Friday, May 02, 2008

Talk of the Nation

Now that running is out, walking is in, by default. I've taken to listening to podcasts instead of music while walking - it's helped me come to terms with the (slightly) slower pace.

I'm fairly new to the whole podcast world. So far, I haven't done much exploring of what's out there beyond the NPR channel on iTunes. And even within NPR, the only ones I've listened to so far are Car Talk, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, and Talk of the Nation.

The topic of the Talk of the Nation that I happened to download today was the Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana scandal, which I'm sure you've all heard more about than you care to. So I won't say much, except the following.

All the guests/callers/hosts of Talk of the Nation - save one - were shocked and appalled that the photos in question managed not only to come into existence but actually be OK'd for publication in Vanity Fair. And of course I agree with them.

But you know what? The tragedy of the photos' existence and publication is secondary. To me, the primary issue to wring your hands about here is that so many tween girls were allowed to build up what is essentially the creation of a multimedia conglomerate into something approaching an infallible role model.

All the moms who called into the show spoke of their disappointment and sorrow that their daughters' favorite star, idol, and hero of life was no longer squeaky clean. With which sentiment, again, I commiserate. But a 9- or 10-year-old girl does not form such a fascination with a celebrity entirely on her own. She may initiate it, and nurture it in some ways, but it is generally the parents who will endorse or even encourage the "relationship" with all the mass-marketed hud. Hannah Montana backpacks, sparkly shirts, DVDs, dolls, and concert tickets do not buy themselves.

So before we get too worked up about the downfall of the "last good role model," perhaps we should think twice about the pedestals we put celebrities on on behalf of our children. And as for who we should teach them to look up to - well, the truth is that probably no one is 100% safe. We're better off teaching our children not to buy into manufactured hype in general, allowing their interests to develop without too much specific celebrity endorsement, and making sure they realize that everybody has choices to make and sometimes (or most times) their values will not align with our own. These are principles that can remain constant no matter who takes off their shirt next.

This is the second time I've written about Ms. Cyrus on this blog, which is a lot for someone I had never heard of before that ridiculous news story on CNN, and hadn't thought of since. Let's hope we never have to speak of her again.

Besides your thoughts on this matter, of course, in the comments below.


Liz Johnson said...

Amen. I really can't think of anything to add. People need to stop pawning their parenting/role model duties off on celebrities and other public figures and explain the whole "nobody is perfect" thing.

Don't download the Diane Rehm show on NPR. It is the most boring thing I have ever heard in my life, and I always seem to go to/from the grocery store when it's on.

Suzanne Bubnash said...

You aren't surprised that I agree with you that training our children to idolize fickle strangers is doing them a great disservice. In fact, indulging our children in pop culture and encouraging them to follow trends and respond to marketing hype is a mistake. I’ve seen boys as young as second grade with green hair and a pierced ear and we all know that small children don’t adopt that look themselves. Even if they did a parent would have to facilitate it. It is imprudent to invite uncontrollable influences into our homes when our children will fall prey to them soon enough as teenagers.

PS: How about a Prairie Home Companion podcast?


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