Saturday, October 4, 2008

The Hannah question

When i was a little girl, i loved to play dress-up. I walked around in those plastic heels, and the flower girl dress i got when i was in my aunt's wedding was eventually worn to shreds because i pranced around the house in it every day. I would steal my mom's makeup, and Madonna was my idol. This started when i was about five, and lasted until i was about ten.

So why am i so bothered by the fact that my daughter adores glam girl Hannah Montana? My child is barely five, but she reveres this teenie bopper. And she acts in a manner that i usually associate with the tween set -- the crappy, sticky lip gloss, the desire to tease the hair, the hands on the hips, the silly giggles... my five year old does all of that and it makes me scared. I think it comes down to the fact that my daughter is just so young. Of course, none of this Hannah stuff is reinforced in my house. (Besides the occasional tube of crappy sticky lip gloss i find rolling around on the floor of her room.) But she does not live only with me. Both her grandmothers are not shy about tuning in to the Disney Channel and letting her sing along with Hannah's creepily wholesome show-tunery. Here she is, barely five, and looking up to this much older role model, whose star could one day fall, a la Britney Spears. I am disturbed by the fact that my daughter is learning that glamour, makeup and narcissism are the ways of life that we Americans hold in high esteem. If you are not down with the Disney Channel set, the premise of the Hannah Montana show is this: a 'normal' teenager who lives a double life as a rock star. I think shows like that just sets us up for a lifetime of feeling like we are not good enough. That normal life is not good enough. I admit that these feelings come to the surface for me at times too. I am not good enough. Other female co-workers are prettier, more fit, better-dressed... and if i could only be like them. My daughter is learning that if we just buy more beauty products, trim our waistlines a little more, buy better and newer clothes, maybe someone will love us as much as they love Hannah Montana. If we have beautiful singing voices, we will be revered. The unspoken message is, if we are good at showiness -- we are gods. But if we are good at math or science, we will slip into quiet oblivion. I am disturbed, and apparently i am not the only one. This from New York Magazine earlier this year:

"Youth market analysts say this is part of a trend called KGOY, “kids getting older younger,” and cultural observers describe a tandem phenomenon, more-indulgent parents."

So what do i do? While i fear for her future self-esteem, i also want her to experience what she likes, in a natural way. I do not want to take away her one Barbie, because that will likely make her want them more. I don't want to deprive her of everything -- so that the reactionary in her makes her want Everything when she is able to decide for herself. The decision is harder at this very moment because the kiddo wants to be Hannah Montana for Halloween. This, of course, means buying a costume, instead of making one as i have always done for her in the past. So what do i do?

1 comment:

Kaydee said...

maybe you could explain all of this to her just as you wrote above, except say it in a different language. regardless you have instilled the right social baromenters that are most important in the long run. and in the meantime might as well let her be hannahM for halloween. maybe she could put a little individual twist on it.