Scene: Chatting with my kids in the car when One Direction’s What Makes You Beautiful comes on the radio.
Me: Ugh. I hate this song.
My 8-year-old son: WHY?! I like this song!
Me: I just don’t like the lyrics. They make me grumpy.
My son (after listening intently for awhile): OhhhHHhhh. I know why. I don’t like this song either.
Me: Sweetie, it’s fine if you like it. You don’t have to dislike something just because I do.
My son: No. I don’t like it. The guy says “You don’t know you’re beautiful” and then “That’s what makes you beautiful,” which is… like… well, you know when my sister antagonizes me?
My son: I just get a little mad when she does that. But when I antagonize HER, she sometimes gets really upset. Because I’m older and antagonizing someone that doesn’t have as much power is kinda like bullying, right?
Me: It can be, yes.
My son: Well, it’s the same thing. The guy singing has the power.
Me: I think I get what you’re saying. But can you tell me more?
My son: The guy singing has the power, so it’s like bullying. He’s saying THAT’S what makes you beautiful. But it’s not his decision. He has the power, but he SHOULDN’T. Like, he shouldn’t get to decide if she’s beautiful or not. And especially saying she’s just beautiful because she doesn’t know it? That’s stupid. And mean. Besides, why does it even matter if HE thinks she’s beautiful? ‘Cause everyone is beautiful in different ways. So the whole song is kinda dumb.
Me: Do you realize that you just constructed a feminist critique of popular media?
My son: Huh?
Me: I just meant you’re awesome. That’s almost exactly why I dislike this song and it’s pretty cool you figured it out on your own.
My son: Oh. Yeah. Can you turn up the radio again? ~JJ