Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Live TV and Dead Children

I love kids. Especially today’s kids. They are smarter than we (I mean we old people in our mid 30’s) were at their age. They are more aware, speak more languages, know more people and thanks to the internet they talk to friends all over the world every day, all day. They live on a planet that even my generation passed off as science fiction; cutting room stuff best left for a Blade Runner sequel. This is the exciting world children live in. But they are not children.

Enter Trishelle. I was always fascinated with this Real World cast member and it was not because she was a white trash redneck slut who always seemed to trip and fall smack on top of a penis. More than that, Trishelle and her costars were the first Real World cast to grow up watching Real world; (she was twelve when the show started) probably the first not to remember a world before the show began. There was a price paid for that awareness and you could tell from the very first episode of that season. As soon as the cameras rolled they were performing. Sure everybody faked it on some level from the first season, but this was different. This was Courtney Love’s lyrics come to life—“my fake is so real/ It is beyond fake.” Not only could you see the disingenuousness, but you knew that were you to scratch the fakeness off what you would find was not the real Trishelle, but nothing at all. Since then I’ve run into dozens of kids all waiting for their close up. All wanting fame for fame’s sake. All wise beyond their years, and most of them underdeveloped zombies masquerading as kids.

If you think that fourteen year old girl on the receiving end of R. Kelly’s golden shower didn’t know what she was doing then you don’t know today’s kids. Not that she really knew, but she THOUGHT she knew and that is the problem. These kids are not wise, they are merely precocious and world weary. Adults confuse the two and think they have miniature adults in their midst. They trade in real world terms that they have no maturity to process. I’m not sure a thirteen year old really knows what a being a ho means, nor do I think a 12 year old can truly be a playa. But they think do and adults assume that they do, which could not be further from the truth. Years ago, many were stunned by the film Kids, because here were children that were not children at all. They were young people with a nonchalance about sex, drugs and aids that stunned audiences. But that kid has been threatening to show up for some time now. And maybe it’s the parent’s fault.

Or maybe it was Britney. I remember an article in a mens’s magazine, probably GQ about this man who had his little girl’s friends over for a slumber party. “_______ dances suggestively,” his wife said. The man thought the remark absolutely ludicrous since the girl was not yet seven. Two Britney songs later he was on the phone demanding that somebody remove little slut from of his house. I’m not a prude, but I’m not blind either. These children have watched Britney, Justin and Christina grow up on camera but for all three growing up merely meant getting more and more sexual as if that was the only sign of maturity. Should we have been outraged that the man who ushered Britney into video womanhood was controversial porn director Gregory Dark? Does it mean anything that it was a porn director that shaped the archetype that your nine year old is presently following? I’m all for bringing sexy back but I wonder if Justin has anything else to bring.

We like to congratulate ourselves that we are not in Dickensian times, that children are no longer chattel, dregs or slaves. But they are now the opposite: pandered, patronized and ignored. The ironic end result is a 21st century child not much different from the Victorian: one whose circumstances have forced him to grow up too fast. The first evidence of this is an entitlement complex that would floor a Hilton sister. Some of the kids I’ve met expect to be paid millions even though they are at a loss as to why they should actually work for it. There are children in Jamaica waiting for American Idol or some other reality show, a recreational career that would save them from having to learn to do anything. They are dead set on a music career because being able to sing is beside the point and they want to be in movies not to act but to appear on the MTV special about the movie. They have friends with benefits but may never know young love. They may be smart about the world and know as much as adults, but they have never experienced what being a child is like. And they don’t have a clue.