If you haven’t guessed by now, I love animated kids movies. Although Disney does have a sizable monopoly on my cartoon screen time, the occasional non-Mickeyfied gem will find its way onto my TV now and again, including my most recent favorite, Universal Studio’s Despicable Me. From lovable villain Gru to the cheese puff minions (I want one or ten for myself), Despicable Me has everything I could possibly want from ninety-ish minutes of computer generated hilarity. Much of the movie centers around (SPOILER) a shrink ray and the various evil plots that can be accomplished using its miniaturizing capabilities, like this one that provides a perfect example for today’s post.
Cute, huh? Those cheese puffs get me every time. So, what does that have to do with culture (the shrink ray, not the cheese puffs)? Well, it’s pretty simple: cultural critics are using their incredible talent for blowing things out of proportion to try using that sci-fi shrink ray effect on a controversial comment that aired on HBO’s Real Sports Tuesday night. The comment came from Olympian track runner Lori “Lolo” Jones, who, on her way to gold during the 2008 Olympics, tragically bungled a hurdle and finished far behind the coveted medalists. For the past four
years, she’s been training even harder, and is determined to nab a gold medal in this year’s London games. However, it’s unlikely her dedication is what everyone will be talking about during the games; instead, a far more touchy subject has launched Jones into the cultural spotlight: she is a virgin.
The Christian 29-year-old openly, and with a touch of pride, I might add, discussed her Twitter-based revelation on the HBO sports show, saying such unbelievable things as, “I just don’t believe in it [premarital sex],” “It’s a gift I want to give to my husband,” and, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done; harder than training for the Olympics, harder than graduating college has been staying a virgin until marriage.” (If you don’t believe me, here’s a clip from the interview.)
Cue Evil Scientist, Dr. Cultural Critic: Igor, unleash the Shrink Ray! *cackling laugh*
Ok, ok, all joking aside, Jones’ comments have rocked the Internet and the cultural world as critics try to take in this unexpected and difficult to believe revelation. I say try on purpose, because few definitive stances have yet to be taken on the claim. After a good deal of research, the most prevalent view I could find was that this big deal really isn’t a big deal. Oh yes, the culture that has a nasty habit for magnifying and dramatizing is now trying to downplay Jones’ comments as unimportant in light of the upcoming Olympic games. Surprised? Yeah, neither was I.
I heard about the controversy listening to the radio earlier today as the hosts of a morning show on one of the local Christian stations extolled Jones’ courage and honesty. I was pleased to hear the news that someone in the public eye was standing for Christian morals, but I was less pleased to hear the hosts’ discussion of a CNN show’s response to Jones. According to the radio show, the CNN broadcast mocked Jones’ status as a virgin and derided her morals. Unfortunately, I have not been able to find the actual CNN broadcast, but that’s not the important part of the radio hosts’ discussion. One of them touched on how important it is to discuss virginity openly with teens and older children, and to impress on them just how important and admirable staying a virgin is. “Tell them that it is a big deal, that it is really important,” one said. I was this close to cheering.
The radio hosts are absolutely right: this is a big deal. Not just a big deal for families trying to keep their kids on God’s track, but also for our culture. It is so rare for celebrities, in any business, to be open, honest, and proud of their high morals, and a fuss needs to be made. The problem is, our sex-soaked culture shudders at the notion that someone worthy of admiration admires the “old-fashioned” idea that sex is God’s gift for marriage. It makes our culture uncomfortable to be defied, and no one likes to be uncomfortable. The solution? Shrink ray. Make it so small and insignificant compared to the mighty Olympics that this blip won’t register on anyone’s “people should know about this” radar.
Therein lies the irony: Jones is a blip that is registering on a lot of radars because her beliefs are so surprising. Even if the cultural critics may want to minimize those beliefs’ importance, people are still discussing this claim and its implications widely. They realize that this is a big deal because it’s so out of the ordinary, and that is the first step to getting them to ask why it is out of the ordinary, and why it’s a big deal to Jones.
I have nothing but admiration and pride for Lolo Jones. She came out of a rough childhood, has faced hurdles, both literally and otherwise, in her Olympic career, and, like anyone in the cultural spotlight, deals with criticism and pressure from many sources. To have stuck to her beliefs and maintained something so important to her is an incredible feat. Jones understands that she has a gift more valuable than any gold medal, and it means so much more to her. She’s letting our culture know that, loud and clear, and I have only one suggestion to those of my readers who are also proud of her strength of character:
Down with the shrink ray!