Everyday examples of fame-for-stupidity send the message that kids and teens needn’t worry about genuine achievement.
I know a mom who makes her four-year-old twins dance and sing along to PlayStation SingStar every day, seven days a week.
She coaches and stands guard until their session is over; no one is allowed to leave or engage in another activity.Her latest husband is even worse, prodding the twins to explain why Willow Smith is their hero. Just glimpsing these kids being paraded around in wigs and heels is about all my brain can process without punching someone.
Seeing them recently got me thinking about Snookie and Miley and Taylor Momson and whatever’s left of Tara Reid or Amy Winehouse — and about how bad behavior generally is playing a bigger and bigger role in American popular culture.
“Teen Mom 2″ skank Jenelle Evans is just the latest reality show also-ran to flash-fry a plate of Gimmie Attention with the juvenile equivalent of a sex tape: the artificial bikini photo. No big deal for a simpleton 19-year-old, especially one who began this paparazzi/promotional tit-for-tat as a pregnant teen chartered like a party bus by MTV. Like those before her who gained notoriety simply by doing something stupid, Evans didn’t turn herself around and grab at a fresh start. She’s far too busy giving self-awareness the finger by embracing empty narcissism, advancing herself through schemes and indiscretion rather than smarter decisions. Nineteen months into her kid’s life, still-teen mommy isn’t pursuing an education to support her baby: she’s making court appearances for assault charges.
Then there’s New Jersey’s “Governor for the Day” boy, Jesse Koczon, who just “happened” to be videotaped shrieking and complaining about being too small to be the Governor of his great state. The clip features a David After Dentist-style camera angle and looks as if its subject is wearing eyeliner. Wailing and weeping about the unfairness of it all, Jesse lolls his eyes back ‘n forth like a severely anguished toddler while an adult voice fans the flames. It could have stopped here, with just the bit of questionable parenting that says tantrums are funny enough to encourage; that opts for the exploitation of trauma over its alleviation even when the traumatized is a child. But no: Governor Chris Christie promptly signed a proclamation to make little Jesse “Governor for the Day,” and brother Brandon was deemed honorary Lieutenant Governor (because who knows what shit-storm he would have caused had he not been recognized?)
I’m sure lots of folks think this is simply adorable — after all, they’re just little kids. But let’s play this out into the future. With proud parents no doubt bragging to everyone about their little Governor, what sorts of messages do you think Jesse and Brandon are gonna spend a long time learning, that hard work is what gets you what you want? Of course not. These kids are going to be shown over and over again that outbursts got them famous, and that they have a right to be prideful glory hounds too. Suppose that’s gonna let them feel or act normal around their pre-teen peers? Be team players on the class science project? See the value in manual labor or those who perform it? All doubtful.
Amanda, Britney, Chris Brown, Lindsay, Mel, Paris…How will those little twins I know be able to identify true success when they’re being conditioned to behave as unbalanced and thoughtless as these people? How long until they’re hanging around one of ‘em fawning and fetching and mimicking, or simply trying to become their own sensation via YouTube? (BTW, you can buy your David After Dentist t-shirts and stickers at his father’s webstore).
Even 16 year-old dilettante sailor Abby Sunderland is currently promoting her memoir, “Unsinkable: A Young Woman’s Courageous Battle on the High Seas,” which details the reality show contract her pimp father wrangled before sending her out to sail around the world. (Oops! My mistake: it’s not about that at all. It’s really about the wonders of disposable income and how to skip out on an international rescue bill.) Now I’m not saying that Abby’s attempts to match her bother’s solo sailing success isn’t a viable ambition, but with self-aggrandizing lessons like the ones she’s learning will she, too, graduate to resisting arrest and unlawful entry? When dad is so busy manufacturing and managing his children’s ascent to fame, we can’t be surprised when those kids act like the entitled attention whores to whom our society gives its highest misguided props.