Jewish World Review Feb. 6, 2002 / 24 Shevat, 5762

Michelle Malkin

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It's hip to be square -- IF you are sick of hearing about teen pop star Britney Spears - what she wore (or didn't wear) in her Pepsi Super Bowl ads, where she violated underage drinking laws, how she enjoyed being licked by a dancer in her obscene music video, "I'm a Slave 4 U," and all the other self-indulgent details - there is an alternative.

Her name is Mandy Moore. She is the anti-Britney -- a refreshing antidote to all the bosom-flashing, low-rider-wearing, foul-mouthed Madonna wannabes whose self-esteem depends on showing the world as much flesh as possible without getting arrested.

Miss Moore, for all you oldsters who've never heard of her, is a 17-year-old singer/entertainer. In life and on the big screen, she is a class act. Her recent cinematic debut, "A Walk to Remember," is currently number three at the box office. This is an amazing cultural feat. Unlike most of the sex-crazed, booze-drenched, drug-infested trash that Hollywood produces for teens, Miss Moore's film - based on a coming-of-age novel by Nicholas Sparks -- affirms religious values.

The movie promotes kindness, abstinence, and honesty. It treats young women with respect and encourages the audience to cherish life. It is unapologetically wholesome.

Miss Moore plays Jamie Sullivan, the devout daughter of a Baptist minister who is confident in her faith and willing to endure the ridicule of her mindless peers. She takes a Bible to school (an act which in real life would undoubtedly get her kicked out and sued by the ACLU), sings in the church choir, and firmly rejects pre-marital sex. Despite the constant mockery of the "in crowd," this young girl's compassion, character, and independence win over the popular boy at her high school. Their romance - based on deep feeling rather than shallow materialism - blossoms, and the young pair's love is tested when tragedy strikes.

"It's so nice to be a part of a teen movie that's so positive," Miss Moore said. "There are so many other movies for kids to go see that are about sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. They're all about losing your virginity before prom night or college. Jamie shows people the other way to go about things."

Naturally, the media elite has mocked "A Walk to Remember" as "sappy" and "cornball." One newspaper writer complained that it "plays like a propaganda film sponsored by Jerry Falwell and the religious right." Typical snobbery. Anytime Hollywood actually treats people of faith with dignity - as normal and noble human beings - you can expect the adult reviewers to act just like the teen-age ostracizers in Miss Moore's movie. A young girl who has an uncompromising commitment to virginity and a strong relationship with God? To mainstream movie critics, that's abnormal.

Instead, these haughty sophisticates prefer more "realistic" and "edgy" cinema for young Americans - you know, the popular genre of "Animal House" junior knockoffs that feature teen-agers masturbating with pastry ("American Pie") lesbian experimentation ("Cruel Intentions"), and college miscreants torturing mice and secretly taping sex acts in their dorm rooms ("Road Trip").

Miss Moore has admirably chosen a different path. Like her movie character, she delivers a positive message to her peers: It's hip to be square. She may not be nearly as famous and beloved by the gossip columnists and cultural cognoscenti as her belly-button-baring rival Britney Spears, who'll do anything (e.g., writhe around half-naked with a cobra, booze up in Las Vegas, declare chocolate "better than an orgasm," and strip-tease in her first upcoming movie) for attention. But the commercial success of Miss Moore's movie is a welcome sign that a sizable number of young people hunger for entertainment that uplifts, rather than cultural junk food that constantly degrades and dehumanizes their generation.

My husband and I talk often about the kind of young lady we want our toddler to be. The task ahead - to raise a good daughter secure in her beliefs, willing to make unpopular choices, and confident of her inner beauty in a world that glamorizes follow-the-herd vulgarity -- is a daunting one. We applaud rare celebrity role models such as Miss Moore who demonstrate that the journey from girlhood to womanhood doesn't require shedding your morals.

Or your clothes.

JWR contributor Michelle Malkin can be reached by clicking here.

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© 2001, Creators Syndicate