Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Snuffles Gives a Lecture

Well, we're having an interesting time over here. We're not reading or watching fiction but trying to run a fiction blog. Who's dumb idea was that? All the same, I'm having a difficult time restraining Deej, a.k.a. Mr. Hypocrite, from running out to see The Other Boleyn Girl, which he only wants to see because it has Natalie Portman in it.

In other news, I happened across this column from Martha Brockenbrough, criticizing the Hannah Montana phenomenon. Being the kid lit/movie reviewer here, I've maintained a mild interest in this even though I've not seen a single episode of the show and don't think I've heard any of her songs. Disney has a consistent record of recycling formulas and making them sell; when I heard the basic plot, that a girl has a secret double life as a pop star, I immediately recognized the premise of Jem and Creamy Mami. Hannah Montana is, to my knowledge, the only incarnation of this idea that isn't a cartoon. Considering that it comes from Disney, that's rather ironic.

Anyway, Brockenbrough, in the above linked column, is annoyed with the whole thing for three reasons. First, she's convinced Miley Ray Cyrus, who plays Montana, is going to go the way of other child stars and burn out on sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and considering how Hollywood chews up and spits out young actors, that may be a safe, albeit pessimistic, prediction.

Second, she thinks the show is stupid. It very well may be, but we all need a stupid escapist fantasy every once in a while, and they're okay as long as they doesn't become an unhealthy obsession that gets in the way of more important things in life (like Deej's thing for Natalie Portman). I will, however, agree with Brockenbrough that children should not skip class to see Hannah Montana in concert, unless of course they're skipping Sex Ed or Social Studies, in which case the concert would be more wholesome and probably more profitable.

Third, she's creeped out by Miley Ray Cyrus's virginity being public news, and further creeped out by her immoderate modes of dress and makeup (which I haven't seen, so I'm taking her word for it in this post). I'm inclined to agree with Brockenbrough's point, though possibly for a different reason. My reason has to do entirely with modesty: there are some things you just don't announce in public, and there are some things you just don't display in public. This is especially true if you're at the same time announcing the one thing and displaying the other. That's just weird, not to mention hypocritical.

And that brings me around to one of the blanket criticisms this blog enjoys leveling at modern Christianity. Sometime back, I don't even know when, Christian sexual ethics made the transition from moral teaching to fad. Suddenly, we had second-rate celebrities telling teens how cool it was to wait until marriage. We had concerts and youth gatherings. And we had virginity rings.

Of course, this means some big problems. For one thing, fads are always temporary. But for another thing, the faddishness means an inevitable dumbing-down of the issue. This is particularly evident in the unfortunate choice of abstinence as the definitive word for this fad. Abstinence merely means refraining from something, like refraining from snacks during Lent; refraining is not the same thing as practicing virtue, and abstinence is not the same thing as chastity, a much better word. To teach adolescents abstinence without teaching them virtue is to teach them frustration and to set them up for failure. If Billy Ray Cyrus is encouraging his daughter to abstain until marriage, that's good; but maybe he should introduce her the other aspects of chastity as well. He could start with modesty.
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