Thursday, November 19, 2009

View From the Phlipside - Suggestive Youth

These are the scripts from my weekly media commentary program on WRFA-LP Jamestown

My name is Jay Phillippi and I've spent my life in and around the media. TV, Radio, the movies and more. I love 'em and I hate em' and I always have an opinion. Call this the view from the Phlipside

About 18 months ago a lot of the media talking head world of which I'm a part climbed up on our soap boxes to make whatever point we felt needed to be made about the photographs of teen media star Miley Cyrus taken by Annie Liebovitz for Vanity Fair. I came down pretty hard on Liebovitz and Miley's dad Billy Ray Cyrus for allowing his 15 year old daughter to be placed in that kind of a sexualized setting. We are teaching our children that it really IS all about sex and that you're never too young to start. As someone who works with young people and sees the damage created by that media message I was and am very much opposed to those kinds of images of and for our young people.

And that puts me in an interesting and admittedly uncomfortable position today. You see there's another instance of an underage young person being presented in very sexy photographs in the national media. Unlike the previous flap there is virtually no outrage about this case. In this case they are shirtless photos of 17 year old Taylor Rautner. In case the name means nothing to you (I will admit it didn't to me at first) Rautner plays the character Jacob Black in the current "Twilight" movies. The new movie and its promotional materials show him with less clothing on than anything in the Cyrus photos.

And no one has said a word. Why? Well 17 versus 15 certainly makes a difference. But at 17 he's still a minor and that should make a difference or we should get rid of the legal distinction. No, the more important reason is because he's a guy and there's a double standard. And that bothers me and I believe it should bother us all. If a 40 year old man has an affair with an 16 year old girl we are all outraged. If a 40 year old woman has an affair with a 16 year old boy there's a whole lot more people who just think the young man pretty darn lucky.

The reality is that sexually suggestive images are out of control in the media. That's neither new nor news. And yes, I'm a firm believer that adults are perfectly capable of making up their own minds on how to deal with it. But this ever more casual attitude towards suggestive images of young people needs to stop. It encourages inappropriate views of our kids both by outsiders and the young people themselves. The damage to self image, the glorification of shallow life choices have potentially devastating and long term effects. If it's wrong for Miley Cyrus it should be wrong for Taylor Rautner. And we should say so.

Call that the view from the Phlipside

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