"Why would she do that, Daddy?"
It was a question I had expected from my 9-year-old, but it caused me to cringe nonetheless. The story was breaking on CNN, and was soon to appear in People, In Touch, and a number of other tabloids. Vanessa Hudgens, star of the white-hot Disney movie High School Musical 2, was living (most) every girl's nightmare: a nude photo of the actress/singer was circulating the internet. Apparently the (seemingly) naive 18-year-old had snapped the still with a cellphone camera, ostensibly to share it only with her boyfriend, HSM2 co-star Zac Efron. Like every other pre-teen, my Jessica was (and is) obsessed with Musical, and nearly all things Disney. So, the news of Hudgens' misfortune was rocking my daughter's world. Hudgens would apologize, and claim she'd learned an important lesson the hard way.
But this is so 5 minutes ago, you're saying. We're 3 Lindsay Lohan outbursts and 2 Britney Spears eruptions past this already.
Or, so I'd hoped. Today, a British tabloid newspaper is reporting on (and publishing, unfortunately) a whole new series of racy snapshots that have materialized, and--this time--the lurid intent of photographer and subject is unmistakable. Now, it seems a story I'd hoped would simply go away is destined to capture my innocent daughter's notice once again.
We could spend days discussing the many aspects of this sad tale. What would compel a young pop star, with everything going her way, to play with fire? Why are so many other teens and pre-teens doing the same thing: posting racy, suggestive, and borderline pornographic photos of themselves on 'sites that are readily accessible to millions of leering web surfers? And just how far is it to the bottom of this cultural pit?
Most disturbing to me, though, is just how "mainstream" it has become to exploit our children--especially our girls. When I step back and consider the amount of time we--as a nation--spend observing, discussing, and otherwise consuming the trainwrecks Misses Lohan, Hilton, Spears, and now Hudgens have made of their lives, it's bad enough. Worse is realizing that the vast majority of this filth is purveyed, not by the E! Channel or the National Enquirer, but by the three major networks, and other such "legitimate" news sources.
Worst of all is that we--as a society--do not stop to help rescue these young women. We only stop to watch.