Beware the Tween Idol
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.