Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Semiotics of Paedophilia


Ten years ago, back when Britney Spears could still sing and dance and wasn't primarily famous for being another messed up white trash celebrity who wanders around with Paris Hilton mutually flashing the paparazzi, Jive Records released ...Baby One More Time. It was the song that turned Britney from a shopping mall-touring ex-Mouseketeer into a superstar. Girls wanted to be Britney, boys wanted to have Britney. Win-win, from a marketing point of view.

It wasn't just the song that appealed, but the music video that stood out. It features the sixteen year old Britney in a raunchy school uniform, in a school setting, imploring her ex-boyfriend to 'hit' her one more time. Leaving the lyrics aside for a moment, it appears that the original plan for the video was to have Britney superimposed on a cartoon setting, but this was scrapped, apparently at the star's request, in favour of a realistic school environment. Similarly, it was allegedly Britney's idea to have the school uniform shirts tied up so as to bear her midriff.

I'm not trying to make out that Britney Spears had some fiendish plan to sexualise schoolgirls, indeed I see her more as victim than villain in this story. But she was, it must be remembered, a product of the Disney corporation. The founder of the company, Walt Disney, attended meetings of the Nazi Party, was an alcoholic, founded the 33 club - a masonic order and has long been rumoured to be a sexual pervert of varying kinds. The company has a relatively long history of employees being convicted of such offences including possession of child pornography and sexual activity with a minor.

More recently the company has been accused of placing subliminal sexual images in movies designed for children. This might seem far-fetched but bear in mind they did market underwear associated with the kids movie High School Musical which bore the slogan 'Dive in'.
Along similar lines, back in the days when they were preparing Britney for stardom the company opposed a law designed to help protect children from online pornography. They've even got involved with the War on Terror:

"But now a land grab is about to take place comparable to the ‘purchase’ of Manhattan Island from the Lenapes Indians for $24 worth of beads and trinkets in 1626, the ‘best real estate deal in history.’

In an ‘agreement’ with the ‘Mayor’ of Baghdad, the fifty acre Zawra Park is to be developed into a trashy Disneyland by the Tigris, complete with malls, hotels, housing, amusements, entertainment and a museum. Iraq’s National Museum with its millennias of treasures and the National Library’s irreplaceable ancient volumes and manuscripts were looted and destroyed under US watch in 2003. A replacement by a Disneyland version is a concept devised by the seriously psychologically challenged." - Felicity Arbuthnot, globalresearch

As noted by Michel Chossudovsky:
"Through the use of motion based simulations and sophisticated entertainment equipment, the harsh daily realities of poverty and military occupation are replaced by a World of fiction and fantasy.

The concept underlying Disney's Imagineering (developed by RSE) is to "overcome the barriers between reality and dreams".

The objective is to replace reality by a dream world.

Iraq's daily realities of death, destruction and torture are replaced by a "Dream World Made in America".

The imagery and motion simulations intended for Iraqi children and adolescents provide a "human face" to the American invaders.

The project constitutes a despicable form of war propaganda. It is a cover-up of the extensive war crimes committed against the Iraqi people in the name of an illusory "American Dream"...

...The Baghdad Disneyland-style project has all the essential features of a PsyOp. It is intended to instill American values and destroy Iraqi identity.

"The people [of Iraq] need this kind of positive influence. Its going to have a huge psychological impact," said Mr. Werner of C3.

In a cruel irony the PsyOp target group are Iraqi Children:
“There are all sorts of investment opportunities all over Iraq. But it’s not just hydrocarbons. Half the Iraqi population is under the age of 15. These kids really need something to do,” (Mr. Brinkley, quoted in The Times, April 24, 2008)

Iraq's cultural heritage is destroyed.

The historical memory of Mesopotamia is wiped out.

US investors are to "bring badly needed fun" to the war theater.

The sponsor of project Mr. Llewellyn Werner says the time is ripe for a "fun park":
"I think people will embrace it. They'll see it as an opportunity for their children regardless if they're Shia or Sunni. They'll say their kids deserve a place to play and they'll leave it alone."(Ibid)

According to a spokesman for the US installed Iraqi regime:
“There is a shortage of entertainment in the city. Cinemas can’t open. Playgrounds can’t open. The fun park is badly needed for Baghdad. Children don’t have any opportunities to enjoy their childhood.” Mr al-Dabbagh added that entry to the park would be strictly controlled." (Times, April 24, 2008)" - Chossudovsky, globalresearch

Reminds me somewhat of what they did in Germany after the Second World War, when it was deemed necessary to deNazify the population. Indeed, Paul Bremer used debaathification as his excuse for disbanding the Iraqi army in 2003, though this did not stop private military firms (not to mention people looking for potential terrorists) from employing them.

Back to Britney, and the song that made her a star, the lyrics contain numerous uses of the word 'baby' to refer to (presumably) an ex-boyfriend. This, along with 'babe' has become a very popular idiom, so much so in the case of the latter that it's new meaning of an attractive person, usually a teenage female, has usurped its old meaning of a newborn or young baby. This may seem trivial, but when you combine a young but sexually attractive girl dressed in a school uniform with throatily expressions of 'baby baby' and I'd say you've got a pretty comprehensive image of the sexualisation of youth.

