Monday, April 28, 2008

Progress? . . . .

Don’t for a minute think that I’m thumping my chest with “I told you so!” arrogance. That’s not the case at all. Nor do I claim to have any special powers that allow me to look into the future. Figuring this one out didn’t take rocket science brilliance. It’s simply a case of knowing where culture’s moving based on where culture has moved over and over again during the past. It’s heeding the words of Francis Bacon when he said, “Histories make men wise.” It wasn’t hard to see this one coming.

A couple of weeks ago I was channel surfing when I paused on Channel 62. If you’re tied into our local cable service you know that’s the home of BET. I arrived a few seconds into a music video that left me feeling. . . . well. . . . a little dirty. Having watched lots of music video over the years, feeling dirty doesn’t happen all that often for me anymore, probably as a combination of desensitization and the more clinical approach we take to observing and deconstructing media. As I worked through the initial shock of what I was seeing and hearing for the first time, it suddenly dawned on me that the performer was none other than Chris Brown singing his latest single release, “Take You Down.” While I watched and listened, numerous emotions converged including sadness, some distress, and anger.

The video features three sets of characters: lead singer Brown, two male backup dancers/singers, and a crowd in-the-round that’s largely made of screaming young female fans. Brown and his backup duo are performing on a rotating steel cage that’s set up with all kinds of hydraulics. The combination of sexually explicit lyrics and equally explicit dance moves place Brown right where I was very afraid he was headed. . . . . and he’s taking our impressionable young – VERY YOUNG – kids with him.

Perhaps you remember a little piece I wrote a few years ago entitled “How To Make a Pop Star.” In that article – and I encourage you to go back and read it – I talked about the music industry’s secret to creating and sustaining pop stars. The formula – simply stated – is to create them to be a darling of young girls’ mothers. Then, within a couple of years, they should – as stated by the woman responsible for Britney Spears – “piss the parents off.” That woman then went on to introduce those of us in the audience to the unknown young man they were positioning to be the next big pop star. . . Chris Brown. A few months later, Brown was a star. Now, two years later, it’s obvious the formula was used once again. If you don’t believe me, just give the “Take You Down” video a look. What we suspected would happen, has.




But it doesn’t stop there. This morning I opened my morning paper and read about the fast-unfolding controversy surrounding the one very young pop star who’s endeared herself to loads of parents of young girls because of her commitment to remaining wholesome. It seems that Miley Cyrus – aka Hannah Montana – has done a controversial photo shoot for the June issue of Vanity Fair magazine. Entertainment Tonight scooped the story, telling viewers that the fifteen-year-old Cyrus had posed topless while wrapped in what appears to be a satin bedsheet. Not only that, but there’s a photo in the mix of Cyrus posing with her father Billy Ray that just seems extremely inappropriate. . . . and even creepy. Don’t you think it’s a little odd that father would pose like this with his 15-year-old daughter. . . . . who happens by the way, to look quite a bit older than 15????
And what’s happened to all their talk about the faith and values they have embraced that have enabled them to separate themselves out from the rest of the celebrity pack? I was holding out hope that I would never have to say "it wasn't hard to see this one coming" in relation to Miley Cyrus.

All of this should spur us on to be more diligent in watching the culture, discerning the times, and responding to the realities that exist from the perspective of a Biblical world and life view. Our culture is schizophrenic on these matters. Sadly, it’s okay for Cyrus to pose and get paid for doing these photos that make strong visual statements that normalize her posture (and all that goes with it) for young kids, while serving to tempt a growing army of lusty boys and dirty old men. I couldn’t help but think of several recent area news accounts of male high school teachers and band leaders who were arrested after being caught having ongoing sexual relationships with underage female students. When will we start sending consistent messages? We bemoan the consequences of teenage premarital sexual behavior, but continue to promote it in the arts that are molding and shaping the emerging generations. We scream out against child pornography and the sexual abuse of children, while celebrating “artsy” photographs of a young role model who’s so young that her photographs teeter on the edge of child pornography. . . . if in fact they don’t cross it.

None of us – parents, pastors, educators, and youthworkers – should be at a loss for what to talk to our kids about today.

3 comments:

~greg said...

The Arcade Fire's Antichrist Television Blues agree.

I don't wanna work in a building downtown,
no I don't wanna work in a building downtown
I don't know what I'm gonna do,
'cause the planes keep crashing,
always two by two.
I don't wanna work in a building downtown,
No I don't wanna see when the planes hit the ground.

I don't wanna work in a building downtown,
I don't wanna work in a building downtown,
Parking their cars in the underground,
Their voices when they scream, they make no sound.
I wanna see the cities rust
and the trouble makers riding on the back of the bus

Dear God, I'm a good Christian man,
In your glory, I know you understand,
That you gotta work hard and you gotta get paid,
My girl's 13 but she don't act her age.
She can sing like a bird in a cage,
Oh Lord, if you could see her when she's up on that stage!

You know that I'm a God fearing man,
You know that I'm a God fearing man,
But I just gotta know if its part of your plan
To seat my daughters there by your right hand
I know that you'll do what is right, Lord.
For they are the lanterns, and you are the light.

Now I'm overcome,
By the light of day.
My lips are near but my heart is far away.
Tell me what to say,
I'll be your mouthpiece!

Into the light of a bridge that burns
As I drive from the city with the money that I earned.
Into the black of a starless sky,
I'm staring into nothing and I'm asking you why:
Lord, will you make her a star?
So the world can see who you really are.

Little girl, you're old enough to understand,
That you'll always be a stranger in a strange, strange land.
The men are gonna come while you're fast asleep,
so you better just stay close and hold on to me.
If my little mocking bird don't sing,
Then daddy won't buy her no diamond ring.

Dear God, would you send me a child?
Oh God, would you send me a child?
'Cause I wanna put it up on the TV screen,
so the world can see what your true word means.
Lord would you just send me a sign?
'Cause I just gotta know if I'm wasting my time!

Now I'm overcome,
By the light of day.
My lips are near but my heart is far away.
Now the war is won,
Howcome nothing tastes good?

You're such a sensitive child!
Oh, you're such a sensitive child!
I know you're tired but it's alright,
I just need you to sing for me tonight.
You're gonna have your day in the sun;
You know God loves the sensitive ones.

Oh! My little bird in a cage!
Oh! My little bird in a cage!
I need you to get up for me, up on that stage,
and show the men that you're old for your age.
Now ain't the time for fear,
But if you don't take it, it'll disappear.

Oh! My little mockingbird sing!
Oh! My little mockingbird sing!
I need you to get up on that stage for me, honey,
And show the men it's not about the money.

Wanna hold a mirror up to the world
So that they can see themselves inside my little girl.

Do you know where I was at your age?
Any idea where I was at your age?
I was working downtown for the minimum wage.
And I'm not gonna let you just throw it all away.
I'm through being cute, I'm through being nice,
Oh tell me, Lord, am I the Antichrist?!

Ken Shomo said...

This was very helpful, thank you for taking the time to write about this topic. I plan to use this to share with our church's youth group on Sunday.

Ken Shomo
Virginia Beach

kevin said...

I remember you mentioning this (Chris Brown) at the Nat'l Youth Workers Convention in Charlotte a couple of years back. Sometimes "I told you so" is the best way to say it.