From The New York Times (“TV’s Perfect Girl Is Pregnant; Real Families Talk“):
High school girls here wondered aloud on Thursday why no one was talking about contraception. Parents across the country, on the other hand, commiserated over the Internet about how, thanks to Ms. Spears, they were facing a conversation with their 8-, 9-, and 10-year-olds about sex.
How terrible! It’s absolutely awful for children to understand how to avoid pregnancy before they’re faced with it!
Seriously, maybe Jamie Lynn’s mom, who recently canceled a book on parenting, ought to have had the talk at that age.
And yeah, why isn’t contraception being discussed? Good job, New York Times, you get a cookie.
Of course, none of this means an end to the usual doom and gloom as neo-Puritanical parents and right-wing politicians lament that children are getting pregnant at younger ages (quick: how old was your average girl when she had her first child in 1600s New England?). Why, it’s almost like it’s the television’s fault that these poor little children hear all this disgusting filth about penises going into vaginas, squirting, and coming back out and smoking a cigarette:
“Nowadays, nothing’s safe, not even cartoons,” Diana Madruga, who has an 11-year-old daughter, said as she wrapped up her shift as the manager of a Dunkin’ Donuts here in the Boston suburbs.
Here’s a hint for you, Mme Madruga: turn off the goddamn television! And don’t have your kids read the Bible, whatever you do. There’s filth in there too.
Of course, I’m jumping the gun a little. Only some of this is part of that age-old (that is, going back to circa 1980) shouting match between frightened, goonish right-wingers and the few people simultaneously both courageous and influential enough to stand up for free speech. There is also a hint of an actual social problem here, expressed so eloquently by a 17-year-old:
High school girls who had already had their hearts broken by the all-too-public life of Ms. Spears’s older sister, Britney, known as a hard-partying mother of two, worried that their younger sisters would be devastated by the news — or, worse, that their sisters might think it was “cool” to be 16 and pregnant.
What? Maybe some of the problem here is teenage girls don’t have good role models anymore. Wonder Girl never got pregnant (correct me if I’m wrong).
“She’s the idealistic little girl,” Alicia Akusis, 17, said of the television character Zoey between classes at Concord-Carlisle High School here. “She does perfect in school. Boys like her because she’s pretty, but she doesn’t deal with boys. She’s really smart, she’s really cool, she’s an empowering girl character.”
She’s the “idealistic little girl” who “does perfect in school”? Maybe Concord-Carlisle should work on its grammar curriculum, but I digress.
Anyway, empowering female figures have sex drives too. From the sounds of it, nobody can fairly accuse Jamie Lynn Spears of a moral failing. She was 16 and practically living with her older boyfriend. Uh, yeah, they’re going to have sex, and probably not safely. Mama Spears should have looked up from the typewriter that she was using to write a book on parenting occasionally to spend time constructive time with her daughter. And, oh yeah, maybe not let her live with her boyfriend. Seriously, Mama Spears was so shocked that all she could do was muse that her daughter had never missed curfew, as if sex couldn’t be had before curfew.
Maybe some good could come from this. Nickelodeon could do a docudrama show about teenage pregnancy and postpartum life. Some of the dialog could be awesome, showing what it’s really like when you have an infant. Like, not being able to hang out with your friends, or get boozed up, or whatever 16-year-olds do nowadays. Actually, Nick kind of did have that idea:
Dan Martinsen, a spokesman for Nickelodeon, said Thursday that “Zoey 101” was one of its most popular shows among viewers 9 to 14.
“Nothing about the content, characters or the storytelling on our air has changed at all,” Mr. Martinsen said. He said that Nickelodeon was discussing a special on the issue with Linda Ellerbee, the television journalist who is the host of “Nick News.” “Whenever an issue becomes so prevalent that it’s inescapable,” Mr. Martinsen said, “her show is where we turn to help kids navigate and interpret and understand it.”
And, of course, this Times spiel ends on a note of attempted irony:
Greg Moseley, 18, said he was sick of hearing the name Jamie Lynn Spears. “Why do we care about Britney Spears’s little sister?” Mr. Moseley said. “Why does it make a difference? What does it mean? Nothing.”
“All this stuff is impossible to get away from,” he continued, “unless you go to Alaska and live in the woods.”
Or, turn of your television and skip the headlines about it on the Internet and in the paper. Mostly worked for me, except I guess I sort of just ranted about it.