Earlier today, Perez Hilton reported that Danny Osmond criticized Lady Gaga’s new video, Telephone. Donny asked Gaga to consider her core fan base when making a video that includes profanity, nudity, sexuality and all that stuff that we parents fret over.
But Donny, don’t you realize that Gaga’s core audience are gay men and adult women?
Before I get too comfortable on my high horse, let me tell you about the workshop I gave with Ruth Livier and Sarah Rafael Garcia at Adelante Mujer. We spoke to middle school girls and their mothers about writing as a profession and passion. I was very careful to advise our audience that my books were not written for their consumption. Typically, I don’t speak to elementary or middle school kids as a published author. But they asked and I figured as long as I was honest, we’d be cool. Anyway, I said something along the lines of: “I don’t want your mamas emailing me that they caught you reading the sexy scenes in my books, okay?”
However, the moms in the audience duly noted the titles of my books when they heard “sexy scenes.”
Humor aside, I was serious. I don’t think about young readers when I write my stories because they are not young adult or children’s books. They’re adult fiction (chick lit, chica lit, women’s fiction with strong romantic elements … whatever you want to call it they’re not for kids, ‘kay?). We adults should not have to sacrifice our Gaga, Nurse Jackie, cocktails or erotica so the world can pretend its one big squeaky-clean Disneyland.
I’m very vigilant about what my little man is exposed to. We preview all his movies and TV shows. We shelve certain books out of reach. If there’s a program we want to watch, we wait for him to go to bed. We don’t have TiVo or a DVR but we’re working on it. And when he comes home with a question about a certain word or movie that his friends have mentioned, we talk about it. Not that there haven’t been slip-ups. He once saw a re-enactment of Wyatt Earp’s incident at the OK Corral (it was American Experience on PBS), which then resulted in a discussion about why blood is red and not green.
I understand Donny’s concerns and he has a right to express himself. But maybe this is an issue for the parents not the artist. I’ve seen kids with brand new cell phones that no one bothered to activate the parental controls. Or, more likely the kids figured out how to deactivate so they can access videos like Telephone. (Ahem, I would’ve.) Rather than wholesale banning, or worse rating which only intrigues sheltered young minds, it takes parenting. I know better than to think that my innocent young son will go through life without hearing or saying the f-word until he’s 18.
One of his first words was $#!t after his dad stepped in a pile of pug pooh. Once we explained that $#!t was not a word he should shout in the middle of Pet Smart, he stopped. There was no judgment. No yelling, no soap shoved in his mouth. It took a moment and we moved on and as far as I know, he’s not using the word. If he does, then we may consider the soap.
We can try to avert their eyes and muffle their ears, but when that fails we need to be there for the conversation. The younger the better because when the big stuff starts happening, I believe from the bottom of my heart (and the experience of my own mistakes), that open and honest dialogue with parents, aunts, uncles or an adult of sound mind will help kids navigate through this wild and woolly world.
Moms, in Hot Tamara the naked fire fighter is in chapter 21.