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The 10 Worst TV Role Models of 2012

Posted: 10/17/2012 1:08 pm

By Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media editor

From Kim Kardashian to Honey Boo Boo, TV is full of outrageous characters who make us laugh, cringe or scratch our heads in disbelief. Each year, Common Sense Media takes a look at some of TV's most popular characters and shakes them down for what they do or don't have to offer kids and families. You'll see some familiar faces on this year's list (like Ms. Kardashian, for example) and many new ones. Some, like The Jersey Shore's Snooki, have fallen off the list because her bad behavior has toned down and there are so many others vying for her place in the "worst role models" spotlight.

The good news for parents is that even the worst role models can serve as a starting point for some important discussions with kids. Conversations about characters' wild and crazy antics can lead to discussions about what is and isn't appropriate behavior. These talks can also help your kid become more media-savvy. Discuss the reasons why these folks get so much attention. Who makes the decisions to popularize these characters and their TV shows?

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  • 1. June, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Exploiting her family. Here's a mom who has found a surefire way to keep her family in "Sketti" (microwaved Country Crock and ketchup over pasta) for years to come. She's courted publicity for her self-proclaimed "redneck" family -- first on <em><a href="" target="_hplink">Toddlers & Tiaras</a></em> and now on <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Here Comes Honey Boo Boo</em></a> -- and TLC has promoted their antics to the point where more people watched her show than the president's Democratic National Convention speech. While June's messages of self-acceptance are fine, her decision to offer up her family members as examples of uncouth, uneducated, unwashed country dwellers reinforces negative stereotypes and turns them into the butt of America's joke.

  • 2. Ravi, Jessie

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Reinforcing cultural stereotypes. As the adopted child of an uber-rich New York City family,<a href="" target="_hplink"> <em>Jessie</em>'s</a> Ravi (played by Karan Brar) attends the best schools, socializes with a diverse metropolitan community and is largely in the care of a Midwestern nanny. But somehow he has maintained all of his original Indian culture's idioms and references, as well as a thick Indian accent. Just a few examples: "Great Ganesh!" and "I'm a human samosa!" and "You have aroused my ire!" These phrases are meant to be funny, but they're really just an excuse to laugh at an exaggerated version of a different culture. Not a habit we want to encourage in our kids.

  • 3. Abby Lee Miller, Dance Moms

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Encouraging unhealthy competition. Abby Lee Miller gained attention this year as the star of <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Dance Moms</em></a>, her own reality show focusing on her studio, where she trains girls to perform in national dance competitions. Her methods of motivation include yelling and berating her students -- some as young as 6 -- as well as shaming their mothers when they don't live up to her standards of ambition. She criticizes girls -- often in front of the whole dance group -- on their bodies, their looks, their brains and their talents. And she regularly pits girls against one another by placing their photos in a pyramid arrangement, with the "best" girl at the top, teaching girls that to be good at something, you must bring down someone else.

  • 4. Squidward, SpongeBob SquarePants

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Being selfish. <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>SpongeBob SquarePants</em> ' </a>Squidward (voiced by Rodger Bumpass) -- the mean and nasty cashier at the Krusty Krab -- is nice only when he wants something, and his greed always gets in the way of a straight and narrow path. You’d think that his twin passions for music and art would redeem him, but he pursues them with such a totally pretentious and snobbish attitude that he alienates everyone around him. While meant to be a humorous foil to SpongeBob's eternal optimism and selflessness, Squidward's antics are marketed toward kids as young as 3 -- and at that age, they can't tell the difference.

  • 5. Kim Kardashian and Kris Jenner, Keeping up with the Kardashians

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Promoting appearance over achievement. Kim's primary talent is successfully promoting herself, and she does it very, very well. But aside from her self-marketing -- which has led to a <a href="" target="_hplink">TV show</a> for almost every member of the family and a 72-day marriage -- Kim has produced little else besides a sex tape and thousands of tabloid cover photos. Together with her mom, Kris Jenner -- who recently showed the world her new plastic surgery-enhanced breasts on television -- Kim teaches kids that it's not what you do that makes you important, it's how you look and how well you leverage those looks.

  • 6. Gordon Ramsay, Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, Hotel Hell

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Being mean and cursing up a storm. Ramsay debuted his signature managerial style in <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Hell's Kitchen</em></a>, where a soggy risotto or overcooked steak meant a string of expletives delivered within inches of a young cook's face. Though he's softened a bit on <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>MasterChef</em></a>, he remains mean and rude in<a href="" target="_hplink"> <em>Hotel Hell</em></a>. Like Abby Lee Miller, Ramsay's aggressive motivational style draws a big audience, but it's surely no example for kids on how to work cooperatively or deliver constructive criticism.

  • 7. CeCe and Rocky, Shake It Up!

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Seeking fame above all else. Along with many other characters on tween-targeted shows, <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Shake It Up!</em>'s </a>CeCe (Bella Thorne) and Rocky (Zendaya) are focused almost exclusively on becoming famous. After getting a shot on a local dance show, the high school girls revel in their newfound popularity and work to bring their status to the next level. By aiming for fame above all else, the characters miss the opportunity to inspire kids to reach for something truly meaningful. And they reinforce the idea that attention and appearance are more important than being kind, thoughtful and smart.

  • 8. Annoying Orange and Fred Figglehorn, Annoying Orange and Fred: The Show

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Being extremely annoying. Pity the parent whose kid is a fan of either of these immensely irritating characters from<em> <a href="" target="_hplink">Annoying Orange</a> </em>and<em> <a href="" target="_hplink">Fred: The Show</a></em>. Sure, there are moments of humor on each show, and occasionally, at least in Fred's case, some positive messages to be gleaned, but for the most part they exist only to turn kids into mimicking little monsters.

  • 9. All the Real Housewives Series

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Feeding a negative stereotype of women. Each and every one of the Housewives -- from <a href="" target="_hplink">New Jersey</a> to <a href="" target="_hplink">Beverly Hills</a> -- deserves a bucket of water thrown on her until she melts to the ground. These women showcase the worst stereotypes of women -- catty, petty, brainless, materialistic, looks-obsessed -- and their ubiquity makes this behavior seem almost normal.

  • 10. Archer, Archer

    <strong>Worst offense</strong>: Presenting adult content in kid-friendly form. The practice of merging animation with adult content is nothing new (see <a href="" target="_hplink"><em>Family Guy</em></a>), but kids are still attracted to animation and aren't always savvy enough to realize when a cartoon is meant only for Mom and Dad. <a href="'s" target="_hplink"><em>Archer</em>'s</a> namesake (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin) is one of those characters you hope your kids never happen upon unaware. He curses like crazy, gets drunk regularly, treats everyone with the utmost disrespect and, just to top it off, seems to regularly murder prostitutes. Who do<em> you </em>think are TV's worst role models?