On top of that there's the punchline at the end of the chorus 'give me a sign, hit me baby one more time'. This young, evidently emotionally vulnerable female is imploring the listener, or at least her ex-boyfriend, to give her a 'sign' by hitting her, again. This is the line with the most emphasis in the entire song, and is sung in the most aggressively, so there's not much room for ambiguity that the word 'hit' is intended literally. Indeed, there was some concern from the record studio execs at the time that the song might be seen to be condoning domestic violence. Their answer? To drop the 'hit me' from the title. Not change the lyrics. Not have Britney or the song's writer give an interview saying what the line means. Not downplay the line in the song's production. Just drop the 'hit me' from the title.

Not that the sexualisation of schoolgirls is anything new. It has recently been in the news that Japan has banned vending machines that sell underwear purportedly worn by a Japanese schoolgirl. These machines most definitely do exist, as these videos and these pictures demonstrate. The Japanese even went so far as to make an advert trying to discredit the product and discourage the customers from buying them:

I think they're fighting a losing battle. For one thing, the Japanese school uniform fetish is pretty well ingrained, and for another it seems they tried the same thing back in 1993 and clearly failed.

I suppose what I'm asking is this: How can we charge a 14 year old girl with raping a 13 year old boy, particularly one who may have been raped herself, or charge three boys aged 8 and 9 with raping an 11 year old girl, or a 12 year old boy with raping two boys aged 8 and 9, or any number of other similar cases when we are the ones who've filled their entertainment culture with aggressive sexual imagery, sounds, ideas and feelings? We create this culture, see it all the time and rarely if ever object, even when something horrific happens. In another recent case a 15 year old girl was accused of possessing and distributing nude photos of herself to other minors and could be placed on the sex offenders register. Apparently a girl now owning a nude picture of herself is a serious criminal offence. Update March 2009 - no 'apparently' about it, today it was reported that a 14 year old girl from New Jersey is to be charged with possession and distribution of child pornography after posting nude pictures of herself on myspace for her boyfriend to see, and will in likelihood have to register as a sex offender.

The same mindset is applied to paedophiles. The news invariably seeks to demonise 'predatory paedophiles' and overlooks the popular culture of making youth an object of sexual desire. Not that I'm in any way seeking to defend paedophiles, they are ultimately responsible for their actions, but it's immensely hypocritical that if a private citizen steals a picture of a topless 14 year old girl and publishes it somehow they are open to serious prosecution but when FHM magazine published a topless picture of a 14 year old girl they were merely 'rapped' by the Press Complaints Commission, not charged with distributing child pornography. The magazine's publishers of course plead ignorance, claiming the girl looked much older. Why is it so difficult to tell the difference between a 14 year old and an 18 year old? Because of the very culture spread by magazines such as FHM.

What is a crime for an individual is a mere disciplinary issue for a major publication. Indeed, what is a crime in one country is legal in many others, when age of consent is the issue. The hypocrisy was reaffirmed to a horrible extent when, in 2001, Channel 4 broadcast a 'Brasseye' special - a spoof new program satirising the media's treatment of the subject of sex offenders. The tabloid response to criticism of their shoddy, hate-inspiring reporting was predictable, with the Sun and the Daily Mail branding it the 'sickest TV show ever'. It got worse, as reported by the BBC:

"The Home Office's child protection minister Beverley Hughes described the show as "unspeakably sick" - then admitted that she hadn't actually seen it.

At this point, I was feeling pretty sickened myself - not by "Brass Eye", but at the fact that I'd voted Labour and thus helped to put these people in power.

Then, some surprising things happened. People refused to be told when to be outraged. True, Channel 4 received hundreds of complaints - but the station also received hundreds of calls supporting the show. Significantly, among those who wrote to politicians and newspapers in support of "Brass Eye" were people who were themselves survivors of child sexual abuse. And suddenly, the government line changed dramatically.

Ms Jowell now announced:
"I've made it absolutely clear that programme content and regulatory issues that arise from this are a matter for broadcasters and regulators, not government"." - BBC

There are two different relevant watchdogs in the UK, and they received numerous complaints and messages of support concerning the show. The Independent Television Commission received 1000+ complaints and 750+ supportive comments, whereas the Broadcasting Standards Commission received 213 complaints and 179 supportive comments. Sadly, this distaste for hypocrisy didn't extent throughout the BBC as a few years down the line they commissioned and broadcast Drop Dead Gorgeous, a show about a young model growing up in Runcorn. The protagonist, Ashley, is 15 when the show begins but the BBC thought it prudent to cast an actress who was around 10 years older.

Regardless, when Channel 4 rebroadcast the Brass Eye Special the Daily Star responded with more inflammatory coverage. The irony they perhaps missed was that on the same page as the hit piece on Chris Morris and Channel 4 was an article, complete with picture, about the development of Charlotte Church's breasts, who as the article noted was only 15 at the time.

I invite you to make up your own mind about the show:


Post a Comment