Knocked Up With People

by

The worlds of presidential politics and teeny-bopper celebrity oddly crossed, recently, when a) the news came out that 16-yr.-old Jamie Lynn Spears, star of some show or other on Nickelodeon that apparently a lot of teen, tween, and pre-teen girls watch, got herself knocked up, and b) surging presidential populist, cheery optimist, former Baptist minister, and champion of religious conservatives Mike Huckabee decided to comment on the upcoming non-virgin birth.

I don’t really have anything to say about this. I just found it . . . odd, and oddly amusing. For the most part, I think it’s just that I doubt this is the kind of thing we need to hear position statements on from our presidential frontrunners. I mean, surely we have larger problems to solve than the fecundity rate of the Spears girls, alarming though it is.

OTOH, Huckabee may not have had much choice. This is exactly the kind of thing — the kind of symbolic issue (no pun intended) — his core supporters get most exercised about. To many of them, Miss Spears’ delicate condition must represent everything wrong with contemporary America: too much celebrity, too much money, too little parental guidance, Hollywood, sex, the “loss of girlhood,” the breakup of the family, etc. All the major “family values” are there. I suppose it can’t help, either, that it was just last year that Keisha Castle-Hughes played the Virgin Mary in The Nativity Story, then announced during its release that she, also sixteen, was pregnant with her boyfriend’s baby.

Probably adding salt to the wound is the fact that Spears met her boyfriend at church. As one conservative blogger observed, we live “in a world where meeting your boyfriend at church and having his baby out of wedlock aren’t mutually exclusive propositions.” They never were, as anyone who’s ever spent much time in the church world knows, but now that churches have raised their public/political profile, these things aren’t just spiritual missteps anymore; they’re major PR problems.

That being the case, I’m a bit curious to see how the faithful will react to Huckabee’s comments. He didn’t have a stern word to say. He didn’t connect it to any of the issues I mentioned above. He said he was glad she’d decided to have it and hoped she would raise it in a loving and stable home. I think that’s about right, if one feels the need to comment at all. But I’m not an Evangelical who’s all heated up over “family values” and culture wars and virginity vows and whatnot. I wonder how Huck’s comments will go down with those folks, who are, after all, the engine driving him into the lead in Iowa and elsewhere.

That’s about it. I just found the whole thing odd, and nobody had posted anything in over a week, so I thought I’d ramble a while.

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13 Responses to “Knocked Up With People”

  1. captmidknight Says:

    Definitely an interesting dilemma for Candidate Huckabee. As you correctly point out, his core constituency will want a statement from him condemning such behavior. Unfortunately for Candidate Huckabee, we live in a time when making a judgment as to the rightness or wrongness of most any behavior is consider by many to be much more heinous an act than the behavior itself.

    I have noticed that there seems to be a epidemic of pregnancies among the famous and near famous “beautiful people” lately. It makes you wonder, since there is a drug store on almost every corner and some schools are considering passing out birth control pills starting in the sixth grade, why we haven’t reduced teen and other “unwanted” pregnancies to almost zero. I’m sure, in the middle and lower income groups, the issues are different, but when it comes to the “rich and famous,” I suspect that the baby boom is because, for some reason, having a baby has become a status symbol. Millions of women do it every day, with a lot less recognition than they deserve, but, for some reason, when someone who has acquired an audience by singing or acting (in the loosest definition of those terms) manages to find a sperm donor, it’s a great achievement and front page news.

    I’m not sure when having children went from being a liability for up and coming actresses to being a way to get your face on the cover of People Magazine, but it seems that’s where we are. For the teens and twenties starlets (and siblings) the “Bad Girl” image is playing very well just now, with every magazine and TV “Entertainment Tonight” type shows fighting each other to cover the latest “train wreck.” Most of these new expectant moms have the resources to avoid dealing with the dirty diapers and 2:00am feedings that will come in the next few years, but most of their fans who decide to follow their example will not.

    Being basically a conservative “Old Guy” with three granddaughters, this all makes me very sad.

  2. urbino Says:

    I agree, Cap’n, that there are many aspects of this that are both sad and more than a little baffling. I disagree, though, that the “Bad Girl” image is playing well these days. Certainly “Bad Girl” behavior is prevalent and much in the limelight, but the coverage I’ve seen/read has not been at all positive, nor does it seem these young women are advancing their careers by engaging in this behavior (with the exception of Paris Hilton, whose only career is engaging in bad behavior). All of their careers have, in fact, suffered.

