Does the challenge mean anything less when offered by a pregnant, unmarried sixteen year old girl?
Nickelodeon, a cable television channel launched in 1977 as Pinwheel, declares that it targets primarily children ages 7-11, with other programs aimed toward children ages 12-17.
One of its hit shows is Zoey 101. Here is how Nickelodeon describes the show:
“With her combination of brains and beauty, Zoey is definitely someone you’d want to hang with. Zoey’s a quick thinker who’s constantly saving the day with her smarts and problem solving skills. She’s totally down-to-earth, but nothing can stop her from standing up for her beliefs. Luckily, Zoey’s got enough spunk and charm to win over just about everyone she meets. She’s gonna need them as one of the first girls in a formerly all-boys boarding school!”
So Zoey (from the Greek word “zoe” which Strong defines as “the absolute fullness of life, both essential and ethical”. In effect, by naming the character Zoey, the writers labels her the epitome of the full and ethical life life of a teenage girl.), played by 16 year old Jamie Lynn Spears, is to model behavior so as to make boys and girls alike want to “hang out” with her. She is a “quick thinker” with “smarts”, so the boys and girls should model her decision-making skills, too. And at school with mostly boys, we should expect her to “stand up for her beliefs”, despite human temptation. If you still aren’t hooked, she sings the theme song, “Follow Me”:
“Hey, I wanna get inside your head
And take all your fears away
If you wanna play
Come and play today
Let’s just get away
I will make you see
All of the things that you can be
Believe in yourself
and Follow Me”
Zoey wants to “get inside the heads” of the boys and girls watching her so as to influence their choices. She wants them to get away from those holding them back to “come and play” as she plays.
So when the actress playing Zoey, Jamie Lynn Spears, gets pregnant, how are the boys and girls to avoid the message that they should follow her into that kind of â€œplayingâ€, too? How does Nickelodeon, instead, convey the message that it doesn’t want young boys and girls to follow Zoey/Jamie Lynn anymore?
Only one way: The next new episode begins with a voice announcing “The role of Zoey Brooks will be played by_________”.
Recast and move on.
In 2003, Nickelodeon launched a Letâ€™s Just Play campaign “designed to empower kids to engage in active, healthy and fun play.” Recasting is the only way the channel could live up to its own stated goals. Otherwise, teenage sex will be placed in the category of “active, healthy and fun play.”
So what will they do?
Hint: The Greek for “actor” is “hypocrite.”