When I first read this entry about a mother’s reaction to something written by a media personality named Rachel Campos Duffy, I wasn’t quite sure how to react. The Duffy person says shows like High School Musical and Hannah Montana are not allowed in her house because we’d rather our girls aspire to be astronauts or veterinarians rather than gyrating wanna-be “rock stars”. The blogger retaliated by saying yes, her daughter watches Hannah Montana because she likes music and, as a mother, she allows and encourages it because she wants her daughter to aspire to be anything she wants.
Okay, High School Musical and Hannah Montana are staples for Alex. And I don’t discourage her from watching them. I watch High School Musical with her but Hannah Montana is not my cup of tea. I did watch Lizzie MacGuire and Raven though with both Sam and Alex when they were all the rage a few seasons ago. Just as we did The Suite Life of Zach and Cody.
Even when the scandal about Vanessa Anne Hudgen’s nude photos broke loose over the internet, I did not tell Alex to stop liking High School Musical. And when Mylie Cyrus posed for Vanity Fair just a week or so ago, I didn’t tell her to stop watching Hannah Montana either. I never had to spell it out but my kids were always aware of the difference between the character that an actor plays and the actor as a private person.
I do not find anything objectionable with the songs and dance routines in High School Musical and Hannah Montana. It’s not like anyone there danced a la Sexbomb or Mariah Carey or Britney Spears in her music videos and concerts after she dropped her sweet girl image. There is a difference between dancing and gyrating. There is a difference between dancing and mimicking sexual acts on stage. There is a difference too when a singer wears beachwear or underwear on stage even when the song being performed is not about the beach, swimming or, well, underwear. And a bra and panties are still either a bikini or underwear no matter how much glitter you sew into them.
In short, there is a world of difference between being sexy and sensual, on the one hand, and on the other, trying so hard to look sexy that one ends up looking slutty.
I cannot deny, however, that there is a grain of truth in the observation that many of the Disney series that target teen and pre-teen girls do have that “sexualization” factor. The heavy make-up, the long tousled hair, the tight shirts and jeans… these are all projections of how the “attractive” girl of today should look like. And, girls being girls, there is a tendency to emulate. It is the subliminal effect of those images that are more dangerous than the actual singing and dancing.
But if a girl has been raised to know the difference between decent and prude, and between sexy and slutty, then, by the time she reaches her teens, she would be secure in her own femininity and identity and she can enjoy the entertainment that these shows offer without the danger that she will try to look like the girls in the boob tube. Because there is a heck of difference between the entertainment value of a show and believing that the characters should be emulated. Otherwise, the real problem would be the inability to tell between reality and fantasy.
Finally, while there are stage performers who look and act slutty, it doesn’t follow that there are no sluts among veterinarians and astronauts. Some are comfortable with displaying sluttiness in public; others prefer to do it in private.