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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

J Lo Mania Is Hardly a Chip Off the Old Block

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I wouldn't say that there's nothing I like about Jennifer Lopez. I can respect her determination and the hard work she puts into crafting her image. But if it were up to me, she wouldn't be my 6-year-old daughter's role model.

Twenty-five years ago, when you asked little girls whom they wanted to be like, they almost always replied, "My mother." It seemed to me that I deserved to hear those words from my own child. Nothing does more to boost your self-respect or to justify the humdrum lives that most of us live.

Alas, my heartless daughter said she wants to be like J Lo, whose most notable assets are located just south of her back and north of her legs and which are insured, if you believe the tabloids, to the tune of $1 million.

Literature teachers in Soviet schools affirmed the superiority of content over form, spirit over flesh, emotions over intellect. Children of my generation knew that it was her sincere lack of self-interest that made Natasha Rostova (from Lev Tolstoy's "War and Peace") special. We knew, like Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby, that money cannot buy the treasures of the heart. And that Alexander Pushkin's "Covetous Knight" was punished above all for his avarice.

The ideal was there to be found throughout pre-modern literature: Man should live the spiritual life, eschewing material gain. Outward success means nothing, for what is truly fine about us lies far below the polished surface in our hearts and souls.

And if we envied the neighbor who ran a warehouse, and therefore had access to all sorts of deficit goods, who lived in a three-room apartment with rugs on the walls, who drove a Volga and who vacationed on the Black Sea every summer, we also mildly despised him for his involvement in such mundane and mercantile matters.

The general absence of outwardly successful people on Soviet television also shaped our outlook.

There was no shortage of famous women of course -- Valentina Tereshkova, Alla Pugachyova and Indira Ghandi, the most famous female politician in the Soviet Union. But in the absence of the whole concept of "high society" in the Soviet Union, these remarkable women to us were humble professionals -- the first woman cosmomaut, the famous singer, the prime minister of India. They were not the stuff that idols are made of. And their appearances on television were strictly limited. Pugachyova would sing on "Pesnya Goda" (Song of the Year) or "Novogodny Ogonyok" (New Year's Fire). We heard about Ghandi on the news, and about Tereshkova on programs about the space program.

We knew plenty of famous screen sirens and dashing leading men of the cinema, of course. Photographs of Elina Bystritskaya and Alain Delon, clipped from the only magazine about the "society life," Soviet Screen, adorned the walls of children's bedrooms and student dormitories from the Black Sea to the White Sea.

But wanting to be like Robert Taylor, the star of the movie "Waterloo Bridge," meant nothing more than wanting to be a hunk and to attract lots of women. In the same way, when girls said they wanted to be like Tereshkova, they meant nothing more than that they wanted to grow up and travel to outer space.

In more traditional families, where a woman was respected first and foremost for her ability to manage the household, a woman who could do all that while holding down a job and raising a child was the ideal. And that ideal was often unattainable, for tradition dictated that parents maintain a certain distance between themselves and their children.

For this reason, children and parents didn't see one another as living, breathing human beings.

Today, I have a much better understanding of my own mother. But when I was a little girl, she seemed to me the ideal woman. I wanted to be like her not just in appearance and ability, but entirely. The whole package.

Just like my daughter now wants to be like Jennifer Lopez.

I find that a little disturbing. A mediocre actress and an average singer best known for her unfortunate taste in men and her messy divorces, a tabloid princess, should not disturb the hearts and minds of our children.

I suppose it's not hard to figure out what happened. Television these days shows us an unending procession of successful people. Their successes are often blown completely out of proportion, but nevertheless they become stars -- just like the cookie cutter pop singers who come off the assembly line of the show "Fabrika Zvyozd" or "Star Factory." Compared to our domestic stars, I suppose, J Lo looks pretty good. At least she understands that money, scandal and a million-dollar insurance policy on her most enticing body part do not keep her fit and supple. As a professional, she puts in the hard work to stay in shape. In Russia, conscientious stars like this are few and far between.

Little girls don't understand any of this, of course. They're ga-ga for Senorita Lopez because she's pretty, she dresses well and she jumps around in her music videos in ways that the Russian pop star Kristina Orbakaite can't even dream of. Six-year-olds are also fond of things that seem to come from another world. And they like to sing along in their own version of English.

As a mother, however, I would like my daughter's idol to look and sound different. For me, Jennifer Lopez respresents not so much the triumph of flesh over spirit, but of flash and glitz over substance and good taste. But I don't know how to make this happen in this day and age, when even "highbrow" culture is dominated by Nikolai Baskov, who spends most of his time crooning on an endless series of variety shows and gala concerts.

My child loves me, of course. She listens to my opinions and obediently changes the channel when she notices that I'm wincing at the sight of Syrian-born pop star Avraam Russo or the group Korni (Roots). But her love is stripped of reverence. She sees me as a real person to whom she can say things like: "You walk funny" and "Your eyebrows are like hedgerows."

She betrays no desire whatsoever to be like her mother when she grows up. And when I pester her with stupid questions like "Why don't you want to be like me when you grow up?", she replies: "You want me to have a waist that big?" With unconcealed horror on her face.

God bless you, J Lo.

Zaira Abdullaeva, a freelance journalist based in Moscow, contributed this essay to The Moscow Times.