Image: GoPhone ad
In this AT&T GoPhone commercial, Meat Loaf wisely uses the music from his hit song about teenage sexual experimentation and its possible negative fallout to negotiate his “son’s” cell phone acquisition.
Helen Popkin
updated 6/6/2008 9:02:48 AM ET 2008-06-06T13:02:48

Is anybody else creeped out by that AT&T GoPhone commercial starring chart-topping American rock singer Meat Loaf? You know, the one where he’s out working in the garage or something and actor Adam Cagley (in the role of Meat Loaf’s beefy teenage son) starts whining about wanting a GoPhone.

Apparently the viewer is to assume the kid’s been doing it for a while, because his nagging quickly pushes Papa Loaf into a rock and roll fugue. Throwing flash bombs, Meat concedes via the music behind one of his biggest hits, “Paradise by the Dashboard Light,” singing that “As long as there's no surprise bills to pay, we're gonna go get you a GoPhone today!”

Then, if a dad communicating with his son to the tune of a racy song about two high school kids negotiating their impending sexual congress isn’t weird enough, ’80s pop sensation Tiffany (in the role of “Mom”) enters in all her buxom red-haired glory, catching the harmony while carrying an enormous hunk of raw, unwrapped meat. Meanwhile, Meat Jr. is totally down with the family jam, biting his lip and bobbing his neck ‘Rock Band’ style before joining “Dad and Mom’s” wailing.

This commercial is so wrong on so many levels, it’s all I can do to wrap my brain around it. Every time it comes on (often TWICE during one commercial break) I’m certainly incapable of changing the channel, let alone looking away. Sex? Rock and roll? Cell phones? Teenagers? What does this commercial mean? Okay, I know, it’s about selling cell phones to the youth market by charming paying parents are old enough to remember this song which — once considered scandalous — is again, about teenage sex. But it’s just wrong … right?

I don’t even know anymore. Sigh.

Then this trend story pops up in the news, and it all starts coming together. Apparently, teenagers are taking nude photos of themselves via their cell phone cameras, and texting (or ‘sexting’ as the kids call it) to their significant others. If that isn’t crazy enough, you’ll never see this next part coming … the nudie shots somehow end up on the Internet for all the world — including their classmates — to see.

The original Associated Press story quotes a woman whose sons attend a Colorado middle school where 18 kids got busted last year for texting their nudie shots. "I just don't understand why kids would do a stupid thing like that," she said. According to the report, like cases popped up in New Jersey, New York, Alabama, Utah, Pennsylvania, Texas and Connecticut.

Shocking. I guess.

Except no. Not really. And not just because I keep seeing kids plus sex plus cell phones pop up as plot points on all my “Law & Order” permutations. Kids do stupid things. No need to stop the presses here. Even the quoted Colorado mom agrees. "We did dumb things when we were kids, but not like that," she said in the original story.

Well of course not. The big difference now is that kids have more and better tools to be dumb with. Also, there’s that whole disintegration between private and public, thanks to the Internet. You know, the whole Zen koan about if a kid posts a MySpace profile, and nobody sees it, does that kid really exist? Not as far as other kids are concerned.

But rather than ripping the cell phones from the greasy paws of the young and innocent and declaring Internet Prohibition (yeah, that’d work), probably us grown-ups should try and wrap our heads around an age-old fact that was true when our parents were stupid brats, not to mention us.

Once the hormones kick in, kids are going to do stuff we’d rather not think about, even without access to technology. And since they do have access to technology, we need to wrap our heads around the newish fact that the Internet is basically a giant, seething, voyeuristic swinger’s party … and that cell phones are part of the Internet.

The best we can do is teach every sprog circling adolescence how to use both their cell phones and their bodies responsibly as you would with any other tool, such as a car or a chainsaw. And don’t freak out too much. Not every kid, probably not even most kids, are texting themselves in their birthday suits. Note that the story pretty much covers the outrageous exceptions to the rules, and is unaccompanied by any hard numbers from the CDC.

Still, it’s something to talk about. Perhaps it’s not so messed up that Meat Loaf is using a song about teenage sexual experimentation and its possible negative fallout to negotiate his “son’s” cell phone acquisition. Meanwhile, if this thing turns epidemic, there is one easy cure. Parents everywhere, start “sexting” your own nudist colony outings not just to your kids, but to their friends as well. That’ll stop this nonsense right quick.

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