    The ones who seem to have benefited from baby-making are the ones who have done it responsibly, more or less. It’s the Angelina Jolie’s and Julia Roberts’s who’ve gotten good press coverage, not the Madonna’s and Britney’s. It seems to be Jolie, btw, who made mommyhood fashionable among the glitterati. To the extent the Madonna’s and Britney’s are adopting or procreating just to get in on the fad, that’s a real tragedy for those kids.

    Most of these new expectant moms have the resources to avoid dealing with the dirty diapers…

    That’s part of why I can find the J.L. Spears story amusing. This is not the typical teenage mother story. This is a very wealthy girl who, unless she was very exceptional, had already become pretty much all she was ever going to be. She isn’t going to lose her education over this. She and her child aren’t going to become yet another round of generational poverty. She isn’t going to lack pre-natal care. The baby isn’t going to lack medical care or be developmentally deficient when it starts [pre-]school, probably at an excellent school catering to the wealthy.

    With all those issues taken care of, this is really just a story of two horny teenagers stupidly failing to use readily available contraceptives. What makes it amusing is that one of the teenagers is somebody a lot of parents apparently had emotionally invested in as a pop-culture reification of what they’d like to believe about their own daughters — i.e., that they’re asexual. Millions of grown people — adults, supposedly — were hoodwinked by a 16-yr-old girl (much as they are by their own similarly aged daughters). The fact that both teenagers were also churchgoers and met at church simply makes it funnier.

    I admit it’s a bit mean-spirited of me to laugh at life lampooning the self-righteous and destructively self-deluded. It’s not a character strength. But I plead special circumstances, and chuckle, nonetheless.

    Unfortunately for Candidate Huckabee, we live in a time when making a judgment as to the rightness or wrongness of most any behavior is consider by many to be much more heinous an act than the behavior itself.

    True, but I don’t see why that’s an issue for Huckabee. After all, those people aren’t going to vote for him, anyway. The people he’s got to get to the voting booths are the people who, as you said, want to hear this kind of thing condemned — or at least linked to larger cultural issues, and those condemned. He did get an oblique abortion reference in there, but that was about it. I know he’s trying to be the folksy Mr. Positive among the GOP candidates, but I wonder if he didn’t overplay that hand in this case. Seems to me he would’ve been better off not to have said anything about it at all.

  3. captmidknight Says:

    JU said:
    I disagree, though, that the “Bad Girl” image is playing well these days. Certainly “Bad Girl” behavior is prevalent and much in the limelight, but the coverage I’ve seen/read has not been at all positive, nor does it seem these young women are advancing their careers by engaging in this behavior (with the exception of Paris Hilton, whose only career is engaging in bad behavior). All of their careers have, in fact, suffered.
    __________
    By “playing well” I meant that it seems to be accomplishing the primary goal of keeping their name and face in the news. As for their careers, it’s a sort of “chicken and egg” problem. Did their career suffer because of their behavior, or did their behavior become more outrageous because their careers were suffering? On the other hand, maybe their career was going too well, which caused them to feel that they could get away with anything, which brought on the behavior, which sent the career into a nosedive. Who knows? Probably a Psychology term paper in there somewhere.

    While the negative coverage may worry their press agents, it probably plays into some of the girl’s feelings of victimization. In any case, most of them probably believe the old saying: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as long as they spell your name right.”

  4. urbino Says:

    Did their career suffer because of their behavior, or did their behavior become more outrageous because their careers were suffering?

    Well, in 2 of the 3 most egregious cases — the 2 non-Hilton ones — it sure looked to me like the former. Britney’s career seemed to be going like gangbusters until she went on her bender(s). Lohan was a child- and teen-megastar; AFAIK, she was poised to graduate to very successful starlet until her behavior made it difficult or impossible for her to even be physically present on a movie set. (I don’t follow Hollywood news closely. I’m just going on the assumption that being in jail or rehab interferes with one’s work schedule.)

    Now, once they first started getting into trouble and their careers were adversely affected, then I think it became the kind of vicious cycle you’re talking about. But it does seem to me the initial sequence was: successful career, bad behavior, unsuccessful career.

    It does seem likely that their careers contributed to their outbreaks of bad behavior, but the careers were still successful as careers before the personal problems arose.

  5. mrspeacock Says:

    JU – You get my vote for the Most Creative Titles Award. Did you once work on the Falcon Gazette?!

    So Far, Huckabee has basically refused to comment negatively on other’s personal lives. When asked about Clinton’s sexual shenanigans, he pointed out that they kept their marriage together and raised a great kid. Many high ranking Republicans haven’t managed that. His words. If his supporters are shocked by his statement about JL Spears, they must not have been listening to him very closely from the get-go.

