Once upon a time, parents rebuking children for immature behavior would admonish them, "Act your age!" In today's crazed world of moral relativism it is the last thing some adults are allowing youngsters to do.
Seemingly everywhere you turn you find evidence of our culture prodding the young into adopting the trappings of adulthood. The November 27 issue of Advertising Age reports that "makeup manufacturers...are selling products to an increasingly younger audience. Wary of controversy, they are walking a fine line in targeting consumers as young as age eight with cosmetics marketing and advertising."
I'm glad the manufacturers realize that many might have a problem with these practices. I'm a lot less glad that apparently it's not stopping them in the least.
Marketing executive Lynne Robertson gushes that children are "a segment of the marketplace that is gigantic...and has money to spend." According to the article, Robertson "estimates the group of children born between 1977 and 1994 is 72 million strong, a larger generation than the Baby Boomers." Yes, you read that right: she considers children as young as six years old to be part of the target market for makeup.
The giant cosmetics line Cover Girl generally agrees. Cover Girl's new "Internet-connected [shopping] mall kiosks" are meant to reach eight-to-ten-year-old girls "where they play and hang out," explains the president of Procter & Gamble, Cover Girl's parent company.
Of course, most of these youngsters aren't getting to the mall, let alone buying cosmetics, unassisted. Robertson, says Ad Age, believes that since "boomer parents waited longer than their parents to have children," they are "more willing to indulge their kids than their own parents were." Somehow this makes it OK.
Then again, makeup on an eight-year-old is a lot less troubling than the phenomenon discussed earlier this year in a Washington Times story. "One of today's fashion statements among young people," notes the paper, "is a T-shirt that says 'Future Porn Star' or 'Future Pimp.'"
A female buyer for two Washington stores tells the Times that "kids like things with that type of shock. It's something they've always done." (Huh?) The shirts are intended as "humor," adds the buyer. A seventeen-year-old girl quoted in the article agrees the shirts are "kind of funny" but takes issue with their supposed shock value: "Kids like me, I guess we've seen so much of society, nothing really shocks us anymore."
Well, here's something that's shocking and not at all funny: The article says that "even young children wear the 'porn star' T-shirts, often without understanding what they mean." Ann Simonton, who lectures on media topics, relates in the story that "a woman came to one of my lectures, and she had been babysitting a...girl who was eight. [The girl] was wearing that shirt and the woman asked her, 'Do you even know what that means?' She said, 'No, I don't know what it means, but it makes the boys like me more.'"
It's usually the electronic entertainment media - television, movies, music - that (deservedly) get the rap for the cultural assault on the young. Another influence on children, widely remarked upon since the Harry Potter craze began, is literature, and here the same forces are at work.
One new book apparently is designed to disabuse them of their faith in God. A British author named Philip Pullman, in his novel "The Amber Spyglass," offers, in the words of the New York Times' Sarah Lyall, "a thrillingly ambitious tale...with a radical view of religion that may well hold the most subversive message in children's literature in years."
Lyall elaborates that Pullman "has created a world in which organized religion - or, at least, what organized religion has become - is the enemy and its agents are the misguided villains...[He] argues for a 'republic of heaven' where people live as fully and richly as they can because there is no life beyond." Speaking for himself, Pullman describes the message of the Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis's beloved series of Christian-oriented children's books, as "so anti-life, so cruel, so unjust."
Whatever happened to the notion of innocence, to the sacred nature of the child? "Lo, children are the heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." You can just disregard Psalm 127 in today's cultural slimefest. Children now are nothing more than a target-rich environment.