Do as we say…

  • MSN Today

     

     

  • Guys: Is she interested?
  • Are kids too sexy too soon?
  •  

     

    As I went into my hotmail account today, the above were on the page of stuff of that Microsoft thought I might want to read about.  They were placed in the most obvious and prominent place.  The third question in particular jumped out at me.  I worry off about my kids and about the prominence of sexualized imagery in media.

    But the first thing I noticed is that the wrong question is being asked.  In fact, if we assume the author intended all the words he chose, they ought to be arrested.

    (I absolutely believe it was just lousy word choice, by the way.  I’m not suggesting that the author should in fact be arrested.)

    The dictionary at Merriem-Websters website says that the word sexy means the following:

    1 : sexually suggestive or stimulating : erotic 2 : generally attractive or interesting : appealing <a sexy stock>

    I’ll take a pass on even expressing my thoughts about the damage that second definition does, and instead focus on what I think is wrong with the wording of the question: “Are kids too sexy too soon?”

    Both of these definitions focus on the eye of the person observing.  They indicate that something arouses interest.  I don’t believe the author intended to mean “Do I find kids too sexually appealing when they are young?” but this is in fact what the content of his words indicate.  Apparently, what he meant to ask was “Are kids sexualized too soon?”

    The article itself wasn’t bad.  It quoted lots polls and shared a few anecdotes indicating that parents are worried about disturbing images in the media.  But there is an irony in all this.

    At least one way too get to this article was by clicking the link from the MSN page that featured two other links.  Those links are:

    Body Language5 signs he’s into you … & 5 he’s not

  • Guys: Is she interested?
  • More from TODAY

     

    At the bottom of the whole article, there were these options:

    Forget To Take The Pill?
    Forget taking the Pill every day. Think once a month birth control.
    http://www.once-a-month.com

    Teeth Whitening Exposed
    The Secrets Dentists don’t want you to know about Teeth Whitening!
    http://www.Best-Teeth-Whitening.com

    Six Sigma Certified?
    Villanova Six Sigma Certification. 100% Online Program – Free Info.
    http://www.VillanovaU.com/SixSigma

    LSI – Spine Specialists
    Gentle Arthoscopic Solutions For Back & Neck Pain.
    http://www.laserspineinstitute.com

    AARP Auto Insurance From The

    :So, let’s sum up here:

    A total of 16 possible links from this story.  The first two (the alternatives to clicking the link to the story of childhood sexualization) were focused on romatic relationships.  In the list of “More” offered from today, four were about physical beauty and wieght loss.  One is apparently about the logistics of threesomes.  Another is about the past of somebody for sex-related crimes.  And of those four links at the bottom of the page, one is for birth control, and another is about teeth whitening.

    In other words, of the sixteen possible links from this story, ten take the reader to stories about sexuality, relationships, or closely related topics such as physical appearance.  I don’t believe that most of them would be particularly scintillating.  (You have numerous issues if you find teeth whitening arousing.)  But they all indicate a preoccupation in society.

    My concern is not so much the damage done by kids who click the wrong link.  My first concern is the message that we send as a society.  Regardless of how mature or developed we are, it’s ludicrious for we adults to be over sexualized while telling our kids not to be. 

    For me, the real problem is that a well-behaved, safely monitored kid might be surfing the net and simply see that over half the links point toward sites that relate to sexuality, romantic relationships, and physical beauty.  Half the damage is in what this expresses about where our priorities are, even if the sites are never visited!

     

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    On Toons and Hypocrisy

     

    Like virtually any corporate giant, Disney is a controversial organization. I’d like to focus today on a Disney Creation that I haven’t seen too much focus on: Toontown.

    Toontown is an online game/environment thingy. It’s one of these websites where players from all over the world interact, sort of like Web Kinz starring Mickey Mouse. Toontown, however, features a narrative, an over arching mission for players to engage in.

    As I was watching my kids play and asking questions about the world of Toontown, quite an interesting (and hypocritical!) message emerged, hiding underneath the story.

     

    At first glance, there’s nothing wrong with the message implied in the game. In broad strokes, it‘s archetypal. Arguably, the framework for this story is lifted right out of Genesis itself.

    In the time before the game begins, toon town was this happy, colorful place. Like Eden, maybe., except that they use jellybeans as currency.

    Something went wrong. The perfection became corrupted. The town was invaded. Buildings began to be taken over. These were robbed of their colors and turned into places that made more of the “bad guys.” The players are called to resist the invasion, to find new, joyful ways to combat the evils of the invaders, reclaim their land, repell the invaders.

    So far, so good.

