
Adult written by Brenalea

I agree the list, but I would put Kim Kardashian at the top and include her family, esp. her Mother! The whole family are terrible role models, just terrible! They are greedy and self-centered!
Parent of a 8 and 11 year old written by JaneMN1

I watched a more recent Looney Tunes episode with my son where Daffy is a bachelor living at Bugs' house and his duck girlfriend drops off a baby in a carriage because it's his day to watch the baby! What were they thinking?!
Teen, 13 years old written by Novalita

To JaneMN1~ I understand your concern, but actually, she was babysitting and she wanted him to be a good boyfriend and help out. The show is aimed at teenagers, but it is a bit more racy compared to other cartoons.
Teen, 14 years old written by Safemancam001

Why would someone "clean-up" Dragon Ball Z and turn it into Dragon Ball Z Kia and call it a kids show? When Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z came out they were aimed a teenagers.
Adult written by silversatyr

Why in the world is Goku and Gohan on here? Seriously? It's fantasy and I can definitely think of worse fantasy characters than these two that could go on this list. How about, hm... Bella and Edward of Twilight, promoting bland love, violence, stalking, pedophilia and necrophilia? Or Sponge Bob Square Pants - promotion of stupidity? You might as well say Naruto is a bad influence because he's a ninja and has to kill people, or that Luffy is bad because he beats people up, or that Pokemon is bad because it condones the torture of animals and animal fights, Bambi is a bad influence because there's guns and death, oh, and Star Wars is also bad because there's the death of whole species and civilisations, the hero becoming evil and trying to kill his own son. At least in DBZ there's the expectation that Goku and Gohan make the choice to save the rest of the universe/world, there's no racism, and the evil characters are clearly defined as such. AND THEY DON'T USE GUNS!
Kid, 10 years old

this list is great, but i still think kim kardashian should have been number 2. not that charlie sheen is good its because SHE GOT FAMOUS FROM A SEXUAL VIDEO!!!! proving how insane are society is. GO CSM!!!!!
Adult written by cuckookazoo

Dear "Against This" - My parents had an expression when I was growing up: "If you're going to listen to some of it, listen to all of it." To paraphrase them, If you're going to read some of the article, read all of it. The whole "What you can do" section? About discussing these things with your children? That would fit into the "doing your job as a parent" thing you suggest. Discussion HELPS them "formulate their own choices". The article does NOT suggest sheltering your children. If it falls short in any regard, it would be in the top three choices - which are more "Duh!" than "Common Sense".
Adult written by lisalepatriot

I appreciate this point of view, because over-sheltering your children can have unintended consequences--especially if your child's peer group does not support the family's values. HOWEVER, current media standards are lowered further every day in terms of age-inappropriate material, over-exposure to negative influencers and irresponsible programming directed at youth. All of these issues have been scientifically proven to impact behavior of children and a parent who allows their child to watch current media un-assisted is asking for trouble. It is the parent's responsibility, not the media's, to evaluate and decide what is appropriate for his/her child. I absolutely let my kids watch a lot of mainstream stuff--and I watch it with them so we can discuss it. This is called being a proactive parent. Using television as a babysitter, however, without regard to what your children are watching, is called being a naiive and irresponsible parent. And, socially speaking, we have far too many of those--or haven't you noticed the rise in crime, drug use, teen pregnancy, violence, suicide rates and school assaults among youth?
Kid, 10 years old

why were people talking about DBZ. If you dont know what it is go on this link http://www.dbz.tv/3/


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