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PURETICS...

PURETICS...


Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Anti-Role Model.....?

As one starlet after another goes off the rails, what kind of example are they setting for American girls? Maybe a good one. Meet a new cultural force: the anti-role model.

When is a media bad girl not a bad girl? When she's an excellent example.
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Bringing up children in 21st-century America is difficult enough, given a pop culture that constantly promotes a vulgar, empty celebration of self. But do some of our starlets have to work so hard at it? The Spears sisters, Britney and Jamie Lynn, have mutated from wholesome pop tarts to whacked-out baby factories. Lindsay Lohan acts out her rebellion against the entire culture on the evening news. Paris Hilton - well, Paris Hilton. That's all you need to say.

It's enough to make a parent want to pack the kids off to a nunnery - an unplugged nunnery - and many experts and academics agree. "Even when actors get into trouble, they're glamorized on the covers of magazines, and the visual effect is to spread the message that they're beautiful and hot," says Montana Miller, a professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State University. "Of course girls are led to want to imitate how they look, even as they get the message that their behavior isn't appropriate."

Miller is right - and yet tweener mimicry isn't always so simple. As a parent of two girls, age 11 and 13 at this writing, I should probably be wringing my hands. I'm not, because when I listen to my daughters and their friends, I hear a moral code being forged upon the paparazzi traumas of the famous and unfortunate.

There are levels of judgment going on here, moral siftings and weighings. Children are both more and less innocent than adults take them for, and they process the role models our culture hands them in complex ways.

The new bad girls, it's clear, are important figures in the culture. But they don't necessarily teach young girls how to behave - just as likely, they're teaching them how not to behave. They have become anti-role models.

As such, they act out the problems of how to grow up, what sort of behavior is appropriate, and when enough is enough. Once, these questions were worked out on the big screen, by stars like Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Today those melodramas have moved from fiction to the hyperreal world of the tabloid omniverse. Some kids accept the new anti-role models at face value, others heartily disapprove, and they're hashing it out in chat rooms and lunch lines in a sort of instant-message dialectic. All a parent has to do is pay attention.

In part, that pit you feel in your stomach is generational business as usual. Mothers and fathers wonder where have all the good examples gone, forgetting that our own parents tore their hair out over the music and movies we loved. I recently gave my 11-year-old daughter grief over the bawdy lyrics to Flo Rida's "Low" just as Led Zeppelin came on the oldies station promising to "give ya every inch of my love." Game, set, match.

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