December 19, 2007

Beware the Tween Idol

Marc Comtois

As my daughters have grown up, I've become more aware of the pop culture canonization of people who are famous (some for its own sake, aka Paris Hilton). What's disturbing to me is that there is no age limit to the phenomena. More specifically, the recent Hannah Montana ticket "controversy" is symptomatic of our culture's inability to keep tween entertainment in context, for example. It looks like we grown-ups are sending all the wrong messages to our daughters (and sons) about the importance of entertainment in our society.

A few months ago it was "revealed" that the star of Disney's High School Musical franchise, Vanessa Hudgens, uhh, revealed a bit more than a high schooler should. Today we learn that 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, star of Nickelodeon's popular Zoey 101 (and sister to you-know-who) is pregnant. Both girls (yes, girls) have been placed in the pop-culture pantheon of "tween" stars and are held up as role models (like it or not) by our youth, especially young girls.

It's not particularly insightful to proclaim that young, promiscuous actresses (or 'roided up baseball players, for that matter) are shaky role models. But they become role models because they have such a squeaky clean image in the fhe first place. But appreciation of their talent for its own sake is rarely enough. Instead, we make more of them than they are--and some try to make more of themselves than they are--and mass media helps to portray them as such until, eventually, a star somehow becomes a positive role model because they are....famous.

These young almost-starlets appeal primarily to the 6-11 crowd and my daughters fit into the younger half of that demographic. But posing for nudie pics and getting knocked up at 16 aren't the sort of behavior I want my daughters to even know about much less be exposed to. Thankfully, we don't allow them to watch most of the shows aimed at the tween crowd because, frankly, we think they're not appropriate (even if Disney and Nick produce them--or should that be especially because they do?). But I know that we're in the minority of parents in that regard. Oh well. Cocooning has it's benefits, after all.

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Time to get the kids back into sports LOL.
Young people make dumb mistakes - it's happened since the dawn of man. What annoys the poop out of me are people like Britney Spears and Jessica Simpson who try to market themselves as down-home Christian girls when in reality, they're just as skanky as any rapper.

Posted by: rhody at December 19, 2007 10:07 PM

Why has Nick not fired her? All I keep hearing is that they are 'supporting her decision'. Unless they plan to quietly kill her show with the writer's strike I just don't understand how a kids network doesn't see a problem with having her playing the lead on a show.

Posted by: Greg at December 20, 2007 6:55 AM

I'm a fairly young person(in my late 20s) & in a committed relationship (getting married next year). I did not "wait until marriage" but unlike Miss Spears, I've been responsible enough not to get knocked up and/or become disease infested in my youth.

My parents (unfortunately, like most) did not talk very much about the "birds & the bees". However, I was a nerd as a kid & read a lot, including medical-type texts. Sex ed in school was useless; they taught us about menstruation a year after I had first experienced it!

I knew a few girls in high school over a decade ago who got pregnant, but the glorification of becoming a way-too-young mother seems to have become the norm in the past few years.

I have a friend who is a NICU nurse in CA who took care of a baby earlier this year whose mom was 14 & grandma was all of 30, a year younger than me!

I fear what I will have to deal with when I have kids. I guess the best I can do is be honest & open with my future kids about this subject & hope they are smart enough to not treat their sexuality lightly. You can't lock them in their room away from Jamie Lynn Spears but you can explain why being pregnant at 16 regardless of if you are famous or not is wrong.

Parents need to do a better job of talking to their kids about this subject, no matter how uncomfortable it makes you. Do not rely on schools to do it for you! Encourage kids to wait as long as possible but also tell them how to be responsible when they do become active.

Posted by: Siva at December 20, 2007 10:54 AM

Just out of curiosity: what would be the reaction if Jamie Lynn were not determined to have the baby, and instead had quietly "dealt" with the pregnancy?

Posted by: rhody at December 20, 2007 11:20 AM

Well, rhody, if she were quiet enough we'd never know now would we?

Maybe if she were intelligent enough to buy a condom she wouldn't be in this position. But considering her sister one has to think that parenting in the Spears household consisted of drunken mommy yelling at the kids as she wandered from the bed to the couch.

Posted by: Greg at December 20, 2007 11:51 AM

Hey, we'd never get rich overestimating the IQ of the Spears hallspawn.
What I find really amusing is that Jamie Lynn supposedly met the baby daddy at church.

Posted by: rhody at December 20, 2007 1:14 PM

Question: Isn't Jamie's 19 year old boyfriend guilty of statutory rape?

Posted by: Marty at December 20, 2007 1:30 PM

If you are a parent and you're NOT sending Viacom an email telling them if they don't pop Spears you'll go to their advertisers and make a stink then you're part of the problem.

Posted by: Greg at December 20, 2007 2:15 PM

Greg, whether you watch the channel or not -- if it is included in part of your Cable package -- you are part of the problem.

If you don't have the nerve to kill your TV, then at least kill your cable. And lobby congress for cable choice!

Oh how I would LOVE to be able to watch ESPN without having to subsidize MTV and this crap! So I do the responsible thing and don't pay for either.

Posted by: Marty at December 20, 2007 9:23 PM

Y'all know what happens when you try to boycott advertisers or networks. Other advertisers are attracted to controversy and will dive in.
Yes, the backlash against WWE resulted in many consumer products leaving the show. But they were replaced by movies, video games, etc., whose buyers laugh at boycott threats.

Posted by: rhody at December 21, 2007 11:22 AM
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