Cultural Osmosis


Dan warned me that this day would happen. A couple of days ago, Vivian started talking about Disney’s fictional pop star Hannah Montana. Something about one of her movies and songs, I think. I smiled and nodded.

And wondered where the heck she got this.

We have completely cut the cable in our household. When our old cathode-ray television went kaput (with a rather alarming electrical crack when we tried to turn it on), we seemed to lose our over-the-air connection with TV Ontario when we bought the replacement (an inexpensive flat screen). But no matter: AppleTV and Netflix provides us with Mythbusters and an assortment of educational shows, and I’m pleased to say that Disney’s Hannah Montana isn’t one of them.

But obviously I hadn’t factored in Vivian’s friends at school who, even though they’re kindergardeners, seem well aware of Miley Cyrus’s Disney persona enough to make an impression on my little girl and teach her some of the songs.

I’m feeling mostly rueful about this, but it does show that attempting to thwart the cultural influences around us isn’t going to work. The influences don’t just come in off the television screen. What my daughter becomes isn’t just controlled by me, her friends and colleagues in life will add their own elements to the mix and Vivian will make of herself her own woman. I hope she’ll be happy about who she becomes. I’m pretty certain she will be.

At this point, Vivian can be rather hit or miss when it comes to seeing any real conflict or drama on television. We settled down for a few episodes of Shaun the Sheep (a series of funny animated shorts from the folks who brought you Wallace and Gromit) a few nights ago, and when we got to the episode where Shaun was abducted by comical claymation aliens, Vivian freaked out. This was the complete opposite of the girl who managed to sit through a good portion of The Empire Strikes Back and summarize the story as “These are the good guys. Those are the bad guys. The good guys are hiding. The bad guys have walkers but the good guys can fly! They trip the walkers! The walkers fall down! The good guys win! Hurray!!!!”

Vivian can be very sensitive, so I’m reticent about introducing her to something like Star Wars today, or Doctor Who, even though I was four when I saw my first episode of Doctor Who (Genesis of the Daleks, part 6) and five when my parents took me to see Star Wars in the theatre. I wonder if it will be her friends who help her decide that she’s ready for such movies. It’s a little unnerving to know that such a thing isn’t entirely in your control, but I guess that’s what it means to be a parent.

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