     But let’s explore the invaders a little bit. Collectively, they are called cogs. The cogs are made up of variety of types. These include telemarketers, micromanagers, head hunters, ambulance chasers, and yes men. The cogs use weapons such as rolodex, fountain pens, and brain storms against the players.

    In short: the villian of the game is corporate America.

    The idea is that Corporate America is coming like a virus to rob the joy, color, and life from the world.

    This is emphasized by the terms of the battles which go on. The players lose battles with the cogs when they run out of happiness before there gags (thrown pies, squirting flowers, etc.) cause the opponents to explode.

    A player who is defeated in battle is sad. He is returned to the playground, and rather creepily, can’t leave until he’s happy. (There’s probably a whole post alone in the subtext of a utopia based on the happiness police enforcing the joy  but I’ll save that for another time.)

    The thing is, I can’t say that I completely disagree with this subtext. But it seems like the height of hypocrisy for Disney to be espousing this view. It seems like using a billboard to advertise for the “Billboards are evil” Campaign.

    Without the real yes-men, micrmoanagers, and ambulance chasers in Disney’s employ, Toon Town never would have been created. I can see three possible objections to this critique: #1) Maybe Toon Town is created b y maverics who are trying to take the giant down from within #2) Corporate America owns the platform; anti-corporate voices have to use the platform in order to get their message out.

    Obviosuly, if I thought that if any of these objections were valid I wouldn’t have written this. And I want to be clear. I just intend this post as food for thought. I’m not saying that we ought to boycott Disney. I haven’t even banned my kids from the game. But I have discussed it with them.

    At any rate, I can imagine somebody pointing out that Disney has a long history of subversive artists working from inside the corporate structure. We all know how those wacky cartoonist snuck dirty parts into Disney movies. The argument might be made that maybe this Toontown’s subversiveness (is that a word?  Maybve it’s subversion )is for a better cause.

    The problem with this argument is that corporate America has infected the arhitecture of the game itself. The basic version of the game is played for free. But my kids quite frequently remind me that all the cool stuff on the game is members-only. You have to fork over some cash if you want to access a variety of functions that make you a better player.

    Bottom line: You have to send an enomorous corporation even more money if you want to be effective at fighing the imaginary, symbolic forces of Corporation within the game. If there are in fact maverics trying to subvert the corporation from within, they have been outmaneuvered by the cogs.

    A slightly different objection to my post is that if anybody wants to critique corporations, they have to use the corporations to do it. The idea is probably half way true. For example, Shane Clairborne writes against consumer culture. He realizes he’s a part of that system he opposes when he sells his books to a publisher.  Which will then chop down trees to print his book and try to convince everybody that they need more stuff.   Or consider a quite a different example: George Lucas utilized the motion picture industry. And yet the message in the more recent Star Wars trilogy is quite anti-industry in a variety of respects.

    There are distinctions between Clairborne and Lucas on the one hand and Toontown on the other: reasons that it’s more valid for somebody like Lucas or Clairborne to say that they need the corporation’s platform in order to denounce the corporations.  The reasons why this excuse doesn’t work for Toontown follows:

    A) It’s clear that Lucas’ and Clairborne’s vision began in one person who actually atleast partially wanted to bring about change through their vision. This is not clear about Toontown.

    B) Clairborne turned his profits over to his community.

    C) Lucas sought to create new companies which didn’t inherit all the evils of the current system.

    D) Clairborne recognized the difficulties with his position; he named the elephant in the room.

    Is Toontown the most evil force in the world? No, of course not. But it is presents a world view that is radically oversimplified and quite hypocritically delivered. It’s easy to miss that, though, if we’re not paying attention.

    This post was submitted to Watercooller Wednesdays, a cultural blog carnival over at Ethos, Randy Elrod’s blog.

    Windows and mirrors

    Once this would have been a greasy spoon:

    there would have been gum-chewing waitresses

    loveable-grumpy fat man cook in a splattered apron

    One of those rolling things to clip orders on that don’t have a name…

    Only

    the aroma of french fries

    links what it is now

    to what it would have been in a past life.

    This franchised dive

    with teen agers running to and fro to before luke warm meals turn cold

    The cook is a mystery we never see him.

    the manager harried, wondering about a career change.

    The foods’ names and menu pictures

    make a promise that the real deal

    won’t deliver on.

    There is a mirrored wall to combat the claustrophobic intrusion of too many tables

    And I like what my ten year old son says about it,

    “Wouldn’t it be cool

    if that mirror wasn’t showing us?

    I think it must be a mirror

    into some alternate dismention

    where we’re all evil.”

    I consider this thought for a moment.

    and then I notice something.

    If he’s right.

    If that’s a mirror, not a window…

    our villanous doppleganger

    they seem to look like we look

    do what we do.

    You can’t tell us and them apart.