Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guest Op-Ed: The Saga of Sister Kiki

Dear Parish Faithful,

I found this Op-Ed by David Brooks, to be an “object lesson” in the multiple dangers posed by an uncritical and unsupervised use of the internet (for children and young adults, at least). It also probes our current obsessions with celebrity, appearance, and the lurid side of sexual fantasies. Lately, we have been reading about the “dark side”of facebook and twittering/tweeting. This may be a spectacular – and exaggerated - example of what can go bad, but it remains cautionary, nevertheless. Why does “virtue” sound so archaic and reactionary today? It is up against some real stiff competition!

To re-formulate an old question: Do you know what your child is doing on the internet or on his/her cell-phone?

Fr. Steven

The Saga of Sister Kiki
Published: June 23, 2011

In 1900, Theodore Dreiser wrote “Sister Carrie,” about a young woman who left the farm and got mauled by the crushing forces of industrial America: the loneliness of urban life, the squalid conditions of the factory, the easy allure of the theater, the materialism of the new consumer culture.

If Dreiser were around today, he might write about Kiki Ostrenga. Kiki, who was the subject of a haunting profile by Sabrina Rubin Erdely in the April issue of Rolling Stone, was a young teenager who got mauled by the some of the worst forces of the information age.

Lonely at school, she took refuge by creating an online persona, Kiki Kannibal, posting photos of herself with various hairstyles and looks — goth one day; sexually charged, Lady Gaga-style temptress the next.

Though 13, Ostrenga was a phenomenally good shape-shifter. The photos often show her in her underwear or short skirts, with lurid make-up, edgy poses and pouty come-hither expressions. In them, you see the child’s ability to mimic the looks and attitudes of what she admires — in this case the cult of high-fashion celebrity as glamorized in Vogue or Cosmopolitan, on E!, TMZ, “Real World” and a thousand other outlets.

In sports, speed and strength are king. In music, talent and application are king. But online, eyeballs and page-views are king. Achievement is redefined as the ability to attract attention. And, with today’s technology, this sort of celebrity is not just a dream. Young people can create it for themselves.

Continue reading . . .

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