Dear Kids

I didn’t want to weigh in on this fiasco, but I guess I will.  Of course I’m talking about the biggest media event of the last two weeks.  Which means  it has nothing to do with Syria gassing its own people to death or vague threats of US missile strikes, nor does it have anything to do with dozens of Christian churches being systematically targeted and destroyed in the chaos that currently is Egypt.  

No, no, I’m referring of course to the MTV Video Music Awards show, and the outrage and surprise generated by a performance by Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke.  Miley Cyrus is the daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus, who had a one-hit wonder twenty years or so ago called Achey Breaky Heart.  Yes, it’s about as good as it sounds.  She was the flagship product – oops, I mean star – of Disney’s youth programming in a show called Hanna Montana, about a teen who is secretly also a rock star.  Never having watched the show, I’ll assume it’s about as good as it sounds.  She has a successful single out called We Can’t Stop, which is essentially a narcissist’s theme song.  The video has been criticized for being both unintelligible and offensive.  Robin Thicke is the son of actor Alan Thicke and an emerging musical success in the R&B arena.  He broke through big-time into the pop charts this summer with a hit single called Blurred Lines.  The song is poppy and catchy and unavoidable on pop music stations, though the content (beware, these are explicit lyrics ) of the song has been criticized as both sexist and rationalizing rape.  
But together, they ignited a firestorm of outrage, dismay, and undoubtedly, money.  Cyrus got the worst of it initially, as the 20-year old was roundly criticized for her degrading performance.  Now Thicke is getting criticized as a 36-year old married man with children who is cavorting on stage with a nearly naked 20-year old.  One mother’s letter to her daughter regarding Cyrus has gone viral.  Others are penning letters to their sons about Thicke.  General mayhem has ensued, and UN forces are poised to intervene.  
No, wait, maybe I’m thinking of Syria.  If only.
So in the interest of jumping on a bandwagon and beating a dead horse and otherwise putting two cents where it should never need to go in the first place, here’s my letter to my kids regarding all of this.  I doubt it will go viral, but hey, some things you have to say anyways.
Dear Kids – 
Fortunately, you are blissfully unaware of the debacle that is currently overwhelming our media outlets regarding various performers and their willingness to degrade themselves (and thus their audience) with behavior that most people would be hard pressed to find appropriate under pretty much any circumstances, let alone broadcast around the world.  Your tyrant parents have forbidden television (other than approved Netflix viewing) since before some of you were even born.  I’m sure that any day now you will realize what a Gross Miscarriage of Justice has been perpetrated.  You can write about it in your memoirs because I am not changing my mind.  Just make sure to include some of the adorable drawings you still do showing our whole smiling family together.  Irony is delicious.
Anyhow.
People are all up in arms about the ‘girl’ who degraded herself by parading in a skimpy outfit.  Well, we live in Southern California, and you’ve probably seen more actual flesh than that on any given outing to the beach or walking around some of the shopping centers here in town.  But this particular girl is also being ridiculed for how she acted while scantily clad.  She pranced around, shaking her booty and other bits, sticking her tongue out like an exhuasted St. Bernard, and generally presenting herself as a sexual plaything.  None of which is particularly new for her, but this caught people’s attention for some reason.  Perhaps because it was broadcast all over the world.
Some people are upset now at the guy, who is almost twice the girl’s age, married with children, and yet was willing to let this young girl (who is not his wife, did I mention that?) touch him in very inappropriate ways on an internationally broadcast show.  And he certainly did some touching of his own that was very inappropriate with her.  
All of which is worthy of outrage.  All of which I pray to protect you from by hook or by crook, and all of which I will soundly kick your butts for attempting while you are still in any way dependent on me for the roof over your heads, the food in your bellies, the clothes on your back, or the money in your pockets.  When you are old enough to sustain yourselves you will make decisions for yourself that I can only pray will be respectful of your God and yourselves and those around you.  Until then it is your mother’s job and my job to try and equip you to make good decisions.  If you don’t choose to make good decisions down the road, we won’t be able to do much about it.  
I could tell you not to degrade yourself.  I could tell you to have respect for yourself.  I could tell you not to misuse your body and your sexuality.  I will definitely be saying these things to you as well.  But they miss the point.  You already know not to degrade yourself.  You already know to respect yourself.  And you will learn more and more about your body and your sexuality and the wonderful ways God has designed both.  
Likewise, I doubt the young woman on the TV the other night set out on her career years ago as a child to degrade herself and women everywhere.  I doubt the man with her set out years ago in his career to humiliate himself and his wife and the institution of marriage and the art of music at the same time.  Yet that’s pretty much what they both did.  So if that wasn’t necessarily their intent, how is it they both succeeded so stunningly?  How could two completely different people end up on the same stage behaving the same way if neither one of them consciously set out to do so?
