Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sweet (statutory?) 16.

Devoted SHAMbloggers know that I try not to wade too far into the muck of celebrity gossip. But there are moments when celebrity gossip takes on added weight. This is such a moment.

[NOTE: I'm a bit late to this party. I started putting together this item when the news first broke, and many, many people have weighed in since then. Nonetheless, I'm going with what I'd written. It remains apt.]

It's hard to know how to react to the news that Jamie Lynn Spears, 16, is expecting. (Which means, I guess, that the "added weight" mentioned above is literal—yuk, yuk.) Jamie Lynn, of course, is the younger sibling of Britney, whose own magnificent job of parenting no doubt inspired her sister to procreate. (Photo, left, shows them in happier, zygote-free days.) The proud papa, reportedly, is Jamie Lynn's boyfriend, Casey Aldridge; he is all of 19. Or maybe he's 17, if you go by the info posted on what appears to be Casey's own MySpace page. And maybe he's not so proud, either: There is speculation that they've already gone splitsville, a theory that Casey fuels on that same MySpace page.* Personally, I'd hoped that the loving couple would do at least as well together as Big Sis and Kevin Federline.

I was struck by the tone of the early reporting here, which ran somewhere between neutral and cautiously giddy. (It seemed as if the assembled media, and the fanzines in particular, were waiting to see how the news was received before they decided what their official take should be.) The reports I've seen noted in passing, with nary a whit of judgment or irony, that Jamie Lynn has been "dating" Aldridge since she began high school. That's how it is now: We have kids when we're "dating." Several stories made a point of reassuring readers that the pregnancy "won't affect [Jamie Lynn's] Nickelodeon series, Zoey 101." And thank God for that! Now we can sleep at night. Left unexamined, at least at first, was whether a pregnant and unmarried 16-year-old should have a Nickelodeon series. Zoey 101, by the way, depicts the inspirational exploits of a headstrong female student (Jamie Lynn) at a formerly all-male school; in 2005 the show received an Emmy nomination for "outstanding children's program." A spokesman for Viacom, which distributes Zoey, noted that "fresh episodes will air through 2008." You wonder how he's sleeping.

This is not a stand I take based on moral superiority. God no! And as long as we brought God into it, I should mention that He knows I've done any number of things in my life that I'm not proud of. But that's the point: I'm not proud. I would not make smiling announcements that I then expect to generate fawning/celebratory press coverage. I would not, as Jamie Lynn does, gush about how "excited" I am at the prospect of becoming a mother. (Part of her excitement may have to do with the fact that, in addition to a baby, Jamie Lynn is expecting a nice payday. TMZ reports that the magazine that broke the story has agreed to pay $1 million for the first photos of the child. It would've been a lot more, the story notes somewhat apologetically, but Jamie Lynn is not considered a star of international magnitude.) Instead, were I Jamie Lynn Spears, I might worry about the impact I'm likely to have on the adolescent girls who faithfully watch me being headstrong and inspirational on Zoey 101.

A further point, apropos of the headline I chose for this item: Jamie Lynn is 16, having reached that tender milestone on April 4, 2007. Thing is, she's a legal resident of Louisiana, where current law specifies the "age of consent" as 17**. Not to sound hopelessly old and "uncool," but it does seem reasonable to ask: Is there a felony amid all this? Does anyone care?

The most stinging critique I've seen—a full-frontal assault against Lynne Spears, nominal mother to this wayward brood—comes from Bonnie Fuller, blogging in the Huffington Post. But this is itself ironic, since it was Fuller who elevated the pursuit of casual-if-not-anonymous sex to a female birthright during her years as chief editorial steward of Cosmo. (Memorable and typically sly cover line from the Fuller era: "He wants to put his what, where?")

And there is even a final, superseding irony: Lynne Spears is writing a parenting book. Oh yes. Now, it's not specifically bracketed as advice—no publisher is quite that stupid—but certainly it's intended to be in the category of an "uplifting memoir." It is hard to imagine what the matron of the Spears clan could possibly tell us about raising daughters, except perhaps how not to go about it. That said, if Lynne Spears can write a book that touches on any aspect of parenting, and if people actually buy it—which I'm sure some will, if only as a goof—then I suggest the following books as well:

Be At Peace With Who You Are by Michael Jackson.
The Employee Comes First! by Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.
The Natural Path to Excellence by Barry Bonds.
The Art of Emergency Water Rescue by Ted Kennedy.
The 7 Keys to Self-Control by Bill Clinton.
What We Can Learn From Man's Best Friend by Michael Vick.
Just Say No! by Robert Downey Jr.


