It seems that the online world is abuzz with a certain performance that took place at a certain awards show, where a certain pop star displayed no shortage of lewd behavior (including a poor display of twerking), making a fool of herself both in front of her peers and on national television.
I, like many others, am over it.
But one issue I’m most certainly not “over” is how much undeserved attention we give to those that violate our trust, both in our personal lives and in the media.
Now, I’m not a parent, so I can’t relate to the frightening prospect of losing control of what my child might read, see, or watch, thanks to the perverse entertainment industry. However, I do have nieces and nephews. And I am so utterly disgusted by much of pop culture these days that I can’t stop thinking about its implications for them and the rest of their generation.
Most often on my mind is my 16-year-old niece. I’m particularly fearful for the loss of her innocence, because her physical appearance is as lovely as her personality. Now, I’ve watched her grow from a toddling child to a beautiful young woman, and I have to say: She is getting it right. She’s intelligent, talented, passionate, and kind to others. She is surrounded by friends who are drawn to her outstanding qualities. And, despite an understandable amount of teen-related drama, she is usually able to rise above it.
I am proud as hell of this girl. I’d like to think we have a lot in common.
But one similarity saddens me. While she is still in high school, so, it seems, am I. And this creates a dilemma. How on earth do I prepare this sweet, kind-hearted niece for the inevitable heartbreak that is sure to continue even after she has walked the line, even after a diploma hangs on her wall? How do I tell her that high school never really ends, that it just morphs into a bigger, badder wolf that is continually fed by social media at the fingertips of supposed well-educated adults with too much time on their hands?
How in the hell do I tell her that bullying doesn’t… ever… stop?
I’ve been having a bit of a rough go of things lately, dealing with some personal challenges that only a handful of people know about. And the sad/crazy part of that is this: There are sure to be a few that read this post and immediately react with an eye-roll or a passive aggressive post to their social media channel of choice. They might take a screenshot and share it and their snarky comments with their friends.
As ridiculous as it sounds, this behavior is very real. And juvenile as it may be, it certainly doesn’t end after high school. Because, as our young performer illustrated, the loudest, most inappropriate behavior gets noticed. Our society gratifies the pop star who displays the most shocking behavior—and the mean girl who uses her voice not for good, but to insult and humiliate others. Bad twerking, bad tweeting; It’s all in bad taste. But in the end, the intention is the same: a desperate plea for attention.
The truth of the matter is, mean girls travel in packs. They will encircle another human being that is writhing in pain, unaffected by pity or feeling. They will come in for the kill when they know their prey is weak and vulnerable, and they will eat it alive. They are ruthless.
Dear god, they are ruthless.
So, as my dear niecey makes her way out into the big scary world, I can only hope she will travel safely (far away from the entertainment industry). I wish I could protect her—from mean girls and mean words—but immunity is not reality. So, I hope that, when confronted with predators, she holds tightly the hands of those who love her most. I hope our support is enough to overcome the challenges she’s sure to encounter. I hope that, in the face of unkindness, she maintains her grace, her compassion, and her beauty.
Most of all, I sincerely hope she will never know the meaning of twerking.