By Anthony Cave
USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent
By Andrew Medichini, AP

From left, actresses Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Rachel Korine and Ashley Benson pose at the photo call for the film “Spring Breakers” at the Venice Film Festival in September 2012.

“Bikinis and big booties, y’all, that’s what life is about!” shouts a less than convincible James Franco as a drug dealer in the trailer for Spring Breakers, which features former Disney Channel stars Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens.

In the movie, four college friends rob a restaurant to fund their spring break trip, and while in St. Petersburg, Fla., the bikini-clad group eventually gets arrested for drugs. Franco’s character, Alien, bails them out, but not without having them join his gun-wielding crew.

The trailer, which also stars explicit rapper Gucci Mane, features an onslaught of sex, illegal drugs and alcohol, which speaks to a larger societal issue.

Perhaps ironic, the girls in this film sing an off-key version of Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time, signaling an innocent time, especially for Disney alum Gomez and Hudgens.

But that is not the case anymore.

Spring Breakers is just the latest example of former child stars having a negative impact on their much younger fan base. Hudgens, along with Hannah Montana star Miley Cyrus, have leaked nude photos online. And just into this New Year, TMZ released photos of Justin Bieber smoking what appears to be a marijuana joint. He was also pulled over for speeding last year.

NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley once said in a Nike commercial, “I am not paid to be a role model,” but the problem is these young celebrities are in the public light and have a multitude of impressionable followers.

I don’t want my future son and/or daughter thinking activities like underage drinking and smoking weed is an acceptable American value.

It’s all about publicity with films like Spring Breakers, said Montana Miller, an associate professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Miller has taught classes such as “Introduction to Popular Culture” and “Youth and Popular Culture.”

“[It] seems like a real attention-getting strategy to do a film like this,” she said via email. “Gomez’s choice seems like a pretty questionable and irresponsible one given the age of her fan base, same with Vanessa Hudgens.”

While correlations between young celebrities and their impact of their behavior on followers have not been thoroughly researched, pop culture realms like music have telling results.

Drug use and aggressive behavior of young people “may be related to their frequent exposure to music containing references to substance use and violence,” according to a May 2006 study by researchers at the Prevention Research Center in Berkley, Calif.

While they ultimately determine their own course of action, young fans see the provocative actions of Hudgens, Gomez and other stars as acceptable, which is wrong on many accounts.

Anthony Cave is a Spring 2013 USA TODAY Collegiate Correspondent. Learn more about him here.

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