Monday, July 26, 2004

She wants her MTV

And here's another sign that my little girl is growing up: Sometimes, when I think she's out there in the living room peacefully watching "Zoom" or "Arthur" or "Full House" or some other parent-approved TV show, she's actually sneaking over to MTV, checking it regularly to see if a song she likes is on. I caught her a time or two and sternly (and wishfully) said she was too young for that stuff; it didn't stop her, of course, but it did put her little brother on alert to squeal every time she surfed to that channel. I finally put a "parental block" on it, but told her that if she really wanted to watch, I would sit sometime and watch it with her. We did that for a while last night, and ... whew, I think I may be too young for that stuff.

I'm not an MTV newbie or anything. Back when the channel was just starting out, I was working from my apartment as a freelance writer and, needing some form of procrastination, took to watching videos on a pretty much constant basis. Videos were pretty new then (yes, dear, when mommy was a little girl, there was NO CABLE TV), and there was a lot of goofiness and a lot of over-the-top storytelling and a lot of what amounted to videotaped stage performances. I haven't watched videos regularly for a couple of decades now, though, and from what I'd heard and read about MTV, it was sounding less and less like something I want my middle-schooler to be watching. Knowing, however, that the best way to get kids interested in something is to forbid them to watch it -- and knowing, too, that we get some good conversations going based on what we watch together, good or bad -- I figured the best thing to do would be to let her watch it, but only if I'm there too.

As it happens, the MTV she wanted to watch was the "MTV Hits" channel, which is apparently for the younger end of the MTV demographic, with some teen hits, some rap and R&B, and no commercials. There was some of the same goofiness and storytelling I remembered, and a lot more nakedness and sexuality than I'm comfortable watching with my child. I took the opportunity to point out to her that, while the men in these videos are usually wearing shirts and jackets and long pants, the women are usually wearing as little as possible -- mini skirts, tiny tops, string bikinis. What did she think about that? Did she think that a girl had to dress like that and move like that to get a boy to like her? Her answer was "yes." Yikes. Lots to talk about there.

One other good thing to come from our mutual viewing: In Not Much Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers, I'd read about a type of dancing that's apparently popular amonst older middle-schoolers that I wanted to tell my daughter she was forbidden from doing ever, ever, ever. But how to describe it, exactly? Watching MTV, no problem -- there it was, demonstrated by an oversexed clump of dancers in a video for a song called, appropriately, "Turn Me On." My girl professed to love that song, particularly the voice of the singer, and to have no real idea what it was about, or why I'd want to turn that particular video off. So apparently, she's not that grown-up yet. And I aim to keep it that way.

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