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.