One day recently, my 13-year-old daughter and I were watching television when we saw a preview for the show "Bachelor Pad," a racier spinoff of The Bachelor. I could tell by the preview that it was not a show my daughter would be permitted to watch.
The premise of the show is that former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants are back, and living together in a mansion. The preview shows a group of twenty-somethings on a perpetual quest to see how many of their roommates with whom they can hook-up. There's cursing (bleeped out of course), crying, cat-fighting, and apparently a lot of action between the sheets. All this during prime time on a major network.
My daughter was told she was not permitted to watch. Neither was her friend, whose mother and I regularly discuss the influx of advertising, music, reality TV shows, and real-life news stories that not only flaunt bad behavior, but celebrate it.
A very recent example of the latter is the Jet Blue flight attendant who decided he had had enough and he wasn't going to take it anymore; his walk-off (or slide-off) of the job turned into a media spectacle. After letting loose a vulgar rant on the plane's PA system, the disgruntled flight attendant allegedly proceeded to grab some beer before deploying the plane's emergency chute, sliding down and walking off unhindered. Later he would appear triumphant as his tale turned him into folk hero in the media and on social networking sites.
The problem with idolizing this sort of person and his behavior is that he broke the rules and he may have broken the law. His behavior put others at risk, caused alarm to those who were on that plane, and could have injured or killed someone in the process. Indeed, the airline's COO made a statement in an email to staff that the plane's emergency slides "deploy extremely quickly, with enough force to kill a person...slides can be as dangerous as a gun, and that's the reason we have intensive initial and recurrent training. It is an insult to all aviation professionals to have this particular element of the story treated without the seriousness it deserves."
The hero-praise that this person continues to receive undermines what I and other parents try to teach our children: That bad behavior should not be rewarded, nor should it be revered or touted as acceptable.
Reality television shows like "Bachelor Pad," MTV's "Jersey Shore," and "Bad Girls," music with violent and vulgar lyrics, and explicit sex-filled music videos are all teaching our teens that if you act like a carousing, sex-crazed, lingerie-wearing idiot, you too can be respected, and possibly even become famous and demand an exorbitant salary.
Large department stores seem to be trying to cash in on this trend, too. As I recently thumbed through the various back-to-school ads, I found that the majority of the clothing the stores are marketing to teen girls appears trashy; torn up, revealing, and tight clothes are the norm. Most disturbing was a recent Sears' flyer which had several pages of clothing for teen girls labeled "battle gear" and "girly grunge" modeled by young girls who look as though they intend to seduce your son or scratch your daughter's eyes out.
On a recent trip to the ice rink, we were tuned in to my daughter's favorite radio station. This is a station that most of the girls her age listen to. How surprised I was when in between songs by the Black-Eyed Peas and Katy Perry, there was a racy ad for condoms touting his and her pleasure. Shortly thereafter, we passed a billboard on Rt. 322 in West Atlantic City advertising an online infidelity service. The ad features two playing cards, a king and a queen, with animated smiles as their imaginary hips appear to meet. The tag line: "Life is short, have an affair." The website, which I refuse to give anymore exposure to by citing its name in my blog, is not apologetic. The founder of the site has gone on national talk shows touting his site, which charges hundreds of dollars to become a member, as a much needed service for all the people in the world who need a little excitement in their boring married lives. Wow! Simply shocking.
And why has profanity become the norm? Words that were previously not allowed on non-cable television shows are now commonplace. The reality shows seem to have more bleeping of apparent vulgarity than they do meaningful dialogue. There's even a new local business which has the vulgar name Bad A$% Coffee prominently displayed on its storefront.
Am I a prude? No. But social graces and a sense of morality appear to have gone by the wayside. And bad, rude, trashy behavior has not only become the norm, it is portrayed as acceptable, and it is celebrated. This is not only frustrating, it is appalling. And it makes my job of raising a teen that much more difficult during these increasingly uncensored times.