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Jewish World Review April 7, 2003/ 5 Nisan, 5763

Suzanne Fields

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Consumer Reports

Material girl not in vogue with new video | The material girl withdrew her anti-war video in which she bravely threw a hand grenade at George W. Bush. Well, at his look-alike. (He has look-alikes just like Saddam Hussein. Cute.) He catches it and pulls the pin and it turns into a cigarette lighter. He lights his cigar with it.

In an MTV interview, she characterizes this as reflecting her pacifism. "The one who catches it," she says, "takes something that could be violent and destructive and takes the destruction out of it by turning it into something else." (Really cute. The material girl is deep, very deep.)

But, she thought again about the impact of that message. She cancelled the American release because it was "inappropriate" at this time: "Due to the volatile state of the world and out of sensitivity and respect to the armed forces, I do not want to risk offending anyone who might misinterpret the meaning of this video." Due to the volatile state of the market, she didn't want to risk a negative impact on sales, either. Where patriotism fails, the marketplace prevails.

Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks learned that lesson the hard way. When she told a London audience that she was ashamed the president was from Texas - she's from Lubbock - her fans deserted in droves. Radio stations declined to play anything by the Chicks. One station set aside trash cans for Dixie Chicks CDs. She apologized, of course.

These incidents may reveal a lot about the anti-war protests: They're not getting a lot of support from young people. The largest segment of the CD market is composed of customers between the ages of 11 and 25 and they're the ones most enraged by the Dixie Chicks. Madonna, getting a little long in the tooth at 44 as the kids measure celebrity age, has a fan base over 25. She's desperate to hold on to them. She must be careful.

"Almost two-thirds of Americans born since 1978 say they have a great deal of confidence in the military leadership," writes David King, author of "The Generation of Trust: How the U.S. Military Has Regained the Public's Confidence since Vietnam." The children who as teen-agers watched the Gulf War on television 12 years ago are the men and women fighting in Baghdad today. They're volunteers who want to be all they can be.

In one of several versions of Madonna's video, she struts in a tight-fitting military uniform, her dog tags looped around her neck. A model appears in a gas mask and thong panties. This is tasteless at any time, but it's particularly nasty in the wake of the heroic rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch, 19, a clerk typist who suffered broken bones and a bullet wound in a fire fight with Iraqi irregulars and was taken prisoner of war.

Children are natural rebels, with or without a cause, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that the babies of baby boomers have attitudes very different from their boomer parents and grandparents. The boomers wore the camouflage design as a vitriolic statement against the Vietnam War; their children, now young adults, wear camouflage as a sign of support of the American soldiers fighting in the Middle East.

The boomers rebelled against their parents, their government, "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit" and "The Organization Man." Alienation was their theme and they set out to find something to be alienated about. James Dean, the "Rebel Without a Cause," gave them a theme but no substance. The Vietnam War filled in that gap.

Baby boomers' babies are rebelling against their parents' permissiveness and liberalism. The antihero of their parents' generation was the spoiled brat portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate." The boomers' children prefer Tom Cruise as "Top Gun." They don't want a "Black Hawk Down" on their conscience.

The conservatism of the young reflects an increased respect for the ideals of their country, together with a craving for real information. The young have absorbed distorted history from popular songs and movies, and a lot of them know it. An annual "report card" reveals that 57 percent of twelfth graders have less than a basic level of knowledge of history.

This may be changing, too. An "Idea of America" essay contest, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, drew 1,300 11th-grade participants. Morghan [cq] Transue, 17, won first prize. She expresses the tone and tint of the essay in her very first sentence.

"In a nation established by peoples of differing languages, ethnicities, and religions, Americans find unity in the democratic principles of the founding fathers; principles that united the thirteen colonies after the American Revolution and continue to unite America during such crises as the attacks of Sept. 11."

Someone ought to send a copy to Madonna. She should read it.

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© 2001, Suzanne Fields. TMS