Monday, April 19, 2010

What Ever Happened to Coloring Books?

As far as I’m concerned, Chris Rock is the funniest person alive. I have watched his stand-up film “Bring the Pain” at least a hundred times, and I am not exaggerating. Even better (or worse, maybe), I like to speak in Rockisms; any time I hear someone tell me they have a food allergy, I launch into one of my favorite Rock rants: “We got so much food in America we're allergic to food. Allergic to food! Hungry people ain't allergic…You think anyone in Rwanda's got a f&*%ing lactose intolerance?!” Brilliant. He has hundreds of them, all brilliant, all hilarious. But after last week, I have to give it up to Rock for saying something years ago that we all should revisit. Talking about his daughter in a stand-up routine, he said, “Sometimes I am walking with my daughter, I'm talking to my daughter, I'm looking at her, I'm pushing her in the stroller. And sometimes I pick her up and I just stare at her and I realize my only job in life is to keep her off the pole.” Funny, right? Well, it used to be. I’m not so sure it’s a joke anymore.

Last week I read about Tesco, a toy company in the UK that sells a kiddie stripper pole. I’m not kidding. The pink-packaged pole had been advertised in Tesco’s toy department with the following sales pitch: “Unleash the sex kitten inside...simply extend the Peekaboo pole inside the tube, slip on the sexy tunes and away you go! Soon you'll be flaunting it to the world and earning a fortune in Peekaboo Dance Dollars." I did not make that up. And while it would be easy to blame the manufacturers of products like this one, let’s remember that people are buying these things. To wit, in addition to the Tesco story, there were reports on many websites last week about a British company called Primark that had been selling sparkly bikinis with padded bra tops for preteen girls. Padded bra tops for 8 year-olds. After much protest, most of it from children’s advocacy groups, Primark recalled the swimsuits and announced they will be donating any profits from sales of the item to a children’s charity. Wait, wait, wait – they are donating the profits? PROFITS? Who bought these suits? Who the heck thinks, “Man, my third grader really needs to boost her cleavage. I need to get that child a rack!” I mean, what kind of caregiver buys a PUSH UP BRA FOR A CHILD???? Sorry to yell, but, really, I cannot imagine what has happened to us that this is okay. Sexualizing children is a crime, not a marketing strategy.

The day after I read about Primark and Tesco, I read about a recent trend in Australia that has parents bringing in daughters as young as nine years for…wait for it…leg waxing. First of all, does a child need to remove her leg hair at all? And even if you think the removal is okay, why would anyone subject a kid to something so painful in pursuit of smooth, “sexy” skin. What is going on? And while the examples I’ve cited are from other countries, we all know the same problem exists here. Just look around. A few weeks ago I saw a girl walking hand-in-hand with her mom on the sidewalk outside an elementary school. I’m not sure how old the little girl was, but she was carrying a Dora backpack. And on the back of her pink, velour sweatpants, right across her behind, was the bedazzled word “Juicy.” She was in elementary school. She had a Dora backpack. And she was advertising that her booty is juicy.

So what is happening? I blame Miley Cyrus. I blame Miley and her stripper pole performance for everything. Suri Cruise wears high heels at 3 years old? Gift from Miley. Little British girls are wearing padded bras? Miley’s fault. Toy stripper poles for kids? Miley’s idea. An increase in gun violence? I don’t know how, but Miley is behind it. Seriously, while I really want to blame it all on Miley, the problem is obviously bigger than one little pop tart. It’s bigger than Miley, and it’s bigger than Primark and Tesco. Somehow, in our increasing tolerance of sexuality in our culture, we forgot to tolerate it only for adults. Believe me, I’m no prude. If they made a push up bra that I could have surgically attached to my torso, I might buy it. But I am not a child. I am a grown woman, responsible for and in control of my sexuality. A nine year-old girl is none of these things. In fact, she shouldn’t even possess sexuality. And no matter how you want to spin it, padded bras, stripper poles, and juicy butts are about sex and nothing else. Paint your little girl’s fingernails, and that’s just cute. Teach her to objectify herself – not cute. If you have a little girl, know a little girl, want to help a little girl, buy her some crayons for crying out loud. It takes a village, people, and the village needs to keep her off the pole.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tiger Strikes Again

