Inspiration and aspiration

I wonder sometimes about what kind of fiction will be written in the future by generations who have been brought up in the shadow of today’s ‘celebrities’. When I was young we had really inspirational people to look up to, or even if they weren’t majorly accomplished, they had at least some promise of talent or something else to recommend them. Nowadays however, it seems that young people are being exposed to such luminaries as Big Brother, TOWIE and even vaguely famous people who should know better are jumping in via ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ etc.
Consequently, when I used to ask the kids (mostly female) I worked with what they wanted to be when they grew up they said ‘famous’ unequivocally; not nurses, doctors, hairdressers, astronauts, scientists or pilots, as we did when we were young. Yes of course, I used to want to be a pop star; I sang into my hairbrush pretending to be Madonna or Kylie along with the best of them, but that wasn’t my ‘forever’ ambition (that would be writer-no more realistic I guess!) but I always knew it was a fantasy; a make-believe that was fun for a while until I grew up and got a ‘real’ job.
However, thanks to the X factor and The Voice etc a lot of young people (and not so young) want, no expect, to become famous singers, make millions and marry a rapper, whether they’ve actually got any talent or not. This means that they are drifting through their younger years in many cases, believing they don’t have to try hard at school or find work they’d enjoy because they’re going to become famous and rich. Worse, it’s often not because they’re good singers; that would at least mean they had talent and stood a chance, but often they just want to become famous any way they can. I used to hear them wanting to emulate the women they saw on shows like Big Brother; getting famous could mean no more than taking their clothes off or sleeping with a Z-lister and if these are messages they’ve picked up by age ten then what will they be doing in their teens?
I appreciate not all kids think like that but the area where I worked was quite socially deprived and these kids were vulnerable and impressionable and just the sort of kids who may get taken advantage of by dubious types. Equally, I saw many girls who were smart and who could’ve gone onto college, university or found a great job who, because it was the example they’d been fed either by older relatives or by the endless TV-tripe they watched, ended up treading water or marking time until they got pregnant somewhere after their seventeenth birthday.
It seems that no matter what law-makers think, how much young people (and especially girls) are influenced by less than perfect examples for aspiration is usually directly linked to social status and opportunities for them and those around them.
Of course, this may mean that these young people have an opportunity one day to discover a writing talent and then perhaps jump on the ‘misery-lit’ bandwagon, however I would hope that they would be nurtured in any obvious literary talent before they’d left school. This again is hit and miss though as I knew several kids who showed promise in a literary direction that was largely ignored by the schools they went to.
Therefore, we need to think carefully about the influences these young people are exposed to from a young age if we want to see great writers emerge from every sphere of society as it always has done. There’s still time to act, but how much? I guess no-one knows the answer to that one.

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