Friday, April 6, 2007

Post # 5 The Blame of Poor Parenting

Reasononline.com’s news article, “Goin’ Down to South Park: How Kids Can Learn from “Vial Trash,”” written by Barry S. Fagin, is a view from the other side when analyzing whether parents should censor their children from popular culture. The author, note he is a man, admits to letting his ten and twelve year old children watch certain “prescreened” episodes of South Park. He continues to attest to the extreme adult content as assistance in teaching his children about American popular culture, as well as his own morals and values.


Popular media tends to spotlight mothers when discussing poor parenting. Mostly concentrating on celebrity mothers, the media sends the message that young children can potentially become corrupted when parents permit exposure to adult popular culture. In an extreme example, Norma Coates discusses Courtney Love’s practice of bringing her young daughter on stage, “To haul a child on stage in front of thousands of screaming, possibly drunken and drug-addled fans… is a potentially traumatizing experience for a young child, one from which she should be protected – by her mother,” (Coates, 324). When on stage at her mother’s rock concert, Love’s daughter is directly exposed to adult popular culture, and Love is constantly depicted as a “bad mother” because of this.


The fact that South Park exhibits extreme adult content relates it to Love’s “transgressive” parenting style. There are two important differences in these two discussions of parents who allow their children to witness adult popular culture at young ages. Primarily, one article is a father’s confession and seemingly convincing reasoning, while the other is an outside analysis of an intense celebrity-mother’s situation. Second, the father is openly admitting that society might view his actions as poor parenting before he is attacked by the media, while the mother’s unconventional public parenting has landed her the topic of many media pieces.


Fagin realizes that he may be viewed as a bad parent because he has allowed his children to view certain South Park episodes; however, he believes it can aid in teaching his children about American popular culture. After stating that exposure to adult material before the right age/maturity level may be harmful, he continues with,


“But complete isolation from pop culture is just as bad. Forbidden fruit is always more tempting, and isolation can keep you from discussing important issues with your children. That, in turn, impairs their ability to make judgments later in life. How can they make important choices as adults if they haven't had any practice?” (Fagin, 2).


This reasoning may hold true for Fagin’s ten and twelve year-olds, but not necessarily for Love’s two year-old. Love’s actions are, presumably, significantly more impacting on a child than the viewing of a few South Park episodes; however, the fact still stands that the media tends to focus on mothers rather than fathers when the topic is poor parenting.


In this light, it is possible that the media zeros in on mothers because society subconsciously believes that most fathers hold the same views as Fagin and are therefore more responsible parents than mothers. It might be a far-fetched possibility; however, Fagin’s article only contributes to the sexist situation. His confession and reasoning prove he does have morals he wishes to instill in his children, as well as that he intends to teach his children about popular culture instead of them being exposed in a non-educational manner. If Love opted to explain her reasoning for dragging her daughter on stage, maybe mothers who allow this exposure would get less of a bad rap. Fagin’s article is newsworthy in that he takes a stance and declares his responsibility, despite the fact it further contributes to the omission of poor fathers in the topic of bad parenting.


Works Cited

Coates, Norma. "Moms Don'T Rock: the Popular Demonization of Courtney Love." "Bad" Mothers: the Politics of Blame in Twentieth-Century America (1998): 319-333.

Fagin, Barry S. "South Park." Reason Magazine. 1 May 2000. 4 Apr. 2007 .

1 comment:

Jessie said...

I think that you've got a good point with the parent-blame only applicable to mothers (as opposed to fathers too) here. However, the Coates piece is making a comment about the way that "society-at-large" perceived Courtney Love's parenting (Coates isn't necessarily arguing that she was subjecting her daughter to something awful) in the context of bringing a child into a male-dominated and defined arena, which is her career as a 'rock star.' The Fagan piece is more aligned with the argument you've made in post 3 about parents missing the social commentary present in South Park and is certainly a more parenting-specific (and pop-culture specific), introspective piece about parenting and approaching pop culture (from the perspective of Fagan as "expert" and also a parent) than Coates piece about Courtney Love.
The two pieces (Coates & Fagan) may not be the most analytically compatible writings. Fagan has his first person piece (and he can admit he's a potentially "bad parent") but he's still in the position of authority here because he's writing about himself and he's directly focusing on parenting and pop culture in his work. Conversely, neither Coates, nor Love are writing on their parenting skills or approaches from the first person perspective. Love's being analyzed-after-the-blame in Coates's work; therefore, Coates's analysis of the societally defined incompatibility between rock and motherhood is examining Love in a similar way to Fagan's analysis of "South Park." With Love as the object of analysis in Coates's piece, it's tough to compare the two pieces and develop an analytical argument about pop culture (it's more a choice of Fagan as a source than it is your ability to analyze) because Fagan is not similarly the object of the analysis in his piece.