Kids in an adult world

What happens when a child gets attention by doing adult things in an adult world?

No, I’m not talking about child porn or human traficking or other established evils. I’m talking good old TV. So many dance shows, and right now, performances by kids in the Film Awards taking place in Singapore. Nothing wrong with kids performing for audiences, but what are they performing? How is it entertaining to watch two seven year olds embracing in public to lyrics that imply heterosexual romantic relationships? Dances are increasingly sexually explicit. Am I the only one to find this really bizarre?

I’m no prude. I would probably whistle and watch with joy some attractive male strutting his stuff. But kids? I’m supposed to enjoy watching two kids doing sexual moves to lyrics describing an adult romantic relationship? This is entertainment? I find it about as repulsive as child porn (I assume, since I haven’t been tempted to see any). I don’t think it is quality work, and I think the role models for kids in media being so “adult” is also likely to result in increasing sexual behaviour. And I’m fine with teenagers necking. What I am not fine is a seven year old thinking that this is what hep and happening is for kids. Replace one of the two kids with an adult, and see how wrong it would feel. But we think nothing of it when a choreographer is directing kids to do such things. Parents watch with pride, talent show judges shower praise.

Another reason why I don’t like it is because it simply isn’t quality. An artist brings his emotion to his art. From dark paintings to songs of hope and films of love, sex, war and grief and everything else. An artist needs to feel that emotion to project it. A cheerful person needs to get in touch with some grief in him to sing a sad song well. A virgin actress playing a prostitute isn’t going to be very convincing at anything beyond walk on roles of no consequence, simply because she doesn’t know what she’s doing, not because she is a bad actress. A person who hasn’t ever hit anything isn’t going to be a very effective action hero. Similarly, the actor who has experienced desire brings a certain playfulness, sensuality or even lewdness to his gestures to the actress he is flirting with. The child doing those pelvic thrusts is talented, but sterile. Exercise and expertise, not dance as an art. And if that seven year old is expressing from experience, there is even more to be concerned about.

I am not asking for censorship or tighter ratings, but how we promote kids on media, particularly TV. Under the guise of talent and modernity, what messages are we passing on as to “okay behaviour”? What messages are we passing on as to the depth of an artist’s work? If you can fake it, you’ll make it?

It is true that a kid sees some song with excellent music and beautiful choreography and mimics it. However, the meaning escapes them, and as adults, we don’t seem to think that the meaning is anything crucial to the performance. We don’t help them understand art, but polish awkward attempts and show them off as “mature performances”. No wonder the whole thing is about achieving difficult steps than the performance as a meaningful whole. What is a child’s life expressed as dance? Whatever it is. What is their experience that can teach them to use art as a narrative rather than sterile gymnastics? Such a glorious little explored terrain.

It is one thing to say that kids aspire to be adults. If we look deeper, there really is no reason for kids to aspire to do something that doesn’t appeal to them. Flashy dance moves are cool. They hold a physical challenge, but that’s about it. On the other hand, the appeal may be in adult appreciation, where adults today seem to be too stressed or busy to be interested in boring “kid things”. A child’s creativity often doesn’t make sense to an adult. It doesn’t give them something to point to and brag with other adults. It is too easy to direct them to something flashy that will bring recognition rather than engage at their level of randomness. We fail to see that presentation follows discovery and end up presenting the final product for the kids to mug up.

Sometimes I think that parents are so stressed with life, that they are in a hurry to get their kids all grown up and off the stress list.

Other times, I think that the adults in society “fake it” so often, that they see no reason that a child shouldn’t do what they do, because what they do isn’t sexual either.

But always I think that we are increasingly engaging in thoughtless behaviour in the name of development.