Oh, Tiger. Tiger, Tiger, Tiger. I was hoping it wouldn’t come to this. I’ve resisted the urge to mention him in this space many times. I’ve been quiet through all the mistresses, however many of them there have been. I lost count at six. I’ve been quiet because, the truth is, while I read all the “news” about Tiger and his special friends, I’m not really interested in celebrities’ infidelities. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I’m not interested in things that have nothing to do with me. Please. I have a subscription to Us Weekly, okay? But I just don’t care if Elin is wearing her wedding ring or not, and I don’t care if they get divorced or back together. I don’t care what goes on intimately between two people unless I am one of them. And, I know I am in the minority here, but I have not been intimate with Tiger Woods. So I haven’t had anything to say about him. Then I saw his new Nike commercial.

The commercial. WOW. Really, Tiger? I mean, I am one of the few people in the country who didn’t care about his prolific, seemingly indiscriminate cheating – and this is despite having read those, um, graphic text messages. Do you think it was the athlete in him, the competitor, who thought “Hmmm. Some people don’t hate me yet. I’ll show them?” It had to be. In case you haven’t seen the commercial, it’s 33 seconds of Tiger staring directly into the camera and looking sad while the voice of his dead father says "Tiger, I am more prone to be inquisitive to promote discussion. I want to find out what your thinking was. I want to find out what your feelings are, and did you learn anything?" Let me just back up for a minute in case you missed it: the commercial features THE VOICE OF HIS DEAD FATHER. Now, if Nike had actually managed to get Tiger’s dead father to speak in the spot, that would be impressive. Nope. While Nike is pretty powerful and Tiger pretty wealthy, their combined supremacy did not in fact bring Earl Woods back to life. Nike copped the voice clips from a 2004 three-DVD authorized biography of the golfer. Awesome, right? The words that Earl spoke in support of Tiger’s athleticism can also be applied to Tiger’s pathological philandering! How serendipitous! Every father's dream, I am sure.

Okay, so, the whole thing is gross. One might expect that Tiger’s grossness meter had maxed out by now, but no. Thank you, Nike, for going that extra mile and creepily invoking both Tiger’s best crybaby face and his dead father to make me really squirm. Well played. But before I address the grossness of it all, can we please discuss how freaking hilarious Earl’s questions are in this particular context? I mean, COME ON. There had to have been at least one guy at the advertising company with a brilliant sense of humor. I mean, “I want to find out what your thinking was???” Uh, okay, Earl, you must be dead if you have to ask. And “did you learn anything?” Yeah he did. He learned he can’t drive while doped up on Ambien. He learned Elin sure can swing a golf club. He learned that if your mistress has a headshot, she’s probably going to rat you out. And he learned that shocking the American public with the extent of your promiscuity costs a lot of money in lost endorsements.

Nike, as you may know, is the only major endorsement Tiger has not lost after his scandalicious year. So, really, this is more about Nike than Tiger. They have put a lot of money into Mr. Woods, and they are sticking by him. I get it. They want us to know that while they support him, it is only in a deeply reflective context. Right. Whatever, Nike. In the company's and Tiger’s joint desperation to salvage the money making machine that is Tiger Woods for Nike, they managed to shamelessly disrespect a dead man’s words while creating what is both the most offensive and most hilarious commercial I have seen in a while. I’d give them props for that last part if I thought it were intentional and if I weren’t otherwise so horrified. Because, all jokes aside, I’d like to think there is a limit to what we’ll tolerate from corporations and celebrities. And, personally, I can get past Tiger’s cheating – I’m not married to him. But I can’t get past the use of a dead man’s voice to try to neutralize a sex scandal for profit. Shame on you, Nike. I’d stop buying your sneakers if I actually ran or played basketball or did any of that sports stuff you people are into. And shame on you, Tiger. You’ve probably heard that a lot this year already, haven’t you? So let me also say, for lack of a better word, just...yuck.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Family Dysfunction, 2010 Style

