Katy Perry's SNL response to Sesame Street - and parents
The latest Katy Perry fiasco has really gotten me thinking. Reading some of the comments made by people - even parents - to "get over it," "be silent," "grow up," "turn the other way" - and the backhanded apology from the Sesame Street team themselves - feels like people are telling parents who find this stuff inappropriate that they're wrong for trying to raise their children with some ounce of common decency. Some have even suggested the entire controversy was started by "moms who are fat and jealous." Jealous of what? Since when am I, and parents like me, the source of the problem and not the people who normalize and justify these behaviors?
There is an entire movement in this country and elsewhere to not circumcise infant boys. Other parents refuse all vaccinations, for whatever their reason. And others eat all organic food, cutting out candy and processed foods from their household. Some consider McDonald's and similar fast food just about the worst you can feed a kid, and steer clear. That's all their personal choice and I respect them for it, even if it's not something I necessarily completely agree with or subscribe to in my household. But I figure, when it comes to their children, they're doing what they feel is best.
We put so much emphasis on the physical well-being of our children - even the President's administration is trying to conquer the plague of childhood obesity. But when it comes to the minds and spiritual well-being of our children, we're supposed to turn a blind eye and forget about it?
(You can bet that if Perry had been using those same breasts to nurse a baby, the very people who thought she was so great would have screamed, "Get her off the air right now!")
It doesn't matter if you're Christian, atheist, go to church or not - most people I know want their kids to grow up well and have morals. No parent says, "Hey, I'm teaching my child how to be a serial rapist! All right!," raising a triumphant fist. Why would anyone want that?
But throughout childhood, the bombardment of images, television and advertisements, cartoons, music and other cultural influences can shape our children's lives in ways we probably can't even begin to imagine. Their brains are like sponges - I'm sure we've all said something maybe once to our children, only to hear them repeat it back to someone else. Kind of embarrassing at times, or just funny to hear them take something so literally.
I mentioned in my last post that I had a babysitter who "watched" me in the afternoons. Rather, she was somewhere in the house, but her kids were in and out, doing whatever. One older daughter was probably in her early 20s, still living at home, and was watching a movie one day while I was there, waiting for my mom to pick me up. I still remember it vividly - something about Paul Newman, Robbie Benson and Newman calling his son "chickenshit" a lot. It's kind of funny but not really. Something I doubt my mom would have approved of in our household. (Perhaps this is where my penchant for swearing comes from, since I never heard that kind of language at home. Who knows.)
Another time someone in the babysitter's house was watching some movie - I have no idea what it was about, but do remember one scene in particular: a crazed guy driving an ice cream truck, and one hapless victim, who unfortunately was a kid, had a sizable hole shot through her chest by his shotgun, knocking her blood-spattered body to the ground. Pretty horrific, huh? What a role model. I remember thinking, 'I'm so glad I live in the country and we don't have ice cream trucks out here!' Needless to say, the sight of Mr. Cool coming down the street gives me unpleasant images even now.
I bet if I came up to her and asked her about it now, she'd look at me like I was nuts and say, "You remember that?" I think that's probably the general consensus: that because they're children, they won't remember or understand, which couldn't be further from the truth.
I can also tell you that said babysitter's husband looked at porn. And didn't leave it in a very hidden place. If it's in the house, people, kids will find it. No matter how well you think you hide it. (If you want something hidden well, maybe you should ask the kid to hide it. Not the parent who thinks he's smarter than the kid.)
My husband also says he remembers seeing pornographic images from moments in his childhood, and how those pictures are etched into his brain forever. This must have been over 30 years ago, and like my "memories," they're still there.
Because I remember what it was like to be a kid, and the stuff that still lingers with me, therefore I do not buy for one second that 'they're just kids, they won't understand!' Media and cultural influences are very sneaky and subversive in not only reeling in kids, but the adults that are their parents. Gradually over the generations we've come to see what our parents wore as stuffy and too conservative, and gradually hemlines have given way to the band-aid like skirts we see everyone wearing today. People complain about women sharing their "muffin tops" with the world, but hey - we wanted it, we got it.
As far as Katy Perry's wardrobe choice on the show, many parents justified it by saying, "You see this every day at the mall." Well, that doesn't make it right. It does not mean you should turn a blind eye, either. I applaud the people who wrote letters or called Sesame Street to give them a piece of their minds, and actually do something about it instead of sit back and let it happen. It seems that so many parents have just become complacent because they feel that there's no choice but to let society win because "majority rules." When this happens, you might as well say, "I'm letting society raise my children by letting it, instead of me, dictate what goes in my household."
You may not have a problem with Perry's dress, but somewhere the line has to be drawn. What would you consider inappropriate? At some point, something has to offend and you realize, This is too much. Another parent and I were talking about it yesterday and she said her four-year-old daughter notices immediately when a top mom is wearing is too revealing by saying, "Mom, your boobies are showing!" She said her older daughter noticed right away in a Hannah Montana video when one of the back-up singers - wayyy in the back - was flashing her midriff during a dance. Kids do notice - they have eyes and ears just like the rest of us, and if anything they are probably more in tune than their adult counterparts.
Like my post on high-heeled shoes for girls , children's clothing is another topic of hot debate. Some of it mirrors dresses like Katy's (minus the cleavage, let's hope) and looks bizarre, like a mini pole dancer decked out in glitter and rhinestones. I walked into The Children's Place the other day and thought a motorcycle gang had taken over: what happened to all the cute, trendy (yet ghastly expensive) clothes I remember? And who replaced them all with skulls and crossbones all of a sudden?
Children dressed in their Sunday Best for a wedding, 1958. Photo from www.fashion-era.com
Children's fashions seem to be mirroring adults', with higher and higher hemlines that creep up before you know it, mini-heels and flared legs. (Photo from The Children's Place website)
Not that these are too terrible, but somehow, I wouldn't be surprised if an adult guy saw girls like in this in public and thought they were much older than they really are.
One place I've noticed that seems to be really over-the-top in some of their styles is Target. Affordability is probably the biggest point that snares parents in, because in my experience, all those cute-but-conservative "preppy" clothes only come from places like The Gap and cost an arm and a leg.
From Target. I'm not really sure what this get up is, but it's labeled under "teen fashion."
I've noticed that, for now, the most effective way of combatting cultural crap that I don't want is to turn off my television. No, your kids can't live in a bubble, but just not having access to all of it has helped so far. Most of the people who really had a problem with The Great Sesame Street Gaffe could probably benefit from just turning it off permanently - but I think that's hard for some, because it infringes on the viewing habits of other people (namely the parents). I had to make this decision too when I decided to cancel cable, and finally said, "Who cares? My kids are more important." HGTV can wait. My kids are only young once.