December 19, 2007, - 12:40 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Time to cross Nickelodeon off your list of acceptable viewing for kids.
It’s not just the left-wing, anti-war, pan-Islamist Linda Ellerbee specials on the cable sister station to MTV. It’s something else.
Remember the good old days of the ’80s, when NBC fired Dana Plato from “Diff’rent Strokes” for getting pregnant out of wedlock?
Now deceased from a drug overdose, Plato was twenty years old at the time she got pregnant by her musician boyfriend. But NBC did not feel it was appropriate for a Plato, who played a prep school teen on the inter-racial sitcom, to continue on the hit prime-time show. Her character, Kimberly Drummond, was wholesome and a role model for young girls.
NBC had guts to fire Plato, herself the product of a 16-year-old single mother. Even though that time is now derided by liberals as the “greedy Reagan ’80s,” networks and TV programmers had better values. And so did America as a whole. Even though it’s just a generation ago, boy have we declined.
Today, young girls have Britney Spears’ little sister, Jamie-Lynn Spears, as one of their “role models.” The younger Spears, 16, stars on Nickelodeon’s “Zoe 101.” She announced yesterday to OK! Magazine that she’s pregnant, like Plato, with the kid of her musician boyfriend.
But, in stark contrast to NBC’s Dana Plato firing, Nickelodeon is happy for Spears. And very supportive. In fact, Nickelodeon proudly informs us that Spears’ pregnancy won’t get in the way of her kids show on the network. They already have enough episodes in the can.
Instead of worrying about the example Spears is setting with the young girls who watch her show Nick released this statement:
We respect Jamie Lynn’s decision to take responsibility in this sensitive and personal situation. We know this is a very difficult time for her and her family, and our primary concern right now is for Jamie Lynn’s well-being.
“Take responsibility?” It’s not apparent that Ms. Spears took any kind of responsibility, other than deciding not to get an abortion. Where is Nickelodeon’s sense of “taking responsibility”? Not a single comment urging young girls to wait before having sex. Not a single utterance even of the typical liberal pronouncement about “always practice safe sex.” Zilch about how they hope Nickelodeon’s kid audience will appreciate that this situation is not the kind that they would want to find themselves in. Nothing. Nada.
And that’s exactly the viewpoint of TV execs today, including–and especially–those whose programming targets your children. They do not care about the well-being of your children. But they do care about the continued appearance a/k/a “well-being” of Jamie-Lynn Spears on their cash cow TV show. It will continue to draw high-paying advertisers for toys and dolls and kids’ video games of all kinds. And they can’t afford to lose that by doing the right thing and terminating Spears’ contract. They won’t even risk offending her by telling their young, impressionable audience: Don’t make the mistake she made.
If there is one good thing to come of this, it’s what’s happening to the stage mother of the two dysfunctional Spears girls. Lynne Spears was set to publish a book of advice on mothering. A great title would have been: “Burn This Book.” But the publisher, Thomas Nelson Books, announced–just after the Jamie-Lynn pregnancy announcement–that the book is on hold (but not cancelled). Gee, I wonder why. Thank Heaven for small favors.
Some might argue that Nickelodeon is doing the right thing, that we should have compassion for girls who “made a mistake.” After all, Dana Plato, Jamie-Lynn Spears’ ’80s counterpart, lost everything after she was fired from “Diff’rent Strokes.” She became a drug addict and porn star. After earning $100,000 per week at NBC, she lost custody of her son and was soon robbing video stores and doing jailtime for illegal Vicodin prescriptions. At age 35, she died of a drug overdose in the RV in which she was living, and her young son became motherless.
But plenty of Plato’s contemporary child stars (including her non-fired co-star Todd Bridges) led similar lives of desperation and drugs–not because they were fired for their behavior, but because child stars often don’t learn normal behavior. They are coddled no matter what. In Plato’s case, simply didn’t save any of the big bucks she earned as a star. She snorted and injected them into oblivion.
And NBC’s firing Plato didn’t spawn thousands of other girls who got pregnant out-of-wedlock and in their teens. NBC’s message was implicit: Don’t act like this. It’s unacceptable. And you will get fired and lose everything, if you do it. There will be consequences.
That’s no longer the message. And instead of a high-flying TV star losing everything over bad choices, we are losing America because girls who emulate Jamie-Lynn Spears and her sister make bad choices.
Time to turn off Nickelodeon and “Zoey 101.” And turn on a little family values 101.
If your daughter idolizes Jamie-Lynn Spears, she could end up like Dana Plato.
Tags: America, Britney Spears, Dana Plato, Debbie Schlussel Time, Jamie Lynn, Jamie-Lynn Spears, Jamie-Lynn Spears Some, Kimberly Drummond, Linda Ellerbee, Lynne Spears, MTV, musician, NBC, Nickelodeon, Reagan, role model for young girls, Thomas Nelson, Todd Bridges, USD, Zoey 101