Friday, October 19, 2007

Cultural Conservatives: Meanies

A number of years ago one of my uncles mentioned he liked "that new Huey Lewis and the News song" called Hip to Be Square. I like my uncles and they are all characters, but this uncle never seemed to worry about what folks thought of him. He always had a joke or an air of fun about him. Normally, you think your parents simply do not hold the genetic make-up for hip, cool, or anything you want to be associated with when you're in school or growing up. Your aunts and uncles have a little more flexibility, since they often seem to let their hair down. This uncle was not hip, but not unhip... I suspect presicely because he wasn't worried whether or not he was hip.

Since that time I really enjoyed Hip to Be Square. In my days of service on radio in Small Town, America I regularly played the song... even when it wasn't part of my scheduled playlist. Beyond that, I've mostly hovered around in potential/probable geek territory. Marching band. Jazz ensemble. History classes in college. Role playing games. Doctor Who. British television. Canada's power trio Rush. Renaissance Festival. Talk radio. Blogging. You can't wipe all of that stink off from yourself too easily.

I enjoy mainstream entertainment and culture, just like anyone does. That's not the point... the point is that I enjoy more than a handful of music, film, television, hobbies, culture, and activities that are normally fairly small provinces or those with some kind of cult-fan status.

I also bristle with some mainstream culture, too... just like anyone does. Not only that, I'm willing to metaphorically kick a number of celebrities and public figures... I suspect, just like anyone does.

So Jonah Goldberg's column caught my attention.
...let me switch gears and share with you the plight of the cultural conservative. If I were to write a column condemning the commodified harlotry of all this, I would be the bad guy.

He's talking about Paris Hilton, Madonna, Pam Anderson-Lee-Rock (now Anderson-Lee-Rock-Salomon... or is that Salomon-Rock-Lee-Anderson?) and any number of others in the world of some-kind-of celebrity.

That's fish in a barrel isn't it? Surely, it is not difficult or courageous to call Madonna or Pam Anderson a whore. (That might be giving short shrift to actual whores.) At least enough people in our culture look at them as out of the ordinary and even bizarre. That's not all. Cultural conservatives have been using these hedonistic tramps on display as extreme examples of what is wrong with the youth culture and culture in general... while the opposition pooh-poohs the criticism as overly judgemental. They might even suggest reasonably that Paris, Pam, Madonna, and their ilk are so far gone that no one backs them (we merely point and stare at the freaks)... and that most reasonable folks are concerned with the common misbehaviors of today's youth.

Let me use the word whore again. I would not want my daughter dressing like Madonna simply because it is trashy at best and at worst makes the wearer look like a whore. For that attitude, I'm not simply L-7.
It seems like the entire culture has adopted the "turn-ons" and "turn-offs" from one of Anderson's centerfold bios. Turn-ons: kids, animals, good food, good times. Turn-offs: uptight squares, scolds and all-around "meanies."

How many parents (back when I was a mere teen) thought of their kids' friends as looking a little trashy, or dressing far too maturely (with the word used as a euphamism), or acting far too casual (with the word used as another euphamism)? It is almost a cliche.
...For years, conservatives criticized the likes of Madonna for proselytizing commercialized decadence, and conservatives routinely came out the losers. The press, generally being liberal, disliked the perceived censorial uptightness of conservative "culture warriors." The press, also being professionally and personally infatuated with celebrity, instinctively defended stars over the meanies, because stars boost ratings and get you into glamorous parties. The meanies stay home with their kids.

But here's the thing: Conservatives were right about Madonna, and even Madonna has partially admitted as much. The problem is that Madonna - like Hilton and Anderson - is irrelevant. These celebrities can afford their sins or, if you prefer, their mistakes because they're rich and famous. Madonna told one interviewer that she's never changed a diaper. How many "working moms" can say that?

What matters is the signal such people send.

That's what our parents were saying back then. It's true. What's more, on some level Madonna knows it.
...she typifies the bind conservatives are in. Madonna pioneered a certain kind of slattern chic in the 1980s and early 1990s. But as she got older and had kids, she grew up - a little. She said she was embarrassed by some of her earlier exploits. To a sycophantically sympathetic press, she announced that she was going to be a good mom, not "the Material Girl."

That should have surprised anyone. All of her fans said the same thing. Some of them made good on their resolutions. Some didn't, namely...
Actually, she made these announcements fairly regularly, perhaps because she kept falling off the maturity wagon. In response to one such revelation, ABC News proclaimed: "She was in the pages of Playboy, published her own book on sex, and kissed Britney Spears in a live stage performance, but Madonna tells ABC News' 20/20 she may be through with propelling her celebrity with sex."

Again, the message and the signal they send out... that's what concerns folks.

In the same vien, cultural and social conservatives don't want schoolgirls ages 11 to 14 getting birth control from the school nurse. My mom tells me she was livid that we received an advert in the mail for my sister from Planned Parenthood around her 17th birthday. Obviously parents don't want their daughters knocked-up, but that doesn't mean they want them practicing. Since then the age of girls in the target market for birth control has obviously dropped down considerably.

Can you imagine having an 11 year old daughter or neice getting birth control without her parent's consent? Who wants that?

Apparently I'm mean, judgemental, and old fashioned. Perhaps, but it's hip to be square.



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