Maybe it’s because sometimes these negative and degrading behaviors are exalted as actually good – actually liberating, actually mature, actually empowered.  There is an assertion that if you knowingly embark on a course of action, knowing the risks and the inappropriateness of it, yet still deciding to do it because you want to, it’s actually a good thing.  This is an asinine assertion since.  
Perhaps they were convinced along the way that what they were doing was worth continuing at any cost.  The fame, the money, the glamor, the perks of celebrity – these are things that it is worth sacrificing your self-esteem or your modesty or your taste for.  That’s what these people were sold on.  And they were probably sold on the idea that you can hold on to your principles privately, but that what you do on stage is a persona, and you can separate the two.  In fact, you have to if you want to be really successful, really rich, really popular, for a really long time.  Which means you have to be surrounded with people who also believ
e that any cost is appropriate to keep the party rolling.
The people we should also be yelling at are the people that know better.  The people that routinely create and use up stars and kick them to the curb for The Next Big Thing.  I don’t hear anybody yelling at Disney for creating a train wreck of a starlet.  I don’t hear Disney condemning her behavior as antithetical to the family faire it likes to think it provides.  Of course not.  They each made a lot of money off of each other and continue to do so I’m sure through the miracle of royalties and syndication and merchandising.  It’s just business, just money.  
We should be yelling at the girl’s parents for valuing her success over her integrity, and for not recognizing what must have been myriad signs that she was getting lost in her celebrity and status.  
We should be yelling at the guy’s wife for agreeing to his cavorting – whether on the show or on his video – for the sake of generating more YouTube hits, carving out a higher spot on the Billboard list, and ultimately generating fatter paychecks.  We should find her complicity appalling.  But what we’re taught in a myriad of realms is that spouses can become just as lost in things as anyone, and sometimes they have their own personal agendas which allow them to endure the poor behavior of the other spouse for their personal gain.
At the end of the day, kids, you have to realize that everyone is prone to failure, lapses of judgment, poor reasoning skills, and simple greed and ambition.  You never know how or when someone you trust is going to fail you.  And the only way you’ll realize that they might be failing you is to compare their advice to the only authority you can trust absolutely, and that’s the God who created you.  
Compare what your mom and I tell you to what is in the Bible.  Compare what your professors tell you to what is in the Bible.  Compare what your boss tells you to what is in the Bible.  And when they don’t match up, ask questions, and start to be very cautious.  I pray that you’ll embrace the value of surrounding yourself with people who are convicted that what the Bible says should trump what anyone else says, and have the wisdom and skills and desire to read it faithfully with you.
Along with this, plan your future as carefully as you can.  Consider the career that you’d like to go into.  Evaluate the requirements for it in terms not just of academics or monetary resources or skill, talent, and luck, but also in terms of what it will require of you.  How many hours a week will it demand of you?  How will that impact your friendships and eventual marriage and family?  What other demands will it make of you?  Will you have to sell out control of your principles and beliefs at some point in order to score a contract or an opportunity?  There is more to a career than how much money you might make through it.
Think about these things and weigh them out.  Ask lots of questions of people older than you who have some experience in these areas.  Try to be realistic.  The percentage of millionaires in the world is staggeringly small.  Maybe that’s not the most realistic goal to have.  And even if you choose that as a goal, consider what it will cost you to make money, and make sure that you are willing and able to pay that price.  
This is complicated stuff.  A lot more complicated than just saying don’t be a slut or don’t disrespect women, though those are very important things to say as well.  It’s equally important to remember that these sorts of behaviors can come from bad breeding – which is not the case with you.  They can come from a lack of healthy parental direction – which is not the case with you.  They can come from the lack of a stable home life – which is not the case with you.  They can come from poor choices of friends and role models – which could be you.  They can come from letting ambitions overrule common sense, which could be you.  They can come from being ignorant or naive about how the world works, which could be you.  The dots are sometimes hard to connect, and you often don’t realize you’ve connected them wrong until it’s too late to find your way back.
So be careful and confident, happy and realistic.  Celebrate what the Lord has already given you rather than waiting constantly for Him to provide something newer and better.  Be satisfied with simple pleasures, honest work, and the satisfaction from knowing that you’ve done the best you can today by the light of God’s Word.  These things likely won’t get you a headlining act on a major awards show, but that may not be an entirely bad thing, when all is said and done.
Dad

