Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Fallen Stars and Faux Compassion

I just can't wait! Look at all the compelling web content coming out about the latest child star to be spat out of Disney's machine and found just damaged enough to remain profitable in music or reality television.

I will only link one blog post, because for all its wrongness, it's somehow one of the most measured responses I've read today and that is just disheartening. I won't deal with any others today because my tolerance for hate & ignorance is at an all-time low right now. I also wanted to choose something that would otherwise fall through the cracks because it's important to point out when mostly-reasonable people are not helping.

This popped up in my facebook feed this morning from a well-meaning old high school friend. It begins with a photo of our topic du jour followed by an immediate shill for the author's book and an explanation on why Annie will talk about these events but won't link you to the video. Fine, I know how to google search. Thank goodness no children were here in my home or they might have seen something that was less graphic than most shows on television right now.

It's pretty regularly talked about (though not seemingly well enough researched or acted upon) that child stars don't often deal well with the process of no longer being a child, see Mara Wilson's Cracked article for some really good insight. that you could probably just read instead of everything I write here. The reality is that my own transition from childhood to teenager to young adult was awkward & difficult enough, and that was with the encouragement of supportive parents, a reasonably good support structure of friends, and only the occasional school bully - not the watchful eyes of a nation armed with ways to immediately judge you directly via the internet.

Given the benefit of the doubt, Annie's blog post is probably well-meaning, but she commits the crime of presumption throughout. If you don't know what to do other than say that you don't know what to do, you probably don't have anything worthwhile to say. Let's try an exercise here. Someone asks you something you don't know how to respond to, like "how do I keep my kids from being like that". Instead of reciting trite platitudes and taking an opportunity to plug your book, maybe find & link some reputable sources of information regarding the sort of problems young people have to deal with today, or encourage them to talk to their children frankly about sexual issues, or remind people that talking to a therapist is a good and productive thing for perfectly healthy people to do in order to better understand their interpersonal relationships? First, though, maybe ask yourself honestly if "like that" doesn't mean Experiencing A Transitional Self Discovery Period In Life and after all don't we all need that very badly?

Of course, I have a problem with the Pity the Poor Wretched Thing tone, because this is a person you're talking about, not society's compartmentalization of the Growing Up Girl she portrayed on the Disney channel. We all had moments of uncertainty, rebellion, and regret, most of us just had the luxury of being able to do these privately and productively. Honestly, I liked that Miley looked like she was having fun the whole time - in fact it may be the most productive way she knows to rebel right now, I'm just not as big a fan of the fact that it was so expertly monetized. Few people are still talking about the fact that Robin Thicke is kind of creepy, regardless of how catchy a tune he can belt out. This is a good example of a time when you could talk to your children about the dynamic there, sexism in action, and a woman's right to express herself without being objectified unless that's what she's going for. Maybe remind your readers that there is no age too young to teach your children that No Means No. Lots of good opportunities here to teach your children that the proper response to this sort of thing is to point out and correct others' uses of words & phrases like Whore and Slut (which have been amply used in this situation) which reduce a person to the sumtotal of what you see as the worst of her actions. Most importantly, maybe this is a good time to remind your male progeny that the Double Standard is not an okay thing and that males are just as accountable for their actions as females.

Lastly, I'm not terribly shocked that the Cultural Appropriation aspect wasn't covered in the White Christian Blog, but my two cents is this: it comes off as offensive because it kind of is, but I geniuinely don't think she was attempting to be disrespectful, it came off like Miley just didn't realize she's a privileged white girl treading on shaky ground. I think she's young and trying to find her place, and for me when I was young that also meant imitating the things that fascinated me without realizing their full impact.

I'm not published or in fact any sort of authority, but here's a tip for aspiring and current writers. Don't end your post with an only tangentially related non-sequitur tie-in to your book. It comes off as smarmy. Annie, thanks for not spewing obvious hate, but if you really want to help your readers you could give them real life recommendations rather than vague suggestions to just feel good about it.

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