Friday, October 4, 2013

Nothing Compares Amanda 2 Miley

There's a cultural trope of "dad" that describes me pretty well, and it's got little to do with having kids. I'm vaguely befuddled about the intricacies of pop culture, a tad alienated from what could be generously called "style", and have long abandoned what wispy shreds of the ever-elusive "coolness" I might have once laid partial claim to to bleed out in a muddy ditch with a knife stuck in its ribs and a broken jaw. So it shouldn't come as all that much of a surprise that I'd only recently heard of Miley Cyrus, the daughter of the Achy Breaky Heart guy. According to semi-credible sources, she's decided to break the orbit that's doomed many other former child stars.

Of course, we sometimes get this, so maybe it's a mixed bag.

Naturally, hijinks visible enough to pierce the stubborn drapery that shields my attention from the scary world outside will be strong enough to elicit reactions from lots of voices. Most of what I've seen has been head-wagging and tongue clucking, but two missives have struck me as both thoughtful and grounded in interests consonant with the EE project.

The first, from veteran Irish crooner Sinéad O'Connor is a plea to the young singer to maintain her dignity in the face of industry pressures to compromise artistic integrity for cheap visibility. A rebuttal from the impish Amanda Palmer encourages the Emerald Isle songstress to consider that young Miley may in fact be making a series of calculated career decisions and that she's not as exploited as she may seem at first blush.

Ah! A disagreement over "exploitation". Excellent. Identify the BATNA disparity and away we go. For child stars, you can catch a glimpse of a standard alternative in the video above (yikes!). Then again, there's Mara Wilson, who as far as I can tell (judging by an appearance with the Nostalgia Chick) is indistinguishable from a NORP like me. If you want to select into an entertainment career as a former child star, you can probably do worse than making yourself a household name that clearly breaks from your younger self. The private calculus seems to at least hint that Miley's recent performances could conform to the hard & soft coercion terms of the EE formulation.

As for the salacious nature of her artistic product? Is it analogous to pollution? As the father of a daughter, I'm best poised to answer "yes". As a create-your-own economist, I'd nevertheless have to reject externality arguments. Part of my responsibility as a parent is to educate my child, guide her towards a comfortable integration into the world of adults (which at this point seems to be watching an animated Mr. Rogers spinoff show set in the Land of Make-Believe), and if you ask me, a Mileyesque (Sarah, please don't take me to task for this particular neologism) conversation that I may have someday with my daughter is a fine opportunity to discuss the nature of broad-network euvoluntary exchange, soft coercion by conformity, and DIY cultural economics. In this light, I hope for more such future opportunities. [edit] Indeed, as JR points out, even if this counted as a negative externality, it's still a very far cry indeed to make a decent foundation for a policy response, and I find myself relatively relieved to see that much of the discussion has been on the "moral suasion" side, though I'm less than thrilled with some of the slut shaming out there. But it's my job to catalog this stuff. Positive analysis of normative beliefs and all that.

But I'm still going to raise my kid to appreciate Beaudelaire, Shakespeare, Tori Amos, and improvisational jazz. At least to the extent I am able. The uncertainty, I must confess, is part of the fun of parenting.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?