As a first year English student, when I discovered the comment made by Jane Lunnon, head teacher of Wimbledon High School, that girls should choose Shakespeare’s heroines as their role models instead of popular female celebrities such as Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian, I let out a chuckle. Although Shakespeare wrote some awesome and powerful female characters, the point is he did just that; he wrote them.
In Shakespeare’s plays, we see lots of positive examples of women; witty and independent Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing, beautiful Juliet, the authoritative voice of Lady Macbeth, cunning Empress Tamora from the play Titus Andronicus and the strong leader that is Cleopatra. They all have traits that are admirable, but surely we can’t forget that Lady Macbeth threatened to throw her unborn child against a wall, Beatrice hides her vulnerability with rudeness and cynicism, Tamora accidentally eats her own sons in a pie, naïve Juliet ends the play with her committing suicide and Cleopatra also follows suit in the play Anthony and Cleopatra by killing herself – with a snake. Yet despite this, Lunnon argues that Shakespeare’s heroines show that you can be “both flawed and brilliant.”
Kim Kardashian and other popular female celebrities seem like an easy option for girls to choose as their role models. With modern day technology and constant exposure to their glamour and success, it’s difficult to escape being drawn into their lives. But is Kim Kardashian really the worst role model on the planet? She is either loved or hated by the public, and arguably she didn’t have the worthiest claim to fame. However instead of letting the infamous sex tape degrade her, she still came out on top and managed to become a very successful business woman, an active supporter of numerous charities including Alzheimer’s Association, AIDS charities and Breast Cancer Research. She also donates clothes to raise money for the Dream Foundation and encourages other celebrities and socialites to do the same. She does all of this whilst simultaneously being a loving wife and mother of two, and a TV personality. Her book of selfies, Selfish, has received a lot of negative press labelling it as vanity, but it has also received some surprisingly positive reviews. Kat Brown from The Telegraph writes: “It should be dreadful, but it isn’t. Surprisingly, it’s a rather enchanting document of someone having a jet-set life (sample caption: “I was in Africa in a diamond mine”) and not being overly protective about her image (one page is devoted entirely to photographs of her with sunburn after she fell asleep wearing sunglasses.” Is that not also an example of being both flawed and brilliant?
At the end of the day, it isn’t about who is a better role model. A role model is individual to everybody and for completely different reasons. A role model can be the queen, your mum or nobody at all. Kim Kardashian doesn’t live her life wondering whether every action she does would be appropriate for a role model to do, and I’m pretty sure neither do Ophelia or Viola because (spoiler alert) they’re not real! Many people have responded to this story on social media, saying that they’re tired of being told what to do and how to live their lives, and I have to say I completely agree. Girls have enough names to add to the list of people they should be looking up to and comparing themselves to, do we really need to add more fictional characters with a dark demise to the ever growing list? Do we really respect and imitate the ideology of how a female should be from the imagination of a five-hundred-year old white man? Or from a head teacher from Wimbledon for that matter – Be your own person, be your own inspiration because you can’t pretend to be anyone else but yourself.