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Nowadays, when a teenage girl opens up the latest issue of Vogue magazine, she mentally prepares herself ahead of time to accept all the images she will encounter. Anything in the magazine, whether it is an unrealistically slim model with flawless skin showing off her branded watch or a woman posing naked with a cheetah or an electric appliance, is normal and considered high fashion. The teenager has become immune to astonishment, overpowered by a numbing feeling as she has been exposed to the material countless times. The same numbing feeling controls people today when they see certain injustices or immoralities in society.
When an average middle class American sits down after a long day at work to watch the evening news, he or she is bombarded with seemingly redundant information. Headlines give away the day’s murders, rapes, thefts, international dilemmas along with the short lived positive moments such as one’s favorite football team making it to the playoffs. There are few reactions that are affective enough to motivate people to take steps towards changing the moral dilemmas in society. When the viewer sees this picture of a little girl so effortlessly smoking a cigarette, there is no sudden reaction, no emotions created.
Pierced ears displaying dangling earrings, a delicate necklace hugging her neckline, and a bikini showing off her prepubescent figure – the young girl is racing to get ahead of her time. It is in her childish nature to hold the desire for walking across the line and into the adult world. The cigarette cries out: Look! I can be just like you when I want. In fact, I can do it better! This girl fails to receive sympathy from the viewer. In fact, there are two kinds of people. First, there is the woman horrified to see another child displaying resentful and undisciplined behavior. Her thoughts race to find a plausible explanation: "the child obviously has unfit parents", "the child is a terrible role model for her sister", "she probably belongs to a ghetto", and "social workers need to do something about this". On the other hand, there is the man who, seeing the picture, does not give it another thought and throws it aside. To him, the child is another lost case and none of his worry as there is already millions like her in the world.
To me, this picture is the photographer’s reminder of where society is headed. This image is the proof that there is much work to be done and we must contemplate deeper on why are people becoming passive and numb to such moral dilemmas. Not only has the young girl been trapped into society’s corruption, but she poses a strong and imminent threat to those behind her, represented by the seemingly fearful girl sitting in the pool. The smoker represents the role model that the children look up to today – a confused individual that is void of guidance as well as moral values and education. There is a lack of education, culture, personality, well-roundedness, innocence, and purity in the young girl. In fact, this contains many social and ethical dangers, such as child abuse, pedophilia, health harms, and family disunity. The biggest harm and horror this picture shows is the fact that the upcoming generations are lost even before they are given the chance to be guided. These children are the world’s future leaders who are not being taught the skills or being given the tools to lead with. In fact, their leading is only by example and ignorance. The younger girl, in turn, represents the submissive and passive followers these leaders will have. Her facial expression and body position are premonitions of the kind of coward and vulnerable society that we can expect to build if things are not steered into the right direction.
Another point of view is that many people still do not possess the means to escape their harsh environments. A sympathetic viewer might surmise that the girls’ parents are stuck in an environment filled with hate, violence, lack of resources for their children, and lack of education. The girls’ only joy might be the kiddy pool they are in and their parents are most likely unaware of how quickly their daughter is getting trapped in the “real” world despite their efforts of keeping them safe from harm, as she is smoking right under their noses.