(The Vancouver Sun, January, 2003)
Q: I was watching Much Music the other night with my 11 year old daughter and Britney Spears new video for the song Im a Slave For You (not quite sure of the title!) came on. I have to admit, I quite like her music, but I found this video disturbing. It features Britney simulating make-out scenes in very revealing clothing, her hair and face sweaty and her dancing very sexual. I know I cant stop my daughter from watching videos, but I cant imagine not having a conversation with her about this. Where do I start?
Saleema and Teresa: Dont worry, you are not alone–there are more adult closet Britney Spears fans out there than you think! But what good timing you had. Were so glad that you happened to be in the room when the video came on because it serves as a perfect opportunity to address some of the controversy that has surrounded Britney (and other female pop stars) ever since she came on to the music scene. We too have seen her new video and, as hip as we like to think we are, definitely share your concern. The fact is girls love her. And youre right, we cant have complete control over the music they listen to and what videos they watch.
So why dont you start by asking your daughter how she feels about the video. Ask her if she agrees that it is inappropriate for her age group. Does she understand what Britney is simulating? How does she feel about the clothing Britney wears in general? Would she want to dress like that? This topic often comes up in our Go Girl! workshops and we try to center the discussion around the mixed messages she sends to her young fans. That is, she claims to be one of them, yet acts and dresses like an adult. We often hear Britney defending herself in interviews by saying that the way she dresses and acts when she performs does not reflect her real life (and that she is a virginwhatever!). Maybe you could talk to your daughter about the difference between fantasy and reality. You may also want to stress that Britney is a performer and, therefore, acts and dresses in a way that will attract attentionpositive or negative. As for whether or not her breasts are real? Who cares. But if they arent, help your daughter understand how sad it is that a 19-year-old girl would feel she needed to have plastic surgery to create the image she needs to be successful.