    In related news, my work email address somehow got on the Huckabee supporter email list. So I get daily updates on the guy. I didn’t ask for it. It just happened. I pretty much ignored them until I got the email from Chuck Norris.

    The fact that both teenagers were also churchgoers and met at church simply makes it funnier. I admit it’s a bit mean-spirited of me to laugh at life lampooning the self-righteous and destructively self-deluded. It’s not a character strength. But I plead special circumstances, and chuckle, nonetheless.

    Now I know you’re not getting personal with this statement. But. My brother became a parent at the ripe old age of 17. Coming from a family very familiar with teenage pregnancy and churchgoing, the churchgoing part doesn’t make the teen pregnancy part any funnier. And while my parents may have been admittedly “self-deluded,” they have never been self-righteous. Again, you clearly weren’t speaking personally. But I would simply like to challenge what you’ve already admitted is not your best character strength.

    Did that sound self-righteous? 🙂

  6. urbino Says:

    Nope. Sounded like somebody speaking out of a different experience than mine, is all. I don’t know your brother’s experience (didn’t even know about it), but I can imagine that, indeed, it wasn’t a funny one.

    I wasn’t speaking of the people directly involved when I said I found these situations funny. What I find funny is the cognitive dissonance they create in the, well, self-righteous and destructively self-deluded.

    Cognitive dissonance is never pleasant, so clearly this is an example of Schadenfreude on my part, which is never a character strength. Still, without, as you said, letting things get too personal, it’s a chuckle I feel I’ve kinda earned.

  7. urbino Says:

    Oh, and thanks for the award. I’d like to thank my agent, my business manager, nature, nurture, etc.

  8. captmidknight Says:

    JU said
    I wasn’t speaking of the people directly involved when I said I found these situations funny. What I find funny is the cognitive dissonance they create in the, well, self-righteous and destructively self-deluded.
    _______________

    The “cognitive dissonance” you speak of is certainly never pleasant, as you say, and I have also seen it on display many times in the same context as you refer to. I would only add that it’s occurrence isn’t limited to religious circles. Even a little look back in history will show that scientists and philosophers and others can fall in love with their own positions, theories, beliefs and opinions too, and be just as profoundly mistaken.
    I have a book called “The Experts Speak” which is devoted to the subject. Other than the section on scientific thought, my favorite part is a collection of “rejection slips” from famous authors. To take one at random, a literary magazine called “The London Critic” once wrote the following:

    “Walt Whitman is as unacquainted with art as a hog is with mathematics.”

    We all strive to be cognitive, but we don’t always see the dissonance, especially in ourselves.

    Happy New Year to all the Hippos

  9. urbino Says:

    I would only add that it’s occurrence isn’t limited to religious circles.

    Certainly true. I didn’t say it was limited to religious circles. I just said it was funnier (to me).

  10. urbino Says:

    An update on Huckabee’s niceness.

  11. urbino Says:

    For the record, the link I provided above is the right url. The page was there for much of the day, then suddenly it wasn’t there. The links to it from elsewhere on beliefnet.com no longer work, either. Weird.

    It was a post by Rod Dreher, a Huckabee supporter, calling Huckabee a phony, basically (“Eddie Haskell”), for his recent press conference in Iowa, in which he announced he wouldn’t be airing an attack ad on Mitt Romney, then showed said attack ad to the assembled press.

    I have to give Huckabee credit. He has exceeded my expectations. I predicted here that his campaign would take off quickly, peak early, and decline just as quickly as it rose. He’s staying in there much longer than I thought. He has a record as governor of pulling odd stunts like this one. I expected the other GOP hopefuls to hang him with it quickly, but they seem not to have noticed it.

  12. alsturgeon Says:

    My happy new year to the hippos, too…

    What with the presidential politics and the Beijing Olympics, 2008 ought to provide plenty of fodder for discussion. Which is why I think there’s an extra day scheduled in February.

    One of my goals this year is to be a more vocal hippo. The world needs more vocal hippos.

  13. urbino Says:

    Welcome back…

    Your dreams were your ticket out.

    Welcome back,
    To that same old place that you laughed about.

    Well the names have all changed since you hung around,
    But those dreams have remained and they’re turned around.

    Who’d have thought they’d lead ya (Who’d have thought they’d lead ya)
    Back here where we need ya (Here where we need ya)?

    Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we’ve got him on the spot, welcome back,
    (Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back).

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