Role Models: Bad is the New Good

Bad is the New Good

Oh, how I long for the innocent days when Paris was just a city you hoped someday to visit and panties were a staple part of every girl’s wardrobe. Or how about the days when that cute, freckle-faced girl in the Parent Trap was known for being cute, freckle-faced, and a fabulous little actress rather than a cocaine-snorting, rehab grad. And the Olsen twins were back to living with their dad, Uncle Jesse and Joey instead of nightclub hopping and dragging on a cigarette every time the camera flashes. And Vanessa Hudgens was not only the “good girl” in High School Musical but someone your daughter still thought was a “good girl” in real life. And Britney was just a Mouseketeer and singing in the church choir on the weekends. Remember those days? Back when it was good to be good?

Welcome to the new world where bad is the new good. Consider what Helen Grieco, director of California’s National Organization for Women (NOW) said in defense of the spring break, boobie-flashing, Girls Gone Wild videos in an interview: “I think it’s about being a rebel, and I don’t think it’s a bad notion… Flashing your breasts on Daytona Beach says, ‘I’m not a good girl. I think it’s sexy to be a bad girl.'” Yet another fine example of the “girl power” message that has been shoved down our daughters’ collective throats. Since when is it considered “empowering” for college women to lift their bikini tops in response to the drunken catcalls of immature frat boys? Did I miss something here?

Is it any wonder that our world is run amok with girls gone wild? Whether it’s another news story about a beauty queen caught kissing another girl or an American Idol contestant with nude pictures on the Web, the glamorization of bad behavior is nonstop. As Hollywood plays rehab, it begs the question: Where are the good role models? Is the “good girl” persona now extinct, gone the way of shoulder pads and spiral perms? Possibly so, but it certainly doesn’t mean we put our hands up and surrender.

Pantieless Pop Stars and the Never-Ending Rehab Relay

In a Newsweek poll, 77 percent of respondents say pop-star celebrities like Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan have too much influence on young girls. However, perception and reality are two different things. In a related Newsweek article addressing the girls gone wild, Emma Boyce, a seventeen-year-old junior in high school, commented, “They’ve got great clothes and boyfriends. They seem to have a lot of fun.” But the fascination stops short of admiration. Boyce went on to say, “My friends and I look at them and laugh at them…Our lives seem pretty good by comparison. We’re not going to rehab like Lindsay.” Mind you, her commentary was prior to Britney’s self-implosion that followed shortly thereafter, including her head-shaving stunt and repetitive visits to a psych ward. Surely Miss Boyce has reevaluated her original assessment that these girls appear “to have a lot of fun.”

I imagine if these pop stars were honest, they’d be the first to admit that “fun” is not a word to describe their plight. If you ever needed proof that one can’t buy happiness, take a look at any one of the above pop stars and their respective infomercials for misery. The truth is, while the girls gone wild effect has touted bad as the new good, most level-headed girls are not rushing out to emulate the pop stars’ brand of bad. There is nothing glamorous about rehab, drug and alcohol addictions, puking in hotel corridors, flashing your privates in public, shaving your head bald, losing custody of your two children, going to jail, having a sex tape leaked to the World Wide Web and so on. Unfortunately, I fear the list will only get longer in the years to come. Should this pack of pop stars clean up their act (and I certainly pray they do), there are, no doubt, others waiting in the wings to rack up their own inventory of wild deeds.

Even though your daughter is not likely to be directly influenced by the misdeeds of these over-the-top, less-than-wholesome role models, it is possible that she will be left desensitized to what is considered godly and acceptable behavior for our young ladies. And that’s where we come in. Our call is to point our daughters to a more virtuous standard of behavior as outlined by God in His Word.

Wanted: A Few Good Role Models

There was a day not-so-long-ago past that I would have sent Miley Cyrus a thank-you note for being a positive role model to young girls. It was during the time when other pop stars were self-imploding before our very eyes. Miley was a breath of fresh air, garnering fans worldwide with her wholesome character on the Disney hit, Hannah Montana. Had I written that thank-you note at the time, I would have thanked Miss Cyrus for having the decency to wear panties in public. I would have thanked her for knowing how to exit a limo gracefully without flashing the paparazzi her private parts. I would have thanked her for steering clear of the nightclubs and tattoo parlors. I would have thanked her for dressing with “decency and propriety” (1 Tim. 2:9). I would have thanked her for not having a cigarette in hand every time the camera flashes. I would have thanked her for having a track record that doesn’t include rehab. I would have thanked her for being famous for an actual talent. I would have thanked her for singing songs with lyrics that don’t make your grandma blush or your mom rush to change the channel on the radio. I would have thanked her for loving her parents. I would have thanked her for loving Jesus. And I would have thanked her for making my daughter smile at a time when most other pop stars left her shaking her head back and forth in utter disbelief.