My dad is on Facebook. Go ahead and chuckle – it’s funny, right? My mom is, too, but that’s not as weird. For one thing, I don’t really care if my mom reads my status updates, no matter how profane or incriminating they might be. Mom’s no prude. For another, um, I speak to my mom. My dad and I haven’t spoken in three years. Don’t feel bad – that’s not my point (and I have a great therapist). My point is that it’s pretty bizarre that while he and I have not spoken to or seen each other since 2006, he regularly sends me chat invitations when I am logged in to Facebook. And the chat invitations don’t say “Sorry I’m an insensitive twit! Let’s talk!” They bing at me and say, “Cute dog!” or “Love the new profile pic!” I am just waiting for the day when he asks me to buy him a cow in Farmville or whatever it is you Farmville people do. And, so help me, if he asks me to join his mob in Mafia Wars, I will pop a cap in my Macbook. A decade ago, my father would have had to put effort into making a phone call or sending a card to try to repair our relationship. Now, he can send a quick message while he looks at his neighbor’s vacation photo album or takes a quiz to find out which Twilight character he is. Um…creepy.

It’s not that bad for me. Basically, I have to run away from some annoying IMs. It’s irritating, but that’s about it. Plus, it’s only Facebook. I can block my father. I can leave Facebook. Change the players to Lindsay Lohan and her father and the venue to Twitter, and we have a much more dangerous drama. To wit: Lindsay and her father had an all-out war on Twitter this week. Here are a few of her dad’s tweets (complete with his typos):

@LindsayLohan.. was I wrong for yelling .YES, but how about all the things mom did? remember Atlantis?Remember the lies to the cops?
@LindsayLohan..who WENT TO JAIL for 2 yrs because U and mom cried 2 me 2 come to LA,while I was on Probation,knowing I'd get violated?ME!
@LindsayLohan ..I never ever said that. I have it on my text (it is date and time stamped)! what is wrong with U?OOOPS!I already l know that
@LindsayLohan.. done with ur&the other nonesense.Time to focus on what I have to

Okay, first of all, let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Lindsay Lohan has two of the worst parents ever to be allowed to reproduce, her father should be locked up (again), and it is no wonder Lindsay is a mess. Now, let’s think about what it must be like for Lindsay to read these tweets. She is assaulted with her father’s nonsense while the rest of the world reads it, too.  And her father, who is very obviously a delusional narcissist, has a stage. What chance does the poor girl have – did she ever have? How is she supposed to get away from this? I suppose she could move to some remote place where she reads and listens to no news, but let’s be realistic. She won’t and she shouldn’t have to. So, as long as Michael Lohan has Twitter followers, he can post this nonsense. As long as magazines print it, he will post this nonsense. And as long as he follows Twitter’s rules, none of which forbid emotionally abusing your daughter, there is nothing anyone can do about it, including Lindsay. This is where we go from creepy (my dad’s Facebook) to tragic.

I have made jokes at Lindsay’s expense in the past. I am a shameless consumer of celebrity gossip, and I am never ashamed to admit it. I poke holes in myself and marinate in Us Weekly whenever I get the chance. I read before I brush my teeth in the morning. I know the names of every one of the Beckham kids and every one of Tiger’s mistresses and was among the first to know when the latter number surpassed the former. But watching a family destroy each other on Twitter is more than I can take. Can’t families just go back to torturing each other the old fashioned way -- screaming matches at Thanksgiving dinner, showing up drunk to Junior’s graduation, stuff like that? And, please, if you want to tell someone you are sorry, say it like you mean it – with your mouth. Families are messed up enough, even the loving ones. Adding more ways for us to torture each other is just wrong. Let’s stick to Farmville and Mafia Wars online and leave the important stuff to that face-to-face thing we used to love so much.