Kathryn Lopez

"It's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk, and I need you now." It shouldn't come as a surprise that a year that included that chorus line in one of its hottest country-music hits would end with controversy in the air about a "Dancing with the Stars" country gal going a few steps too far.

Julianne Hough's striptease-acrobatics video "Is That So Wrong?" is wrong in more ways than one. And the primary one isn't the scantily clad gyrating. Hough, who also appears in the movie "Burlesque," sings: "Doesn't everybody just want to feel somebody? Just wanna hold someone to fill that empty space? When you're missing that rush and a friend's not enough?"

You've probably heard more graphic lyrics. But Hough's video, in a genre frequently known for uplifting or otherwise fundamental messages about faith, family and freedom comes at a time when Americans are drawing more and more lines in the political sandbox. That's what the tea party movement has been about. And it's a reminder that we ought to be doing so culturally. Because these things are not unrelated.

As young men and women are just reaching for whomever to satisfy a feeling -- divorcing sex not only from commitment but, sometimes, from even an illusory sense of love -- their choices are having long-term societal results. Discussing his new study, "When Marriage Disappears: The Retreat from Marriage in Middle America," W. Bradford Wilcox recently emphasized: "We are witnessing the emergence of a whole new class of communities -- especially in rural and small-town America, and the outer suburbs -- where scores of children and young men are growing up apart from the civilizing power of marriage and a stable family life.

"This does not bode well for the economic and social health of these communities. ... Among children in middle America, family breakdown typically doubles delinquency, drug use, psychological problems and teenage pregnancy. Children who grow up without two married parents are also significantly less likely to do well in school, to graduate from college and to hold down a steady job later in life."

Children learn from what is presented to them at home, of course; but with children being fed -- according to the Kaiser Family Foundation -- 75 hours a week by popular entertainment, pop culture matters. And a cautionary word to parents who have opted out of those influences by keeping television and video games and the like out of your homes: Unless your child is trapped on a "Lost"-like island, he or she will be influenced by these poisons.


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.