In case you missed it, fashion house Balenciaga created a furor last week with its ad campaign featuring toddler girls holding teddy bears sporting BDSM (bondage and sadomasochism) outfits. Lest you think the kiddie porn reference was somehow a misunderstanding or a one-off, yet another photograph in a separate ad campaign featured a page from the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in United States v. Williams, a case involving -- you guessed it -- child pornography discreetly peeping out from underneath a Balenciaga bag.
Ha ha. How very edgy.
The statement Balenciaga finally issued reveals much. Although the company took responsibility and stated that they "strongly condemn child abuse," the statement also admits "grievous errors" and a "wrong choice" in "assessing and validating images."
In other words, the higher-ups at Balenciaga saw the images and approved them in advance. In truth, nothing else would even be remotely plausible, given that these campaigns likely cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to roll out. No company spends that kind of money without a thumbs-up from the C-suite. So, notwithstanding their opposition to "child abuse," quite a few someones thought this campaign was clever marketing.
In a predictable split of opinion, the Hollywood types who patronize companies like Balenciaga are either conflicted (Kim Kardashian) or strangely silent (Nicole Kidman). Meanwhile, the general public is outraged. After all, we expect haute couture to be a little "out there," but this involves children, and we protect children, right?
Do we? Has anyone claimed that "pedo-chic" is a bridge too far and been paying attention to anything that's happened in this country for the past 50 years? How about the past 5?
We're not protecting our children. We've been allowing them to be steeped in a popular culture that has grown increasingly vulgar and depraved. If there are any limits left, they are few and far between and being quickly eroded.
Consider the devolution of the music business.
In the 1940s, "pop" music was Frank Sinatra and the "big band" sound from musicians like Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Glenn Miller. Sexual references were oblique and largely couched in mild terms like "making whoopee." Even rock 'n' roll in the 1950s was tame. Things took a darker turn in the 1960s and 1970s with widespread drug use and the sexual revolution, both of which were reflected in artists' lyrics, their performances, and their personal lives. By the 1980s and 1990s, rap and hip-hop artists popularized terms like "n----s" and "hos." And the music industry has only become more profane and vulgar in the years since. Awards show now regularly feature nearly naked artists simulating sex -- sometimes alone, sometimes with other performers. One of bestselling artist Cardi B's recent hits describes the physical effects of female sexual arousal in the crudest possible fashion, and she posed on the cover of her album "Gangsta Bitch Music Vol. I" drinking a beer while appearing to be receiving oral sex.
Ms. B is also well known for having popularized the raunchy dance moves called "twerking" in the videos to promote her 2018 debut album. Just two years later, Netflix released a French film, "Cuties," in which 11- and 12-year-old girls twerk in tight spandex outfits in front of a Paris audience. Keep in mind that not only were the characters engaging in this behavior, but the little girls acting in the film were also twerking and simulating sex acts with one another.
"Cuties," like the Balenciaga ads, also caused public outrage. And yet plenty of the cultural elites came to the defense of the film. NBC entertainment writer Sam Thielman called the backlash "a cynical ploy in the culture war" driven by the "pedophile-obsessed American right." Director Maimouna Doucoure was just trying to start a conversation about the exploitation of young girls, you see. Only it's a "conversation" we never really get to have because there's only one view that's permitted, and that's "Wow, isn't this cool and edgy 'art'?" Any other opinion is sexist, racist, patriarchal, white supremacist, and not 'sex-positive.'
If the past is precedent, the Balenciaga brouhaha will go the way of all the previous "scandals." After the initial outcry over the promotion of pedophilia, most people will go about their business and forget all about it. But the elites and those in control of the culture will not stop. They will continue to make their "art" and their arguments, first to be "tolerated." And then "celebrated." And eventually mandated, with the force of law to be brought against any who oppose them.
Think this is hyperbole? Just last week, a new play on Broadway prompted this glowing headline from The Washington Post: "'Downstate' is a play about pedophiles. It's also brilliant." (Dear Mr. Thielman -- still think it's the "right" that's "pedophile-obsessed"?)
Who's to blame? Breitbart's Alex Marlowe nailed it during his morning show on Monday of this week when he stated that the Left owns "popular culture," including music, books, film, and yes -- fashion. Lefties create it, they wear it, they spread it and they defend it. But Americans on the right are not blameless. As American popular culture degenerates, we largely stand by and shrug or rant, but do little or nothing to stop the downward slide.
It is possible to stop the cultural decline. But it will take courage and perseverance in the face of what will be a relentless onslaught.
If we're serious about protecting our children, we have no other choice.
To find out more about Laura Hollis and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.