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My daughter, the critic

- Scott R. Garceau (The Philippine Star) - September 14, 2014 - 12:00am

My daughter, age 11, has become a pop culture critic.

She comes home from school, shaking her head in disgust.
“Dad, my classmates keep singing Anaconda, that Nicki Minaj song! Why do they keep singing it? It’s so stupid!” In case you don’t know, Ms. Minaj’s latest masterpiece involves about a thousand expletives and enough sexual innuendo to power a Joan Rivers monologue. (And that’s just the words. If you watch the video, your head will immediately explode.)

My daughter’s fists are clenched; her upper lip curls and her right eye twitches a little bit when she’s in full pop critic mode like this.

I say I don’t know why pre-teen girls like the song. Because nobody ever introduced them to The Beatles, perhaps?

Being a critic of your friends’ pop tastes, I want to tell her, is a hard row to hoe. I know this from personal experience. Flashback to me, sometime in the ‘80s, unable to get into Wham! or Madonna or whatever else was rocking the teen eardrums at the time. (Now we get into such things nostalgically and ironically, which is possibly how it was all designed in the first place.)

This refusal to get down with Bon Jovi or Frankie Goes to Hollywood didn’t exactly make me popular in high school. Preferring to extol the merits of King Crimson or Iggy and the Stooges just made things worse. You see, when you think your music is better than other people’s, it just makes common ground that much harder to find. It almost makes you want to plead, “Can’t we all just… get along?”

But my daughter’s critical skills don’t stop at music. She’s a huge Percy Jackson fan, yet finds something horribly wrong with Rick Riordan’s demi-god character: he’s a credit grabber. Every time there’s a battle or crisis or challenge, Percy’s sub-demi-god pals pitch in and help him out of the jam, no questions asked. But does Percy then proclaim their crucial contribution to the war effort? Give them a high five or maybe a Dr. Pepper? No. He never even says, “Thanks, brahs.”

Unlike Harry Potter, who is born humble and humbled, my daughter observes that Percy Jackson — as entertaining as the book series is to her — never shows any real humility or gratitude. He never gets that he’s not the center of the universe. And this really irks my 11-year-old literary critic.

And don’t get her started on The Fault In Our Stars, movie version versus book. Grrr…

I’m not quite sure where all this sniffiness about popular culture comes from. Well, that’s a lie: I do know where it came from. It came from us. Perhaps it had something to do with observing her parents over the years, unleashing our lethal putdowns on every stupid movie or band that came along while she was growing out or her jammies and into Forever 21 blouses and skirts. Just maybe.

The thing is, I can’t fault her for being critical. We live in a really icky period of cultural decline, when Nicki Minaj videos are vapored up by young girls like e-cigs, and there’s very little to stop them from at least a passing gaze at such phenomena. I realize that Ms. Minaj is merely the latest incarnation of the age-old conundrum facing pop stars since the days of Elvis Presley, namely: “Hmm… What kind of image can I project that will most irritate and annoy parents?” Minaj’s vibrating-butt antics may hit the mark faster than a Family Feud answer button, but it’s really only a more explicit update on a long line of bar-raising antics that started with Elvis and his thrusting pelvis, and extends down directly to Miley Cyrus twerking on MTV.

But note that my daughter hates the Minaj song, not the video (which I pray she has not watched. More than once, at least). I like to flatter myself by believing she’s inherited some kind of nitpicking gene that allows her to weed out what is merely flavor-of-the-week pop music from the real stuff, the good stuff. But then I’m quickly apprised of how lame she thinks my generation’s music is whenever I play something like Rush’s Tom Sawyer on the car iPod and she just rolls her eyes to the heavens. 

Hey, you have to pick your battles as a parent.

There are moments, though, where you both find yourselves head-nodding to the same stuff — the classical stuff, like Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Which she wants her chorale group to sing at their next school competition. But the nuns probably won’t allow it because of Freddie Mercury’s deeply apocalypto words.

Yes: my 11-year-old daughter digs Bohemian Rhapsody.

Perhaps there’s hope for this generation yet.

BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY BON JOVI DR. PEPPER ELVIS PRESLEY FAMILY FEUD FAULT IN OUR STARS FRANKIE GOES MS. MINAJ NICKI MINAJ PERCY JACKSON
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