My kids are having a really hard time with entertainers lately. First there was Miley Cyrus, who my ten-year-old says “ruined” her childhood. Then the rehabbers: Lindsay Lohan, Zac Efron, Ke$ha And, of course, Justin Bieber.
This is not to say my girls (ages 10 and 12) are prudes or prone to judgment. It’s just that they still like to watch the Disney Channel. From Disney, we have Demi Lovato, Christina Aguilera, and Selena Gomez. They really liked “The Parent Trap,” “Freaky Friday” and “Mean Girls” and thus, for a while, they liked Lindsay Lohan. To them, it makes sense that a girl who would sing about brushing her teeth ‘with a bottle of jack’ would end up in rehab.
Being a parent in my late 40s, I know that failure is an inevitable part of life. Having covered many a celeb crisis during my time at CNN, I was rarely surprised when they cracked under pressure. So, I offer my kids perspective. For all the parental supervision she still requires, Britney Spears has gotten it together. A myriad of others have committed to reform. I am REALLY not looking forward to discussing Tiger Woods.
As for what they see in media, I tell my kids that sometimes drugs, sex and even violence are inevitable. They provide conflict. These issues make you think. They help you make your own choices. Lately, however, it’s getting very hard to convince the kids that not every performer or thing they see in the media is there to either shock or disappoint them.
This week’s lesson is apparently Beyonce. When she first opened the 2014 Grammys, the girls thought the vixen on stage was Rihanna. High heels. Fish nets. Sexy beat. It made sense. When I recognized Beyonce’s voice, I told them: “This is going to be good.”
That is when I learned it was time to let my kids to draw their own conclusions.
Initially, the girls offered a methodic assessment. They were perplexed as to how her hair looked wet. Her outfit was…interesting. They weren’t really listening to her lyrics. They just watched her dance and swing around the chair.
Next came the questions. Why was she doing that? Was she going to twerk, too? They started to squirm. I did, too. Finally one of them asked: What is this song about?
I try to be the kind of parent who offers the truth—but only when it is requested. Even then, I just stick to the facts. So I listened to the lyrics for a moment. Thank God they didn’t ask me what Beyonce meant by “fatty.” Even I am not sure about that. In the end, I felt I had no choice but to tell the truth.
“She’s talking about seducing and having sex with her husband,” I said.
The expected groans and screams happened, but I didn’t immediately turn the TV off. It WAS Grammy night at 8:04p.m. on CBS. How much worse could this get?
The Hollywood Reporter described it best on Twitter. Beyonce was “deflowering” the chair. The London Daily Mail, and apparently many parents on Twitter, tore the performance apart.
By the time Beyonce started crawling on the floor and singing about riding a surfboard (???), my oldest apparently had had enough.
“Can you turn this OFF?” she said indignantly, to the cheers of her younger sister. I thought they were teasing me because normally it would be something I WOULD do. When I just laughed, they both looked at me, horrified.
“Oh….you mean really turn it off?” I asked.
With that my kids became the first people to ever fast-forward through a Beyonce performance.
Of course, I was proud of the kids’ decision. So were a vast majority of my FaceBook friends. However, I was disappointed with myself for not flipping the switch sooner. What was I thinking??
I thought about blaming CBS—this WAS 8 o’clock and we were not watching Showtime. Then I remembered that CBS prefers to apologize later rather than ask for permission.
So I considered slut shaming Beyonce Wasn’t she really no different than Miley??
That didn’t feel right either. Just a few days before, as I was having a discussion with a fellow parent about how I would talk to my kids about Justin Bieber’s latest exploits. My friend asked me if I felt Beyonce was a good role model.
“She is a powerhouse,” I said, “she can do it all.” I then endorsed Beyonce’s HBO documentary “Life is But a Dream.” I hoped to show it to the girls someday.
In that film you learn that Beyonce personifies everything an extremely successful woman can and should be. The artist shot much of the documentary, and narrated it herself. She can sing, dance, act, produce, write songs, design sets, choreograph, and fire her father. She can attribute her success to a higher power, be monogamous, happily married, and mother a child.
Oh yeah, and Beyonce likes to have sex with her husband.
This last talent, it turns out, is a very important example that apparently needs to be set. Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress writes that the Grammy performance is actually an argument for the virtues of marriage. She believes it’s an example that conservative activists clearly cannot present simply because they wouldn’t dare to go there.
When you look at it that way, it’s makes sense that Beyonce and Jay Z could be role models. First, good sex is essential key to a healthy marriage, not to mention one’s own health. More important, apparently, is the message it sends to African Americans.
Between 1960-2011, the rate of marriage among African-American adults fell 40 percent. It’s estimated that only 31 percent of blacks are married. As a result, 52 percent of black children live in single-parent homes. The statistics indicate that homes with single-mothers have seen their income decline exponentially in the past 30 years. Obviously, a family with two earners is going to make more money than one, etc., etc., etc.
Please don’t think of me as Tipper Gore or Sarah Palin. I am not saying you have to get married, nor do you have to be in a heterosexual marriage.
Also, I am certainly not suggesting that Beyonce’s art needs censoring. Common sense does indicate, however, that if network censors have to bleep out words of your song more than once, you’re probably appearing in the wrong time slot.
Thus, I think it’s going to take a while for my kids to believe that Beyonce is a strong role model. They are not alone. They just think that “sex stuff” belongs behind closed doors. Where did they ever get that idea??
Eventually, I’ll get them to learn more about Beyonce and we’ll watch that documentary. Because as uninhibited as she is, Beyonce is an example of how a positive powerful female can be a successful, married mother, who is also sexy.
We just won’t discuss it before 8 o’clock. And certainly without network television.