Saturday, January 31, 2009

If U Seek Amy

There is something terribly wrong with our liberal agenda. I can feel it. Perhaps I might even be able to articulate it. But I don't have the slightest clue as to what to do about it. And I believe many other liberals feel the same way.

We are able to stand and fight with great passion, courage and an unyielding sense of right and wrong for environmental issues. We see our planet in peril and we know we must defend her. The facts, the statistics and the scientists help us and solidify our arguments, but our hearts tell us we must do what is right.

We are able to stand and fight with great passion, courage and an unyielding sense of right and wrong for civil rights and the rights of minorities. There is no doubt in our minds or hearts. Equal pay for men, women, minorities. Equal protection under the law. We are on rock solid ground.

Our instincts are keen. We rebel instinctively against any attack on our basic rights. Freedom of Speech is one of our most sacred rights. Sexual freedom is another. The right of a woman to control her body, her future and her destiny are beyond debate.

So when the
Southern Baptists and the censorship fanatic Parents Television Council and several other conservative groups launch a very public and well coordinated attack aimed at these rights, we react instinctively.

Except.... Today's target is Britney Spears, an easy target if there ever was one. Spears is having one sensational comeback. God knows she had hit the lowest depths. She had no where to go but up. Her new album Circus is topping every chart. Her first two singles off that album, Circus and Womanizer, are super hits. You can hear them on virtually every pop and adult contemporary radio station in America.

The problem arises with the record companies decision to release the third single from the album, the obviously suggestive "If U Seek Amy." Let's let Southern Baptist Kelly Boggs tell the story:

"If U Seek Amy," is offensive, inane as well as immature. This means with the state of American popular culture one step below the gutter the song likely will be a success. Only a week after it hit American radio it is already 92 on Billboard Magazine's Hot 100 chart.

While it is true that lyrical depth has never been a feature of American pop music, Spears' "Amy" scrapes the bottom of the barrel. In fact, it seems as if the song's only purpose is to provide the framework for a refrain that is on par with the worst lyrics found in rap music.

The lyrics of the refrain are: "But all of the boys and all of the girls are begging me to if you seek Amy." The fact that the written lyric makes no sense is really not the problem. Quite a few rock song lyrics have not made much sense. However, what Spears does phonetically when she sings the song makes all the difference. When listing to the song, there is no doubt she is spelling out one of the most offensive words in the English language.

If U Seek Amy = F-U-C-K Me.

Cute. Actually, it is cute. And I strongly disagree with Boggs analysis of the song. It's the strongest song on the album. If kids (or anyone) really listens to the song and lyrics it is really about a person longing for an unattainable icon. It is a story of a tragically overinflated ego. But few people will ever submit this song to this type of analysis. For one reason the song is fun and catchy, fast and danceable. It is going to be a huge hit at clubs.

But what about our teens and pre-teens? As this hits radio stations, what messages are we sending? One reviewer, who I won't bother to link because he is a compete idiot, claimed that young listeners would never pick up on the double entendre. Instead I'll quote a young lady named Cassie who added this comment to a lyrics site:

*snort* I love this song. My mum still doesn’t get it, so lets me listen to it when I’m driving my grandmother to work. My school played it at a dance. Thank you Brit for being tongue-in-cheek. It lets us pull one over on my school and my mother.

I O U 1

Don't ever underestimate our children. They get it. The current efforts to play a "censored version" are certainly not going to accomplish a thing. For one thing the song is all over "You Tube." It's spreading like wildfire.

But back to my question. What messages are we sending to our young teens and pre-teens? Read this cautionary essay written for the UK Daily Mail by Olivia Lichtenstein, "How the faceless and amoral world of cyberspace has created a deeply disturbing... generation SEX"

Remember that Hilaire Belloc cautionary tale - Matilda told such dreadful lies, it made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes? I used to love it as a child when telling lies was one of the naughtiest things you could do: Matilda ended up getting burned to death.

These days, however, everything has changed and it’s the truths that children tell that make one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.

A couple of years ago, my daughter Francesca, then aged 13, told me about a party she had been to one Saturday night.

In the course of the evening, she came upon one of her friends, also aged 13, performing oral sex on a boy in the garden. The boy was standing and videoing the event on his mobile phone.

I apologise for shocking you, but then there are a number of things shocking about this event: the casual nature in which such an intimate act is performed in public, the young age of the participants and last, but by no means least, the fact that it is being filmed.

How do we, as liberals, handle this continuous onslaught of sex and sexual message directly at our teens and preteens? Do we join the conservative outraged parents in Australia and America are demanding radio stations stop playing the song? **

If not, what message are we sending? Can this problem be fixed? How? You realize it's not just this one song.

I hope you will all discuss this issue in the comments section.

**Additional link:
MUCH MUSIC: Racy Brit Song Angers Parents


Unknown said...

When songs of questionable content would come on the radio, my wife and I would inform our kids what was being portrayed in the song, how we felt about it and why.

Then depending upon the degree of concern we had about the song, we would either; let it be or change the channel.

