Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Spears Soap Opera

Where to begin? Perhaps by noting that soap opera is what our public conversation most seems to love. I don't really want to write anything about Jamie Lynn Spears, the younger sister of Britney Spears, and her pregnancy at the age of sixteen, both, because it is a fluff topic (except for the people intimately involved) compared to the other stuff that happens all the time and because the not-so-fluffy parts of the topic have been ably covered by Lauren here, and by Scott here.

So why am I sitting here pecking at the keyboard anyway? Probably because the Spears sisters have become archetypes in the media and because their lives are read and interpreted as morality lessons for all. And because of what Lauren and Scott said in the above links: That "taking responsibility" means to have the baby once you have made the irresponsible decision to have sex, but this only applies to girls and women. Men and boys don't take responsibility for sex as they are assumed to have it all the time and its possible connection to someone else having babies is kept vague and muffled by our popular culture. It's very odd, this idea that recreational sex is an accepted male activity but not something good women practice, especially in a country where homophobia is not uncommon. Who are all these hip young men having sex with? The double standards sometimes require that I stand on my head AND read from left to right to get the message.

Then there is the list of major parts in the soap opera. They are all played by women: mama Spears and her two daughters. The men only have character roles to play and certainly don't have to take responsibility for how their daughters turn out or how their girlfriends or wives get pregnant. No. Those we laugh at or ridicule or blame are all of the girly persuasion, and the values we engage in doing so are the old patriarchal values: all men do it, good girls don't do it or don't get caught, but if they do get caught they will either take their punishments like a man (heh) and/or they will turn into another archetype: the all-loving mother.

And all the time we stare the way people stare at traffic accidents.