Belfast Telegraph

Sadly, film's grim world is real for many teens

By Jane Graham

Next week marks the transformation of a sweet-faced Disney princess into a gun toting, bum-grinding, drug-snorting gangster and I'm still pondering whether that's a good thing or not.

Disney sweethearts Vanessa Hudgens of High School Musical and Selena Gomez, angelic cutie-pie star of The Wizards of Waverly Place, have teamed up in a curveball career move for new movie Spring Breakers, out next Friday. The film has already stirred a stramash in the US, where it surfed into the Top Ten on a wave of controversy, with what ABC News called its 'extreme debauchery' leading to some reviewers describing it as 'putrid'.

In short, Spring Breakers is about as graphic a portrayal of adolescent transgression as you're likely to see this side of a 50 Cent video. And more shocking – because this time it's not just soft porn the teenage girls offer up, but extreme violence, decorated with pink balaclavas and shotguns, and fuelled by cocaine.

It's a difficult film to come to terms with. The hip hop/porn iconography it absorbs – jiggling boobs, neon bikinis, gold-grilled teeth, state of the art weaponry – and the 'bitch' splattered faux spiritual language the characters use, will appeal on a superficial level to a young audience which has, like the people in the film, built its culture around MTV and YouTube.

This is a dream for a marketing team who have already put together a trailer which will lure lustful fans of Rihanna's booty and hyped-up devotees of Grand Theft Auto. No surprise YouTube is full of comments about what male viewers would like to do to the 'SO HOTTTT!!' stars.

Spring Breakers certainly lays itself open to criticism of glamorising bad behaviour, but it's also a pretty intelligent film, with a darkness in its belly that haunted me for days afterwards. It's that old vicious circle; to be authentic, it has to adopt the vernacular of the trash culture it's depicting. But its embracing of that culture will turn on less thoughtful movie goers, who'll simply thank the Lord for giving them a poster which magnifies Selena Gomez's hot-panted backside.

Ultimately though, this film is telling us something important and truthful about our teenage kids that we might hate, but we can't ignore.

They won't all end up waving around machine guns, but if recent research is right, 90% of children between eight and 16 have seen online pornography. The average age for a first viewing is 11. And a lot of online porn makes even the grimiest hip hop video look innocent.

Just this week, The Association of Teachers warned that girls as young as 13 are being pressured into making homemade porn films and sending naked photos of themselves to boys. Spring Breakers might be every parents' nightmare, but parents need to wake up to the ways their little princes and princesses are being seduced by all manner of modern capitalist ventures.

Teachers' unions know they can't protect kids – and much of the work has to be done by enlightened (not scared, blinkered, uninformed) parents at home. But most teachers believe sex education is key. The frank and open kind, not the bashful, old skool biology-fixated stuff so easily laughed off by savvy students in the playground afterwards. I would add equally honest drug education to the wish list.

We can put our head in the sand and write off the scary stuff as fanciful or a worry for other people, but today our children's bedroom is a global gateway and that's one fat cat that can't be put back in the bag.

Belfast Telegraph


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