No Offense, but …

Posted November 16th, 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly HallowsAs we run headlong toward the Christmas season, and leave behind what has felt like a season of censorship, my thoughts incline toward the most contentious book ever written. Its pages are teeming with witches, sorcerers, drunkards, despots, tyrants, thieves, and prostitutes—offensive, all. Much of its subject matter is even worse: rape, incest, infanticide, slavery, Satanism, and sodomy are on the list. Murder and adultery are front and center.  War and pestilence take their place. Circumcision and castration come up for discussion. As for sexual intimacy—whether heterosexual or homosexual—well let’s just say, there are passages in this book that would, as they say, make a grown man blush.

SpeakOne might well ask if children, or even young adults should be exposed to such literature.  After all, its language is strong, and its themes are often, let’s see, mature?  Questionable? Distasteful?  In other words, there is nothing safe about this book.  It is not age appropriate, or politically correct.  And yet, many parents would be happy to find this book in their teen’s backpack.  In fact, they might be the ones to place it there. Scandalous, isn’t it?

TricksAm I talking about Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rawlings? Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson? Tricks by Ellen Hopkins  No, not even close. Their books’ so-called offenses pale by comparison.

What am I talking about? The next time you hear of anyone challenging or attempting to censor a book for children or young adults, ask them if they’ve ever read the Holy Bible. If they say they haven’t, suggest that they do. And here’s an idea:  start the conversation off with the words “No offense, but.” See where the conversation goes from there. It should be interesting.

Mixed Messages: Blog Shorts

Posted November 9th, 2010

VegasI have a love/hate relationship with television commercials. For instance, I LOVE the new Old Spice guy. He puts a smile on my face every time I see his beautiful browns six-pack. (Hey, I’m into honesty, here!) Most of the Dove commercials get my vote. I appreciate their commitment to expanding the images of beauty to include women and girls of every size and shape.

There are more than a few ads, though, that give me pause. Take the current commercial for Tide. A mom borrows her daughter’s sweater and lies about it. She then all but upends the clothes hamper to hunt for the sweater, uses the product to remove a stain she got on it, then returns it to her daughter’s closet. No harm, no foul, right? The message is that it’s okay to borrow someone’s clothing without permission, and lie about it, so long as you can remove any trace of evidence of your crime. Now there’s a great message to send out into the world!

I find some of the Vegas tourism ads especially disturbing. “Whatever happens in Vegas….” You know the tag line. Here’s a commercial inviting viewers to plan a little “good natured” naughtiness (huh?), or a short weekend of wild and—dare we say it?—lascivious behavior, with the promise that Sin City will lock any proof of your actions in their vault of secrets for all eternity. Yeah. That’s an idea we want to download into the minds of our young. Not.

I can already hear the arguments in favor of these commercials, so let’s skip to my rebuttal. The fact that these ads are targeting adults is, at best, a lame excuse. We all know underage viewers are taking notes, people. Let’s be honest.

Full disclosure: there are some commercials of questionable moral content that make me laugh. These, however, are not among them. When I consider the messages they are sending, I realize these ads are no laughing matter.

We need to connect the dots. There’s a reason cheating on exams has become more commonplace in recent years. There’s a reason more children regularly lie. (Let’s not even get into the rise in underage drinking, unprotected sex, etc.) We have made, or allowed Madison Avenue to make, questionable or even bad behavior a laughing matter. If we want our sons and daughters to change their tunes, we had better change ours.

Instead of celebrating how cleverly we can hide our indiscretions, what if we were to do, and act, and say things in a way we aren’t ashamed for people to know about—especially our young charges? I’m not suggesting any of us could, or should be goody-two shoes every day of our lives (like that’s going to happen, anyway!). But what about striving, as a whole, to live our daily lives with transparency so that we have fewer deep, dark secrets to hide? It’s just a thought.

As for the commercials, if we change, perhaps they will too. It could happen.