Shielding them from stuff only means they are going to experience it without parental context.

Same for books, movies, television etc. We had many of these discussions over the years and then let them make their own choices.

This is something that families do.

If there was a radio station that catered to kids to 18, I would let the manager know that it is not appropriate. Otherwise, it's is much less then your average Rap and Hip-Hop.

It really is a non-issue as far as I can see.

Bob Keller said...

Lee, I certainly agree with your approach and applaud your parenting skills. Although my children are long grown, we tried to do the same things and they turned out beautifully.

But, as a society, it is disturbing we are enveloping our children in a sea of sexuality. We are appalled so many of them are drowning.

The use of cell phones to take and exchange nude or sexually explicite photos of teens and preteens is rampant. This is happening because we are sending the message that this is the right thing to do.

Unknown said...

It could be argued that there has been a large jettison of Moral Authority. That many things once held sacred (almost facistly sacred) are now trite and old fashion.

With no concept of an immortal soul that is imperiled by your actions regardless of getting caught...

Nightly shows and entire channels that foist the Hollywood bacchanal onto a pinnacle.

TV shows that have no consequence for actions taken or deflected same.

Talking heads who believe an argument consists of shouting and name calling fallacy. Tearing someone down = having a better idea.

Scare mongering nightly news shows that make parents wary to let kids be kids. The entire concept that it is too dangerous out there.

The okay given to ridicule positions of authority. etc.

Exactly what kind of activism or legislation would change any of the above?

J McKiernan said...

So funny...I haven't heard the song, though get this--I actually OWN the album! Yikes, right? K has always liked Britney Spears, and we have rooted for her during that prolonged funk she found herself in. So on a whim, I bought K the album for Christmas. We like "Womanizer" and "Circus." But I haven't heard much else on the album.

As for the song, I will have to hear it first obviously...and read the lyrics. Context is everything. I try to give everything and everyone--and certainly every piece of art--the benefit of the doubt until I have have a full knowledge of what I could be defaming. So, commentary specific to the song will follow shortly.

Regarding the larger issue--the appropriateness of an overtly-suggestive song playing on Top 40 stations across the country for young ears to hear--it is very tough. I don't think I've ever said this before, but I tend to agree with Lee. If questionable content plays on the radio (or, as more readily occurs in our house, on the TV...did you SEE some of those superbowl commercials? Good lord...), it is our duty to explicate it for the kids. If they are going to be knowledgeable of this stuff, it needs to be on an informed, mature basis.

And the thing is, this song is really just the tip of the iceberg. The stuff being peddled to kids on TV and in movies (especially on TV) is a barrage of sexually suggestive and/or explicit images that have already changed the fabric of our culture, and will only continue to do so.

K is especially well-versed on this topic, and I will let her know that this thread is on-going.

More later...for now, allow to shamelessly plug Cinema Squared...head over there to see my Best of 2008 article.

Unknown said...


"I don't think I've ever said this before, but I tend to agree with Lee."

K McKiernan said...

The deal is this... it would be really easy to say, "Lee is right," that this is a family/parental issue. But the saturation and permeation of raunch in our current culture has changed the fiber of.. well EVERYTHING. Kids no longer have our context... they have their own, highly glossed, highly sexualized, pornified version.

And, we cannot keep up. And, talking to OUR kids is simultaneously crucial and not enough, for there are millions who obviously have NOT been talked to.

Wizard brought up sexting--the new trend where tweens take pics of themselves naked and send them to their tween boyfriends. Technology is changing children faster than laws can keep up. Many articles are starting to surface about this shocking trend, yet they all focus on how unfair it is that these kids are being treated like sexual offenders.

Um, how about how unfair that a culture exists which does not admonish such acts but bears and perpetuates them.

Unknown said...

So KMcKiernan is calling for a return to puritanical values? At the same time throwing up your hands saying. We cannot do anything! Its all out of control! boohoo go cry in the corner?

A few points. My kids DO have my context. I can site many examples where they choose not watch shows, listen to artists or call people on their behavior based upon values instilled upon them by my wife and myself. Of course as a parent you have to walk the walk as well as talk the talk. Maybe thats what your referring too.

Blaming the raunch of our culture is, to me, the same as that Demon Rum, That Devil Rock and Roll music, That satanic Dungeons and Dragons, those Godless Liberals. Great scapegoating, totally oblivious to the actual problem and just another example of fear mongering.

Hold people accountable for their actions. Hold yourself responsible for your actions. Of course you have to have some kind of baseline morality to start from. That might be the entire problem. The Admonishment, your crying for, comes from you.

When sexting occurs, I can think of a dozen laws that have been violated. Hey! enforce them!!

Bob Keller said...

I have to side with K. on this one. Lee, I'm sorry but you are in a tiny minority of responsible, caring parents. The vast majority do not get involved (for a variety of selfish reasons).

K. is saying society must have a roll and certain values must be shared for society to survive. As a sociologist (at least based on my college degree), I have to agree. But I'm not sure how to get there.

Unknown said...

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