With her rise to internet stardom, Black has been the punchline of many jokes and the receiver of an immense amount of negative feedback. She's been subjected to an enormous amount of ridicule for someone so young; Yahoo dubbed it "The worst song ever" and numerous others have made jest of the song's vapid lyrics (with special insults reserved for the hook which explains the days of the week: yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday... tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards...) Many people who saw the video for the first time were surprised to learn it was a legit song after thinking it was meant to be a parody mocking American pop music.
After seeing the video, I found myself asking who is Rebecca Black? And how did she manage to produce and release a music video on the web? These questions led me to ARK Music Factory. ARK is a company based in Hollywood that searches out young singers in order to promote them. ARK writes all the songs for its "talent," alleviating them of any stress of having to write their own lyrics or music, and then produces a video starring the young singer. A genius idea actually, when you think of all the Bieber-wannabes out there who are willing to shell out the money for a chance at fame.
So basically, Black had big dreams of being a pop star, and her parents had the cash to pay ARK to write her a song and produce a video for her. Then they posted it on the web and let the internet work its magic.
Rebecca Black isn't the only young teen seeking fame, ARK has a whole line up of girls who have paid them to produce videos hoping for a big break (and are likely to have even more in that line after Black's recent success). I viewed some videos of ARK's other clients and found myself becoming uncomfortable watching them. The videos portray these girls to be much older than they actually are. They feature heavy make-up paired with mature clothing and questionable dance moves. I have to wonder what these kids' parents were thinking when they allowed their daughters to represented this way. I've posted a couple below so you can judge for yourselves.
So they aren't the raciest of videos, but still they'll leave you with a bit of a icky feeling after viewing. These videos are but a symptom of whats going on in America. Our youth is maturing way before their time. Girls between 10-13 used to wear frilly dresses, cute buckled shoes, and their hair in braids. Nowadays, they are wearing belly shirts with heels and make-up. Booty shorts with "Juicy" printed on the back aren't uncommon on 12 year old girls. But why did this change happen? What message was sent to girls that made them desire make-up and mini-skirts over hop-scotch and friendship bracelets? And what would possess a parent to dress their daughter in a revealing outfit, cake make-up on their face, and have them dance provocatively in front a camera?
I'm going to place the blame on ARK Music Factory for this one. Ok, not completely on ARK. They are only enabling these girls to live out their fantasy, the real culprit here is America's obsession with celebrity. Girls are being socialized at an early age about what values they should prioritize, and if you take one glance at our magazines and television programs, its clear that what our society values is physical attractiveness. Our media centers around celebrity lifestyles, with Hollywood scandals and break-ups somehow finding their way into our mainstream news programs. And the media's stance on women is often that beauty is rewarded. We admire those with perfect (airbrushed) bodies and laugh at celebrities who have gained weight. We cringe at the pictures of celebrities with and without their make-up on; and so do our children.
Tween girls are impressionable, and didn't we all want to be admired and adored when we were 12? Well so do these girls, but they have access to tools that can create the illusion of being a star celebrity. When young girls are flooded each day with the message of needing to be beautiful to be appreciated, and then you team that up with a company who knows that "sex sells," you get ARK music videos: inspiring younger generations to grow old before their time.
The same culprit can be blamed for aging women who feel guilty about no longer being quite as young or sexy as they used to be. Shows like Cougar Town on ABC only enhance the need older females have to look youthful again. The very first episode had Courtney Cox pinching her skin, examining her face, and complaining about how old she looks. Now excuse me, but if Courtney Cox is supposed to be the example of a middle aged woman who has lost her youthful sex appeal, then what does that make the rest of America's 40 and 50-somethings? Casting a beautiful actress in the role of a character who is supposedly facing old age gives women unrealistic expectations about what it is they should look like. No wonder Botox is up 579% since 2000 (tummy tucks are up 93% and breast implants up 45%).
The lesson here? We should all admire Rebecca Black, not make fun of her. Here is a girl who knows her age and acts it. After all, Black says they gave her the option of two songs to sing, and she chose Friday because the she felt the other song was too mature for her. It was about adult love, and she felt that she couldn't relate to it. Black knows that she's 13, not 23, and her song is simple and fun, just like life should be at that age, if you're lucky. We should all try to stop judging ourselves by the impossible standards the media sets for us, and instead just act our age. Embrace your age, and whatever good or bad comes with it, because by next year, you'll never be that old again.