The Well-Read Wife


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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
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Kiki Overthinks Every Thing
August 25, 2005
What Is Stealing My Joy Part 2
Mood:  sad
Now Playing: America Is Making Our Girls Stupid
I sincerely believe that each marginalized group in the United States is being distracted by tons of false issues thrown at them by the media to prevent them from rising up and taking their place, as equals, beside white upper class men. There needs to be revolution.

I've come to loathe this teen-youth pop culture "marketing campaign" the media is aiming at the U.S.'s children. Most of the paperback books that come in are trashy, homogenous, and passes through the mind like olestra through the colon. Children come into the library looking for books based on characters from their favorite Disney, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network shows (and have a tantrum when they're not on the shelves due to theft). Not everything has to be wholesome or thought provoking, but there has to be a balance. There is no balance. The culture is becoming to one-sided. Children are becoming stupider, and we're feeding into it lock, stock and 2 smoking remote controls.

I'm freaking out because I never thought too much about these things until I became a mother. I'm serious when I say that I'm blocking MTV, BET, and ten out of the 15 cable channels geared towards children. (On a side note, I don't recall watching that many cartoons as child except on Saturday mornings and perhaps an hour after school if an hour...)

I'm off my soap box now. Read the Wall Street Journal article below.



It's, Like, So Totally Cool Or Whatever
Girls' magazines are filled with bad grammar, but their content is even worse.

Friday, August 19, 2005 12:01 a.m

Last summer a polite, articulate 11-year-old friend of my daughter's went off eagerly to a week of summer nature camp--and found herself ridiculed and ostracized for what the other children considered her peculiar manner of speech. "She was mocked," the girl's parents recounted, "for speaking in complete sentences."

I had largely forgotten this sad little anecdote until I happened on an online edition of Girls Life Magazine. "Girls Life?" thought I, all innocence. "Why, that must have something to do with the Girl Scouts." An image of wholesome do-goodery, of scrubbed cheeks and Norman Rockwell freshness, rose obediently in my mind--only to sink instantly under a deluge of inane headlines: "Too cute suits!" "Guys, Life, Friends, Body: Real Advice Just for You." "Wanna sound off about GL mag?" "Win FREE stuff! Feelin' lucky? Enter now!"

Guys? Wanna? Feelin'? Ugh! Yet it turns out that Girls Life is indeed the magazine of the Girl Scouts of America (GSA), that high-minded organization originally modeled on Britain's Girl Guides, which itself sprang from the rib of Lord Robert Baden-Powell's turn-of-the-century Boy Scout movement.

Girls Life is a successful stand-alone magazine ("From liking boys to 'like-liking' boys, Girls Life has it all!") and a five-time recipient of the Parents' Choice Award; the copies that Girl Scout subscribers receive contain a special four-page GSA insert. Yet isn't it piquant, even painful, to consider that an organization created to promote children's spine-straightening moral and physical development has devolved into one that through its magazine asks: "Poll Party: Favorite nail polish color?"

"If an article comes in and it's a snore, and just needs to be funned up a little, I fun it up," the executive editor of Girls Life, Kelly White, told the online writers' magazine, The Purple Crayon. "I inject it with words like 'swank' and 'stoked.'" Girls Life, Ms. Kelly emphasized, is "not condescending. Still, we try to speak our readers' language."

No wonder my daughter's friend had such trouble at summer camp. When adult editors talk of "funning up" the English language, when the vast panoply of info-tainment aimed at children parrots and reinforces the cheesiest pubescent vocabulary and preoccupations, what chance does a well-read, well-spoken child stand? In the terrible, gleaming world of adult-facilitated teen culture, talking calmly in complete sentences marks you as a freak.

Teen People asks, "How Sexy Are You?" and "Gotta Hottie Next Door?" Cosmo Girl hosts a "Battle of the Boys: Who's the Hottest?" and Bop magazine online offers a male-as-sex-object game called Frankenboy: "Build your dream boy and e-mail him to a friend!"

But magazines are only a part of it. Watch television aimed at the young and it is difficult to escape the disquieting sense that too much children's programming exists to--well, program children. Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel teach children through precept and relentless example how to preen, how to diss and how, if dark-skinned, to talk Ebonics. Virtually every girl sashays in heels, miniskirts and lipgloss; virtually every adult is an easily outsmarted villain or an eyeroll-worthy chump.

And always, coiled beneath the amped-up happy talk of cool stuff, mean girls and cute guys, is sex. Children groomed within an inch of supermodeldom, with flashing teeth, gleaming hair and sexy clothes, are shown having crushes, yearning for dates and trying to act cool so as to get dates. Though for the misery that often results from too-early dating and consequent backseat fumbling, you presumably have to switch to Lifetime . . .

It used to be that adults talked about bringing children up, of raising them. Today the mass media, with the tacit support of parents, has largely abandoned any effort to lift children up and instead crouches ever lower to what it thinks is their aesthetic and linguistic level. Slam poet Taylor Mali's witty cri de coeur "Totally like whatever, you know?" aptly laments the pandemic brainlessness this fosters:

Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . .You know?
That we've just gotten to the point
where it's just, like . . .
So actually our disarticulation . . .ness
is just a clever sort of . . .thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

Clunky bottom-feeding language is, of course, an expression of clunky bottom-feeding thinking. And when you "fun up" language, you trivialize thinking, fueling the already unhelpful suspicion among young teens that someone who talks seriously is ipso facto boring. So what we have is this extraordinary wave of empty, glittering, funned-up teen culture that rushes children into an ersatz maturity--chiefly sexual--and where the only reward is a jaded heart and an empty head.

The natural defense, of course, is that the purveyors of mass culture are only giving young consumers what they want. Yet it is also true that magazines, Web sites and TV shows do not just minister to taste; they create taste. And here is where adults are grievously culpable, for it is not children who pitch ditzy show ideas, write facile scripts, edit funned-up, dumbed-down copy or crop photos to make Lindsay Lohan's breasts look melon-esque.

It is worth mentioning that this awfulness applies chiefly to girl-consumers. Boy's Life, the magazine for Cub and Boy Scouts (and published by the Boy Scouts of America), is fully of goofy jokes, puzzles, jazzy photos of boys swooshing on surfboards or white-water rafting--even a Bible Heroes comic strip--but there is not a girl to be seen, or alluded to, except a few little-sister-types in the ads. But then, lip gloss, hip inarticulateness and sashaying in heels don't really have male counterparts. So perhaps there is no consumer demand.

When a girl recites the Girl Scout Law, she promises to respect herself and others. Somehow I don't think the founder of the American Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, would have dreamt this to include having "beach-perfect hair" or "crushing on a Momma's boy." And when there is scarcely a stiletto-height's difference between the magazine vehicle of the Girl Scouts of America and, say, Cosmo Girl, something is rotten in the culture--not teen culture (that goes without saying) but adult culture.

Mrs. Gurdon is a columnist for National Review Online.

Copyright ? 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Ed Note: A surprisingly good teen magazine, Teen Vogue.

Posted by Kiki Shoes at 7:49 PM EDT | Post Comment | Permalink

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