Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The So-What Question

Nothing like a game of moral values ping-pong between the centerish and leftish factions of the Democratic Party. It doesn't make us look silly at all.

I've read Amy Sullivan quite a bit, and I have some affinity for her basic position: bringing a religious sensibility to progressive politics. But her recent project has been to carve out a niche in the DC pundit empire by parodying herself, and honing a schtick: making the Democrats palatable to her Baptist granny back home in the Midwest. It's tiresome. Others have jumped on Sullivan plenty for fudging on the principle of reproductive choice, so I won't pile on. But I'm confused by her anti-Hollywood tirade. Is the objective here to take a principled stand against obscene or otherwise harmful content, or is it to score points a la Sister Souljah at the expense of Susan Sarandon? Because Susan Sarandon is hot, and America needs her to be a little more obscene, not less. Fewer mother roles, more groupie roles. What was my point again?

I wrote up some stuff about my wife's and my efforts to regulate our kids' TV and movie consumption, but I felt like an ass after reading it. I'm definitely open to charges of being lazy or hypocritical. I'm bothered by some of what my kids watch on TV, but not always bothered enough to be the bad guy and turn the thing off. And it IS a parent's responsibility, if it's anybody's, to be the gatekeeper for his or her kids. So I have no room to bitch. And a lot of people are in my boat. As I was reminded recently, when the Southern Baptists tried to rally their members to boycott Walt Disney, because Disney offered employee benefits for gay partners--that was biting off more than the SB's could chew. Sorry, preacher, but I can't deny my kids their theme park vacation and their Mulan 2 video.

The Democrats do need to find a narrative that lifts up family life and critiques pop culture. Why do we coddle our kids? Why do we feed junk to both their brains and their bodies? Why do we settle for a vapid popular culture? How can we get more time and security and public space to enrich our family life? Perhaps these questions could acknowledge parents' concerns and rally them to act. But flattering hypocrites and congratulating them for their hypocrisy--that's pandering.

Pop culture is the slippery slope to hell? As the title of this Digby post says: Prove it. What's the cause and effect here that we should be worried about? "Friends" contains dirty jokes. Teenage girls wear hip-hugger pants. Young black men play their car stereos loud. So what? Where do any of these observations get us, beyond the fact that something makes you uncomfortable? We need to go a step further.

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