When I was teaching high school English, I asked each of my students to write down on paper what job he or she would like to have as an adult. In any given class of about 15 boys and 15 girls, at least 4 or 5 of the boys wanted to be professional athletes, and 8 or 10 of the girls wanted to be pop stars, actresses, or models.
This is a cultural problem. Our kids all want to work glamorous, celebrity-making jobs, but simple percentages tell us that most of them have almost no chance of actually succeeding in these professions.
Hannah Montana is a TV show about a young girl who appears to be a normal kid, but lives a secret life as a pop star. Guess which job all these legions of female Hannah Montana fans are going to want when they grow up? Wouldn't it be better to have shows about young girls who appear normal but lead secret lives as FBI agents, genius scientists, or computer experts?
This bothers me not because I'm a pop-music-hating Puritan (I love R&B and many other types of music), but because I'm a woman who actually contemplated becoming an actress and/or director. When I was just out of college and living in New York City, I saw hundreds of talented, bright young people throwing their lives away in a vain quest to earn a living in the world of theater and film. I also knew a very, very small number who succeeded. Some simply earned a living, some became celebrities. More power to 'em. But the impression that stays with me to this day is the tremendous waste of all that energy and talent. Thousands of people woke up from the dream at 30 or 35 and realized they had very little money, no job satisfaction, and no career at all.
That's what unrealistic dreams of fame, fortune, and adulation will do to kids.
Here's how a person succeeds in the show biz world:
1)She has a parent, spouse, or significant other who is either a celebrity, a producer, or a director.
2)She is extraordinarily beautiful.
3)She starts establishing herself with high-level, paid professional work as a child or teenager. If she tries to enter the biz when she's past her early twenties, she's too old.
4)She is ambitious for her career above all else, and I mean ALL ELSE.
5)She is smart, talented and works hard.
6)She has an unbelievable, one-in-a-million singing voice.
EIther Number 1 or Number 2 must be present 99.9% of the time. 4 and 5 alone won't do that much for a young woman without one of the first two qualifiers. 6 is a special case, which is why American Idol exists. One-in-a-million is one-in-a-million.
Of the hundred of thousands of girls in high school who now think that they will become be actresses or singers, almost none have the qualifications to do it. Yet, because they think they do, they're not preparing for solid careers that could bring them financial stability, a sense of accomplishment, and the chance to help others or improve society.
In this day and age, women need to be able to support themselves. Even if they marry and subsequently choose to stay at home to raise children, they still may encounter unexpected life events that force them to become their children's chief breadwinners. I'll do whatever I can to counter the influence of shows like Hannah Montana on girls I love.