* Let us not forget that it's very easy to set up MySpace accounts, even in someone else's name, and hoaxes are rampant.
** T
he precise status of the law is controversial at this writing; it has been appealed several times, and is listed on at least one survey site as "invalidated." I am awaiting a return call from Bill Bryant of the office of the attorney general of Louisiana. When I hear, you'll hear.


mikecane said...

What Is This Silly Thing Called Greed by Bill Gates

If You Don't Like Who You See In The Mirror, Get Plastic Surgery! by Michael Jackson

The Employee's Cookbook by Al "Chainsaw" Dunlap

Bubbles Are Fun by The Executives of Google

Akhetnu said...

The entire Spears family are only in the limelight due to their good looks.

(Personally I don't have a problem with the ages of the two in relation to their relationship, but they should have been more careful, especially in how this news was handled)

Cal said...

I don't think this may be as bad as Madonna. While she will go down as one of the greatest entertainers of all time, the fact that she is writing children's books is almost comical. Isn't this the same women that had a book published called "Sex" with pictures of her doing it.

Steve Salerno said...

I think that's an excellent point, Cal. Madonna had a lot to do with the whole bad-girl imagery that now is part and parcel of mainstream rock'n'roll. But now she's got babies, so she's got religion, so she reinvents herself as the voice of moral authority. Kinda like Dr. Laura.

Mary Anne said...

I so agree with you Cal and Steve about Madonna. In my day, Madonna was our role model with "Papa Don't Preach," which was about teenage pregnancy. I found that ironic, considering how well known Madonna's abortions were. I find Madonna the ultimate hypocrite.

As for the 16 year old, that is just beyond SAD. This reminds me of Whoopi Goldberg's daughter, Alexandra, having a child at 15. Whoopi had very blase attitude about it. She turned it into a soapbox for the right to choose instead of speaking out about WHY her 15 year old got pregnant.

Is anyone really surprised about the youngest Spears? Look at the train wreck Brit Brit to see where this family is going.

As for the teenage pregnancy story, didn't this rumor just pass about Miley Cyrus? It seems the rumor mill just got the wrong pregnant 16 year Disney star.

Cal said...

And they also made fun of Quayle when he ripped "Murphy Brown" for their plot line. A TV show on Nickolodeon probably couldn't even have a plot line with a 16 year old getting pregnant.

roger o'keeffe of nyc said...

What is happening in the world of so-called entertainment is disgraceful. There is no other way to describe it. What we're seeing is the fruit of the old slippery slope argument. When Madonna began wearing bras as actual performing attire, maybe a few eyebrows raised but nobody really said anything. And of course the rebellion-minded kids loved it! Then came the crotch-grabbing, then shows like NYPD Blue opened the door to profanity on network TV, then every other movie that came out of Hollywood lampooned "family values" and made religion sound like something only old farts cared about, and I could go on and on. Am I oversimplifying, of course. But it all feeds into what we're seeing now. Before you know it there are no standards at all, and no one even blinks when 16-year-olds get pregnant and talk about how "excited" they are.

Akhetnu said...


Bras on stage lead to pregnant teens in the media? I don't care about the former but do about the latter. One can always draw the line somewhere.

Actually, from what I have been told, the Spears were all dysfunctional from the get-go. We can try to make them into Hollywood stars based on their looks, but ultimately we are dealing not with any 'slippery slope' fallacy, but rather with people who would be like this anyways (albeit removed from the limelight).

That this is in the limelight in the first place, however, is more an indictment on a culture that craves sensationalist kinds of spectacles over real artistic merit.

When Jane Mansfield showed a nipple on TV in the 50s, nobody cared because the journalistic and consumer standards of the time refused to play it up. Now with TV news celebrity-, shock- and scandal-driven, this kind of thing is broadcast AND consumed willingly by both sides. If we refuse to throw a fit at every little indiscretion (and shun those worthy of it) then the market for this kind of jerry springer-type dysfunction would evaporate.

mikecane said...

I'm sure Maury Povich is sad. Since she knows who the father is, she won't be appearing on his daily sleazefest looking to DNA test a line of denying men.

Cosmic Connie said...

I'm *really* late to this party, but...
What's really interesting is that the publisher who was going to bring Lynne Spears' immortal words to the world is Thomas Nelson, a well-known religious (Christian) publisher. Christian publishers, it seems, are not above capitalizing on celebrity and sleaze. But it's all in the service of bringing more people to the Lord.