That was then. Like, you, I got my hopes up that perhaps there was on positive role model left in Hollywood, but it turns out that Miley Cyrus is human, after all. Like any one of us, she’s a sinner saved by grace and capable of falling at any given moment. By the time this book hits the shelves, she could have gone the way of Britney, Lindsay, Paris, or one of the many other fallen pop stars. That is exactly why we should remind our daughters not to put anyone on a pedestal. Miss Cyrus has had some less than “picture perfect” moments where her actions left some mommas angry and disappointed. Rather than wringing our hands and tearing our robes, let’s take advantage of the teachable moments that can occur as a result of celebrity “role model” mishaps.

A Teachable Moment

Miley’s mishaps began with some racy pictures that surfaced on the Web only to be followed by Vanity Fair photo shoot where she bared her back for the camera. Many have chalked the pictures off to momentary lapse in judgment while others have speculated that they signal a craving for rebellion and will only get worse over time. I pray that she will cling to her faith and turn it all around, but when it happened, I seized the opportunity to take advantage of a teachable moment with my own daughter. So, what is that teachable moment? Like Miley, my daughter owns a digital camera that came equipped with a memory card that holds more than five hundred pictures. Like most girls her age, she uploads the pictures straight to her Facebook page without a moment’s thought. This was a driving force in why I tackled this very topic in my book, Logged On and Tuned Out, and encouraged parents to have some ground rules in place when it comes to uploading or sending pictures and videos via the Web or cell phone.

My research on this topic led me to establish some rules with my own daughter such as, “Never upload pj or swimsuit shots or allow others to upload them on their pages.” I also encourage my daughter (and sons) to take the time to pour over every picture and ask themselves, “Might this particular picture send a different message than I was intending to send to viewers?” Even so, my daughter has made some innocent mistakes along the way and had she had the notoriety of Miley Cyrus, some of her pictures might have raised an eyebrow or two. I recall one shot another girl took with my daughter in the background at a sleepover. She was wearing a camisole and leaning over, clueless at the time as to how the shot might look when loaded to her friend’s online album. There have also been occasional pictures of her in swimwear taken by her friends that have surfaced on their albums. Of course, she asks them to remove the pictures, as per our rule. Oh, if there were ever an incentive for parents to be engaged and knowledgeable about the pictures their children are uploading, consider the picture I recently saw in a teen girls’ Facebook album who is a friend of my daughter’s. The picture was of the young lady and her mom posing in their swimsuits on the beach while on vacation. I guarantee you that mother has no clue there is a swimsuit shot of her on the Web! Lord, have mercy! It left me with a renewed zeal to never remove my cover-up. It’s waterproof, right?

True Role Models

Role models will come and go, so it’s wise to keep a balanced perspective. Even those who appear to be good will disappoint at times (such as in the examples above). While it’s nice to be able to point our daughters to someone else’s positive example, we want to make sure our daughters’ admiration of the role model du jour doesn’t go overboard and border on idol worship. And I would certainly caution mothers to exercise caution when it comes to looking to pop stars as role models. Most are not worthy of the following. Call attention to more realistic role models such as godly grandmothers or older young ladies or women in your church. In fact, in the late 1800s and early 1900s girls commonly spent their leisure time with godly women of all ages. Whether they were involved in a knitting circle or cooking alongside female family members, they were being informally mentored and exposed to a tangible picture of how the virtuous women of their day behaved.

Today much of the vision of mentoring our young ladies in the art of virtue has been lost. However, I am a big believer in the benefit of exposing our daughters to older godly female influences. My daughter has had the benefit of developing relationships with several young women in our congregation who are in their early twenties. A couple of them are married with younger children, which has afforded my daughter a glimpse of what may lie ahead. Additionally, during my daughter’s senior year, she had the privilege of meeting monthly with a longtime mom friend of mine who is a staff wife at our church. I love that my daughter has the benefit of bouncing some things off someone else besides me.

As an additional twist, my daughter has also been able to serve on the role model side and influence some younger girls through babysitting, mission trips, and a summer camp where she worked. Whether she is the babysitter or the fun camp counselor, mentoring is taking place all the same. By having little eyes looking up to her, she is mindful of the influence she can have on their lives and careful to live in such a way as to bring glory to God.

While the antics of those in Hollywood may leave us with the impression that virtuous role models are in short supply, I want to encourage you that they are out there. Maybe not in Hollywood, but there are virtuous role models in our families, churches, Christian organizations, and other places where godly women are likely to gather. Our job is to find them and expose our daughters to these fabulous women as much as possible. In the end the ultimate role model when it comes to virtue is the author of virtue. Our daughters are more likely to look to Christ as the ultimate example if they witness mom doing so.

Taken with permission from 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughter by Vicki Courtney.