Ordinarily I delve into Nickelodeon because I’m surf­ing on a lazy Sunday, and lack­ing sub­stance in the form of Grim Adventures or a nice block of Mythbusters I find myself toss­ing about in the world of SpongeBob. (Ben 10 is tol­er­a­ble, but only just barely, and I won­der how long it’ll take for Ben/​Gwen hen­tai to hit the net, assum­ing it hasn’t already.*)

So this last week­end I stum­bled across an almost Beatlesish song called “Crazy Car”, which I admit has a good hook and is nicely ren­dered, and learned it’s a pre­lim­i­nary to a new show on Nick that is debut­ing in late January, some­thing they call The Naked Brothers Band.

Which would be cute, but the broth­ers in ques­tion are aged eleven and eight. The first two names that came to my mind were Michael Jackson and Mark Foley. (As in “NBB was directed by … and pro­duced by…” respec­tively.) Naked Brothers Band … Is it really pos­si­ble that no one at Nickelodeon thought, Hey, maybe we could call the show any­thing else at all?

A once-​​over of the Web page tells me not much, but I can infer a great deal; this is basi­cally a warmed-​​over Partridge Family for tweens. It seems inane and insipid, but geared toward doing what par­ents want least to have hap­pen: Giving moisties to their ten-​​year-​​old daughters.**

Look, I’m a lib­eral; I have been all my adult life, and I expect to be until I die. But that does not mean I like the idea of any for-​​profit, com­mer­cial net­work mak­ing money off of turn­ing tween life into some bizarre, quasi-​​valid pur­suit of boyfriends, dat­ing or mak­ing out. No kid at ten needs to be talk­ing about his or her rela­tion­ship. Until the kid gives up Legos or Barbie, sex is too soon.***

Even the term “tween” was invented by mar­ket­ing dimwits, many of them pos­si­bly the ones behind the sell­ing of “NBB”. 2007 is going to be a year of intense and deeply-​​wrought chaos for par­ents of kids aged nine to twelve. And a lot of it is likely to be because of this “NBB” thing, I suspect.

Several years ago I wrote a book called The Beasts of Delphos. It’s a coming-​​of-​​age novel that starts when its pro­tag­o­nist, Barris, as about twelve years of age, and it fol­lows his exploits into his late teens. In that novel, I describe — obliquely, and in depth, but not porno­graphic depth — Barris’s life, includ­ing his sex life. He has a male lover, and is deeply involved in inti­macy with sev­eral women as well; and yet, I’m dis­turbed by the NBB idea.

Not because it relaxes sex­ual mores; and not because it may or may not change how we see tweens — though, given the gen­eral dis­com­fort in the US about how inter­ested pre­teens seem to be in adult behav­ior, this should be a lit­tle dis­turb­ing to at least some par­ents. It’s because of the intent of one ver­sus that of the other. Beasts of Delphos was writ­ten by an adult, for adults; it was and is not intended to be con­sumed by chil­dren. NBB, on the other hand, is all about being by, for and tar­geted at kids who don’t even have hair enough to know what sex actu­ally is.


If an extreme lib­eral like me is lift­ing a warn­ing flag, well yeah, maybe.

Parents, here’s my advice to you: Channel-​​block Nickelodeon and buy a Wii, right now. You’ll be vastly, pro­foundly glad you did in less than eigh­teen months when you com­pare notes with peo­ple who didn’t heed this warning.

And buy con­doms, just in case. (They might even have the NBB logo on them. I bet they glow and are cov­ered in polka dots.) Not for your own kids; they’re to give to the par­ents who didn’t read this note, when they ask if their kids can have a NBB Slumber Party at your house.

No, no — I’m not seri­ously sug­gest­ing that this vapid kids’ cable thing is going to destroy your eth­i­cal hold on your chil­dren. But even the lib­eral I am, even after review­ing the Nick site that seems to be at great pains to empha­size the “strong moral cen­ter” of the show, I’ve been watch­ing the mate­r­ial that Nick is crank­ing out to pro­mote their new series — and I, lib­eral, athe­ist, mar­ginal hedo­nist — I am made a lit­tle uneasy by it.

That should worry the hell out of almost anyone.


* Didn’t Google, don’t want to know, so don’t post links.

** And, to be sure, stim­u­lat­ing the occa­sional ten-​​year-​​old boy.

*** And even then, it’s prob­a­bly too soon; it’s up to the par­ents to help their chil­dren decide, not some cell-​​phone-​​in-​​the-​​ear mar­ketroid sales tard.


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