The media called me to ask my opinion on MTV's Skins. I told them I had not watched it but read all about it. My take? Simple. Irresponsible and exploitative on the part of MTV. Man, what are we coming to when even fifteen-year-olds are sexualized on TV and actors who can't drive a car or buy a beer are filmed in sexual situations for national consumption?
Just look at the evolution, or should I say devolution, of sexual exploitation in the culture.
First, Madonna sexualized herself and erased the line between music and soft porn when she was in her twenties. Then Britney Spears did it at nineteen. Miley Cyrus lowered the bar to sixteen. Now we're at fifteen. When will it end? When we have nine-year-old being fondled in front of the camera?
About ten year ago a fifty-something female TV producer told me she feels sorry for all America's women. Men just want them younger and younger. And it's never young enough. Forty is way too old. Thirty's too old. Twenty. Now we're into being attracted to teenagers. It's kind of sick when you think about it. Our own actions are leading to an explosion of pedophilia in America.
I tried my darndest to help Michael Jackson, whom I cared for deeply, rehabilitate his image. There was so much good he wished to do with his superstardom. But he simply couldn't shake the pedophilia allegations that were lodged against him by a thirteen-year-old which I never believed and still don't believe. Yet now sexualizing young teens seems not only to no longer be a crime but is a positive virtue that drives ratings.
Look, I don't want to be a prude or come across as the predictable religious party-pooper. But I have to ask the executives of MTV, Really? Even this? Is there no line you won't cross for profits? Will you sell even your very souls for high ratings? And don't you have children of your own whom you wish to grow up to be ethical and morally responsible people? And if you do, isn't your credibility with your own kids and any instruction you might offer irreversibly compromised when you make shows like this?
Which leads me to the central question related to MTV's Skins. Where are the parents? Don't these actors have parents? Are they prepared to allow this just so that their kids can become famous or make a buck?
Now let's talk about America. I love this country, and no doubt you do, dear reader. But the time has honestly come for us to undertake a profound reevaluation of our core values. Calvin Coolidge said that the business of America is business. Yes, we are a productive and entrepreneurial society. We reward creativity and we all want to live the American dream of prospering financially and perhaps even becoming famous. Money and fame are neither good nor bad. They are morally neutral. The use to which we put either will determine their morality. You can do amazing things with money, like Bill and Melinda Gates who have already saved tens of thousands of lives in Africa with their vaccines and antiretrovirals, as I myself witnessed in Zimbabwe. The same is true of what Bono has done with fame. He has highlighted the plight of Africa and the need for Western nations to give a damn.
But the manner in which we acquire that money or fame matters and determines whether they can ever be redeemed or not. Al Capone did some good things with his money. He was very devoted to his community in Chicago and regularly distributed food to the hungry and poor. But a heck of a lot of people died in the acquisition of that blood money and it's not virtuous to kill one person so that another might live. There has to be red lines that are not crossed amid our lust for money and fame.
The innocence of children is one of those lines. Kids are the only fully innocent thing left to us. And once we allow our greed for money and lust for fame to infect even them then there is no one left to save us. Corruption dare not be an heirloom we bequeath our youth.
And make no mistake about it. Fifteen-year-olds are not young adults. They are big kids. They are not ready to make major life-decisions on their own and they will ultimately hold us adults accountable for not being there to put up a roadblock when they have their foot on the pedal and are hell-bent on driving their lives off a cliff.
Thankfully we're at least seeing some responsibility on the part of corporate America. Advertisements on this depressing show are dropping like dead flies. Perhaps MTV will follow suit, pull the show, apologize to America, and put our kids before their profits.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach has just published 'Honoring the Child Spirit: Inspiration and Learning from Our Children.' His other child-rearing books include 'Ten Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children' and 'Parenting with Fire,' both of which were launched on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.