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Satan likes Barbies

| Thursday, October 27, 2016

Would you take your daughter to a satanic concert? The majority of parents would say no. Yet this past summer, thousands of mothers took their daughters to see Selena Gomez crawling around the stage in a black, scaly jumpsuit with clawed hands and feet. These mothers also screamed and cheered with their daughters when her backup dancers started grinding on each other.

I did not attend this concert, but a disturbed friend filled me in. What kind of values were these mothers promoting for their children? Why did no one else at the concert seem uneasy? It was as if they had become desensitized to the objectification of men and women happening onstage and the strange satanic themes permeating the venue. It was as if the sheer number of mothers who took their daughters to the concert reassured other mothers that the concert was not bad. If it were that bad, how could so many mothers deem it appropriate for their children?

It is not difficult in the 21st century to go along with the celebration of immorality. With television shows unashamedly called Scandal and billboards bordering on pornographic, it is sadly not shocking that mothers accept and even encourage their daughters’ interest in popular music centered on mutual objectification. If the music is popular, if so many people enjoy and listen to it, surely it cannot be harmful. Yet trusting the preferences of the majority is a dangerous game, one that can have dire consequences politically as well as morally.

The banality of evil is a stepwise function. Little by little, we become accustomed to vice in our recreational outlets. In “The Screwtape Letters,” C. S. Lewis writes, “the safest road to hell is the gradual one — the gentle slope … without milestones, without signposts.”

My road to hell started with the idolization of Rockstar Barbie. Rockstar Barbie was famous, the center of attention. She was beautiful, and every Ken doll knew it. She was a woman of means — able to vacation on the Caribbean coast in my kitchen sink one week and embark upon a safari in my backyard the next. When I grew up, I wanted to be just like Rockstar Barbie.

Eight years later, I became obsessed with “The Clique,” a fictional young adult series about a group of exclusive materialistic and judgmental popular girls. What mattered to those girls — status and style — began to matter to me.

But it is normal for young girls to play with Barbies and consume fictional series without substance. Surely these youthful diversions cannot harmfully imprint a heart. Yet it is modern society’s normalization of materialism and egotism that makes it so difficult to root out these vices in my heart 10 years later.

It wasn’t until I chose St. Thérèse of Lisieux as my confirmation saint 13 years later that I realized that I could have grown up fascinated with God instead of by sin. Instead of reading the nineteenth century equivalent of “The Clique,” Thérèse read “The Imitation of Christ.” In her teens, she wrote wedding invitations to her marriage with Christ instead of fan-girling over “The Bachelorette.” It is not a coincidence that St. Thérèse did not aspire to become Rockstar Barbie or the head of an exclusive clique, but to pray for missionaries and make sacrifices for Christ, no matter how insignificant.

But as satanic concerts become the new norm, is it even possible to be formed into such a saintly soul without completely isolating oneself from mainstream culture? I was doubtful until a friend filled me in on a babysitting experience. The kids played with hand-crafted dolls of the Saints as well as Barbies. “Let’s play church!” they exclaimed as they lined up their dolls for Communion. Children imitate what they see. When exposed to good, they will imitate good.

Do I regret the way I was raised? I cannot, as I don’t know who I’d be if I had played with saints dolls instead of Barbies. There’s also the risk of underexposure; if I had been raised in a more isolated household, I may not have known how to react when exposed to the “Scandal”-ous world.

What I do know is that I must be careful in selecting the toys I play with in the future. How I spend my recreational time and what I daydream about shape the rest of the story of my soul.

Last year, I was reading a best-selling fictional series about an English woman traveling through time in Scotland. It was full of compelling drama and educational history. It was also full of violence and adultery. But family members and friends had recommended the series to me, so I figured I could skim the graphic scenes to get the good out of the book without the bad.

Yet my conscience was unsettled by what I saw whilst skimming, so I talked to a priest about it. I expected him to reassure me that I was overreacting. He did not. He confirmed that I should no longer read the series, as the heroine was far from a healthy role model.

I was a bit taken aback, but grateful for his honesty. How many friends had I confided in about my unease who had reassured me that I was stuck in scrupulosity? Either they knew that what I was reading was not good for me and didn’t want to offend me, or they, like me, had rationalized their qualms away with a “you do you” relativistic morality.

There is no such thing as harmless entertainment. I, at the age of 21 as well as at the age of six, am affected by what I read, watch and listen to. Just because many other people read a book or watch a television show does not mean it is harmless.

It does not seem fun to say no to what so many other people say yes to. It is less fun, however, to root a fascination with sin out of my heart — especially one that wedged itself in there with Rockstar Barbie.

 

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Erin Thomassen

I am a freshman double majoring in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and French. PLS (aka the Notre Dame Book Club) is the history of ideas through literature, philosophy, math and science. It was the perfect major for me, because I couldn't possibly choose one subject and hurt the other subjects' feelings. French was also a natural pick, since I have been prancing around my house under the pretense of performing ballet for eighteen years. If someone asks me what I do in my free time, I will tell them that I run and read. What I actually do is eat cartons of strawberries and knit lumpy scarves. If you give me fresh fruit, we will be friends. If we become friends, I will knit you a scarf for Christmas. It may be lumpy, but it will be in your favorite color. And if enough people become my friend, lumpy scarves might just become a trend.

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