Buckle up. This one's a doozy.
A few weeks back on the way home from school, Jake seemed a little flat. Naturally, I asked him about his day. He explained that he was a bit unhappy about a 'musical number' they were practicing. Now Jake quite likes music, and he likes performing, so I asked for details.
Well, it turns out that it's part of the "School House" system. Anybody not familiar with the British Boarding School system of divide and conquer in the Name of Sportsmanship -- go watch the Harry Potter movies. Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw -- artificially created blocs of students crossing year/cohort boundaries, permitting internal competition in sports and other arenas.
I more or less understand the purpose of the system. It's supposed to provide a ready-made social network for newbies, offer some kind of support, and meanwhile, subtly indoctrinate a set of chosen values by way of peer pressure. I don't much like it, but it works -- and smart kids can see through it effectively enough that the indoctrination doesn't actually work.
In this case, it turns out that Jake's "house" has this tradition of getting the new year sevens to do a 'musical number' - a performance they carry out in front of the entirety of their 'house'.
"So what are you doing?" I asked him.
"We have to sing and dance," he said.
"I don't really see the problem," I said.
"Well," he said, "We were supposed to be able to choose our own song. But the House officers rejected everything we suggested, and now they want us to perform Beyonce's Single Ladies."
(Insert sound of scratching record here as Dirk wrenches his neck trying to look at his kid.)
"Single ladies?" says I. "You guys want to do that?"
"No," says Jake. "But they say we have to. Some of us have to do the dance routine from the video, and the rest of us are like, back-up."
"Oh," says I. "That's a bit ugly. At least you're not doing it in drag," I said, trying to make light of it.
"Well, they wanted us all to do it in costume, actually," said Jake. "But we got really upset, and now it's only two or three of the boys who have to wear leotards."
(Repeat scratched-record sound, only louder.)
For those of you unaware of Beyonce's signal contribution to modern culture, here's an embed which I hope will work:
And if that doesn't work, here's the Youtube link. Seriously -- watch this so you know why I was freaked out.
Now, a whole bunch of thoughts went through my head at this point:
- Who thought it was a good idea to coerce a bunch of 13-year-old boys into an embarrassing, highly sexualised performance in front of their peers?
- Who the hell thought it was a good idea to put underage boys into leotards and make them dance like Beyonce?
- What did the school plan to do about the inevitable (these kids ALL carry phones) video footage on Facebook, Youtube, etc?
- Had anybody considered what would happen if a chunk of said footage turned up on Joe Random-Pervert's computer when the cops were investigating him?