Okay, lets lay some groundwork here. I grew up in...how do you say a very conservative household?
For much of my life, we had no television. Our reading lists were left to us to select with the assumption and understanding we would reject material laced with profanity or salacious scenes or that would in other ways glorify the things we were taught were immodest, indecent, or otherwise unacceptable.
Yet as we moved into more public spheres, it could not help but be noticed that the mores of society may not have been identical to our own.
For example, in my teen years, there was something that we were taught was a huge negative that the guys at school all seemed to think of as a positive.
For example, any guy in high school who claimed to be dating a stripper was thought to have hit the jackpot. Here was a girl who would get nekkid while moving suggestively to music and, by inference, participate in frequent and wild sex, probably with that other holy grail of many male fantasies, a threesome.*
Ah, yes...beware the oft-cited plight of the stripper...every guy wants to date her, none wants to marry her. (You could probably replace the word "date" with another four letter word, but that one shares not a single letter with date. It does, however, sometimes produce unwanted children...)
Of course, society being what it is, the stripper has always occupied that uncomfortable yet crowded dark corner of society wherein someone is highly sought after and prized, but only in secret...in public they are shunned and scorned as low-life dregs.
Putting "stripper" down as occupation has long been a resume killer, a shame-inducing moment that leads to instant rejection. Who really wants to take a stripper home to mama? maybe Rick James...but no human.
But recently, that has been changing.
Learn to strip to lose weight. Have a pole installed in your home. It can be your dirty little semi-secret. That is the line of thinking in a fairly well-advertised ad campaign. As long as it is between lovers, it is a cool thing now.
Well, maybe. So much for the background. Now on to the meat of the post.
Tonight the NBA had its All-Star game. This is a major media event. Over 100,000 people attended live. Millions upon millions of people watched it on television.
The NBA works hard to maintain a "family-friendly" atmosphere. It has been a long, public, often bitter fight against the "hip-hop gangster culture" of many of the players.
And perhaps there is some merit to it. On the one hand, I am a white middle aged heavy set balding American male from a conservative background. I am the epitome of the person they fear will be offended by the cornrows, trash-talking, inked up hip hop players.
I am the one expected to prefer hearing Rolling Stones, the Who, and Bruce Springsteen at half time to hearing Usher, Alicia Keys, Fifty Cent, etc.
Maybe. Maybe not. I know I prefer NOT to hear Usher, but that has more to do with that giant sucking his music does than to any particular rejection of his hip hop credentials.
I actually like some of Alicia Keys early stuff quite a bit. I will certainly pass on hearing anything new from The Who and anything at all from Bruce Springsteen or the Rolling Stoners.
Tonight, in a nod to the actual reality of who plays in the NBA, the halftime show included Usher and Alicia Keys.
Now, remember, this is a league so dedicated to maintaining a "family-friendly" image that they threatened a lock-out in order to get a dress code instilled on the players...at times when only a select few hard-core fans would see the players.
When Keys came on stage, it was in about as classy a way as you could imagine. Scantily clad in...what, a bunny body suit? I don't even know what to call it.
But better yet, she was in what even I recognize as a stripper cage, and proceeded to perform a stripper routine including grinding on the poles as if she was...uh..."dating" them.
In fact, if you look at the moves she performed while singing (lip syncing, more likely...either that or they faded the sound a couple beats but not the video)..and not just her, but her back-up dancers, and those of Usher...well, you probably felt like dropping a doller or three on the stage.
Because it was, beginning to end, a stripper fueled, stripper inspired, stripper performance.
Now, I could be like dozens of organizations will be tomorrow, and be all over the NBA, the choreographers and performers for being strippers who forgot to rip their clothes off, but I think there is a much deeper point here.
Namely, we as a society have reached the point where it is no longer dating the stripper that is the holy grail of aspirations...it is BEING the stripper.
Look at the choreography to the music of many of the popular female singers of today. Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Beyonce, etc. Their videos are not too hard to find...a quick You tube search should find you dozens of examples.
It is no longer the hoofers in the background for Sir Mix-a-Lot who are doing the soft-core porn dances...it is the stars.
Remember when Britney came out and did the snake dance at some major awards show? Tame stuff just a few years later.
Look at the moves Beyonce uses in what was referred to as "the greatest video of all time", Put a Ring on It, and if you are not blushing a few seconds in then you have spent way too much time at strip clubs yourself.
And it sells. It sells big.
I should point out a few things. Beyonce, whatever else you may think of her, is a phenomenally talented singer. She has an excellent voice, a real feel for how to inject energy and catchiness into a song.
She should be able to sell, and sell well, without the stripper routines.
But today, it is a point of pride to perform that way. That is the elevated level of art singers aspire to, to put out that next, sexier, hotter, more stripper-like video.
the bar has been set, and it is lower than a Tim Storms record attempt. But that will not stop people from trying to get under it.
Quick little tid-bit. One of my good friends, a frequent reader and oft contributor to this very blog, was someone I met after they responded to an anonymous post I left a few years ago on Craigslist questioning if I grew up in the wrong time. In that, I pointed out that growing up, people were embarrassed if their underwear was shown. It was inspired by a Victorias Secret commercial and the then-popular maneuver of wearing jeans so low your thing/boxers/etc. were sticking out.
Wow, those were much more innocent times...
*I should point out that I have never really understood the whole threesome angle. Perhaps I am just not imaginative or something, but sure seems to me like someone would be left out. But that is neither here nor there.
What I wanted to say - Dear Tootie, You are no longer suffering, and for that I am grateful. I've gone through so many feelings since you left this world Saturday. Grief, relief...
2 months ago