4 Responses to “Dear Kids”

  1. william b Says:

    Dear kids,
    If your father tells you, you are his best friend, that mommy is in charge of all the discipline and has a haircut like Billy Ray Cyrus run from him. Run far away as he is a coward.
    Remember this as you are jettisoned out into the world like R2D2 and C-3PO in the escape pod and you find yourself on some strange planet. Christ died for you and has a special place in eternity waiting for you. When you do something think of yourself at the foot of the cross. Ask yourself, did Christ die for me so I could be doing this?
    Somewhere in the Bible it says there will be a time when people call evil good, and good, evil. You are living in those times. It is like opposite world. It will make no sense to you, yet everyone around you will think it OK. Your life as a Christian will be difficult. Just as Jesus promised. But hold fast to your faith and constantly seek out the joy that Paul found on this earth. Not a joy of earthly things but a joy of things to come, thru Christ.
    May the Force (of God thru Jesus) be with you.

    I occasionally visit a website called Vigilant Citizen. I used to think it wacky yet entertaining. I now think it holds a very frightening truth.

    Thanks for this, once again you are dead on.

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    That looks like an interesting site – not sure how much I go in for all of the stuff, but the article on the VMA fiasco does remind us that what is being done is being done for money.  We need to remember this as parents, as consumers, as citizens, and as Christians!

  3. william b Says:

    I’ll agree the site is oh I don’t know a little much sometimes. And yes money always seems to be the biggest motivator. It just seems there is more to it though. Miley could have continued churning out lame pop music for years and had more money than she could ever count. But she goes on stage with that performance? That’s what is needed to keep the money flowing? What is it that makes so many of these female entertainers wind up broken in either multiple rehabs and/or the psyche ward? Is it just the stress of pursuing fame and fortune?
    I guess the most disturbing thing for me in this is not Miley’s performance. It was a shot of her mother standing up and applauding after the performance. I mean imagine giving your kids a standing ovation as they head down a path of destruction. Is ‘evil’ too strong a word for this?

  4. Paul Nelson Says:

    I suspect that the mechanics of money are indeed incomprehensible at times.  I read an article this morning from a photographer at the event who captured the iconic image of Cyrus grinding up against Thicke.  He commented about how most people couldn’t remember that last few VMA ceremonies, and that the last time there was any real buzz about the show was when Kanye West leaped up on stage as Taylor Swift accepted her award, to tell her that her video wasn’t nearly as good as Beyonce’s.  

    What happened last week at the VMAs?  Publicity.  Advertising clout being elevated.  Next year, when MTV wants to charge even more for advertising, they can point back to this and say guess how many people are going to be tuned in this year to see what happens?  Cyrus gets a huge amount of publicity as she promotes her new album.  Both she and Thicke traded in on the success of older songs (in pop media terms – just a few months in real time!) to hopefully push momentum for other releases.  

    I have no doubt that there was an MTV producer who talked with Cyrus and told her that she needed to deliver big time.  She needed to deliver a punch equal to Madonna gyrating on stage in a wedding dress singing “Like a Virgin”, or Brittany Spears dancing with a python.  If she could deliver the scene, MTV would deliver the green.  And deliver she did.  Not that it was much of a stretch for either of these performers if you watch their respective videos for these songs.  
    In a fragmented communications world where attention spans dwindle into single-digit seconds and the Next Big Thing is just a YouTube upload away, generating any kind of publicity for a solid week almost is amazing.  Our political leaders can’t do it (and count on that fact, frankly), religious leaders can’t (unless they’re acting irreligiously).  But Cyrus & Thicke did.  It’s their job, and they earned their paycheck.

    As for Cyrus’ mother, I didn’t see that shot.  But remember that parents aren’t supposed to play any sort of influential role in their kids’ lives these days.  That’s the role of public school and the media.  Parents are supposed to stay on the sidelines as cheerleaders waiting for scraps of gratitude from their children who are conditioned to be self-absorbed narcissists.  What else is there for her mother to do at this point in her career?  Clearly there isn’t going to be any parental input or guidance, and probably hasn’t been for a long time.  I don’t know what the home dynamics were/are like, but living in the glare of celebrity can’t be a normalizing factor.  

    Is this the power of evil in our world?  Sure, I think we can say that.  Sinfulness.  Greed.  Ambition.  Pride.  The twisting of God-given talents and gifts into self-serving and self-destructive tools.  The willingness to sell out your fan base to make a few more bucks.  All of that is the effects of sin and evil in our world.  

    After listening to Cyrus’ single We Can’t Stop and the accompanying video, it struck me how cold and calculating it is.  Cyrus is basically advocating full-on hedonism.  Do what you feel like, to hell with anyone who contradicts you because “somebody loves you”.  She assures her listeners that “only God can judge ya”, while patently ignoring the fact that God will indeed judge us.  She advocates a lifestyle of carefree partying, except that many of her listeners can’t afford to indulge in that kind of lifestyle.  Cyrus has the money both to live the wild life and to clean up some of the obvious risks associated with it.  How many of her listeners have that same flexibility and freedom?  She can sing about “molly” and the easy use of drugs because she has a retinue of security around her at all times to make sure she never gets hurt or taken advantage of.  How many of her listeners do?  

    It’s irresponsible.  And you can almost excuse one young person who has had their view of reality significantly skewed by fame at a young age.  But you can’t excuse millions of people who eat up this stuff and think that this is the way the world should and does work.  

    End of rant

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