Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pop Culture Osmosis or How My 6 Year Old Heard About Justin Bieber

Distinguished readers, colleagues, mom and dad. Thank you for joining me today as I present my research on the theory of pop culture osmosis, also referred to as, How My 6 Year Old Heard About Justin Bieber. In the interest of clarity I'd like to note that although it’s reported that many two to four year olds say Justin Beaver, it is the same Bieber about whom we speak, and who shall henceforth be referred to as JB.

First, I’d like to establish the fact that at no time did my husband or I speak about JB in our house, play his music, or put his autobiography, First Step 2 Forever on request for interlibrary loan.

A simple hacking into my iTunes library will prove that my pop culture literacy blossomed with Natalie Merchant’s debut solo album and pretty much stayed there. While my husband’s musical tastes are more expansive, he has informed me that he’d rather listen to Selena Gomez.

It is possible that our six year old turned on the television without our knowledge and accessed a channel featuring JB but we highly doubt it; certainly her three year old sister would have tattled.

We therefore conclude that it is due to external contact, i.e. association with peers who do know about JB, that our daughter was exposed and now indoctrinated in the adoration of JB. Symptoms of this exposure reached a feverish peak last Thursday, August 18 while eating a plain bagel with cream cheese, when she said, “Mom do you know who Justin Bieber is? He sings Dynamite. And I want an iPod.” (*We've been informed that JB doesn't actually sing this song, but as long as she and her friends think he does that fact is irrelevant.)

What is noteworthy, however, is the hierarchy of the transmission which starts, we believe, in households with tweens or teens.

To be influential, these tweens or teens must have younger siblings with whom they love to spend time or detest. In either case, the younger sibling will dote upon the oldest and assume his or her musical taste.

This younger sibling is then sent to play with his or her peer group and brings with him or her knowledge (accurate or not) of the life and culture of the older age-set. This youth may even be an early adaptor of gadgetry, given an iPod, for example, so he will not break an older sibling’s or worse, learn how to use it more adeptly in front of them.

This younger, culturally advanced sibling is a transmitter of fads and knowledge and gains status as the gatekeeper of what’s to come. No doubt this trend explains our own youngest daughter’s playground talk during which she’s been known to trash-talk "Sesame Street" in favor of her sister’s preference, "The Electric Company."

We believe the JB exposure was gradual, but that our six year old finally connected JB to a piece of music and the versatility of an iPod to play such music ad nauseum when she was tossed into a mixed aged pottery class because of the astonishingly poor judgment and discretion of her naive and foolish mother, me.

Not only were there multi-aged siblings in attendance, there was a tween, and perhaps a teen, creating the perfect storm of access, interest, and very bad odds for the instructor.

After four days, knowledge of JB eased into the susceptible membrane of our six year old’s pop culture knowledge base as naturally as water into an area of higher solute concentration.

As with many things, we have been told that exposure breeds inoculation, and that within a year or two our six year old will fight off JB in favor of something more shocking. We can only hope. At present, the obsession is so complete that music not even sung by JB is now being attributed to him despite intervention.

In conclusion, while JB adoration may be a passing fad, we believe pop culture osmosis is here to stay.

On a side note, if anyone does have a copy of First Step 2 Forever, I have a friend who says she’d like to read it.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, posted by Daniel Ogren.

PS: Readers might remember the story I did on Danielle Gletow, the founder of One Simple Wish, an organization that grants wishes, or requests, to children in foster care. This September 24 at 6pm One Simple Wish is holding an evening to honor foster children and celebrate supporters who've helped them grant over 1,600 wishes. Local folks who might want to attend this night at the Trenton War Memorial can find more information about A Night of 1000 Wishes by clicking here.


Tim Morrissey said...

Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead have nothing on you when it comes to cultural anthropology. Another excellent "universal parenting" post.

And we were worried, years ago, when our son wanted to buy the Will Smith CD that contained "Gettin' Jiggy With It" (or is it "Wid It"?).

jcp said...

brilliant analysis of children's "tipping point." I cannot believe JB wrote an autobiography, and I love that "your friend" wants to read it. As I write this, I find myself somewhat curious too!

multi crazy love said...

I wonder why so many people are angry to JB? Anyway I'm not a big fan of this little child.

Ludicrous Mama said...

We like to watch the really good reality dance shows (So You Think You Can Dance [SYTYCD] and America's Best Dance Crew [ABDC.]) One of the ABDC episodes featured JB's music, and my little 3yo was grooving away. Then she collapses in my lap, where I note that she feels a little warm. Turns out she had a fever. Literally. Bieber fever. Actually, a flu. But hey. Same thing, really.