Long before parents were concerned about sexual images on TV and in music videos - there was Annette Funicello!
Annette Funicello, one of the original members of the Mickey Mouse Club, passed away yesterday at the age of 70. Annette went on to star in a series of “Beach” movies with Frankie Avalon and was always considered a sex symbol to a young audience. Annette was very cute and to put it politely, she really ‘filled out’ a sweater or a swimsuit top – even before women used silicone to ‘fill out’ sweaters and tops!
As we remember Annette Funicello, we also should remember that she inspired young boys to ‘think about things’ and this was at a time when parents did not blame graphic sexual visuals on television for such thoughts.
If the wholesome image of Annette had an effect on a young pre-teen and teen audience, then why have today’s parents become obsessed with the idea that images on television today are responsible for encouraging sex.
As I have mentioned countless times on the show, sexual instincts are a natural human phenomenon that occur even in the absence of graphic images. But blaming graphic television today for inspiring sexual activity in young people fits perfectly into our new world where something or someone is to blame for inappropriate behavior.
As a kid watching TV, I thought about sex a lot. I thought about sex when I saw Samantha on “Bewitched,” Ellie Mae on “The Beverly Hillbillies” or while watching any James Bond movie. We didn’t know everything, but we all responded to the visuals of the Bond girls and we all knew what he was doing with them.
All of those images were tame compared to more graphic content seen today, yet they were powerful enough to inspire thoughts about sex. It wasn’t so much the images that inspired ‘thoughts’, it was more the natural curiosity of a young person.
Today, when there are reports of an increase in teen sex or reckless sexual behavior in young people, there is a tendency to blame that promiscuous behavior on sexual images on television. That is a typical cop-out!
Thinking about sex, even as a pre-teen or teen, is natural and should not be blamed on images or content on television. Young people can and should be taught to be responsible for their sexual behavior. Failing to do that is a ‘parental failure’ – not the result of television.
Annette was before my time and I don't remember seeing the beach movies or the Mickey Mouse Club. What impressed about Annette was her humility in an era of huge egos that would make Victoria Best of PBS Kids cartoon Word Girl fame look like a saint by comparison.