"Mama, you're Old Spice!"

An old Spice mom takes her daughter to 'Spice World' and discovers what 'girl power' is really about.

Published January 27, 1998 8:00PM (EST)

I never thought I would be one of those mamas who screeched, "Turn down that noise!" I never thought I'd find myself closing the kitchen door and muttering, "They call that music?!?" And I never thought I'd experience a band that left me longing for the wholesomeness of Madonna. But I'm living in a whole new world now, a world that has finally shattered all of my young punk rock resolutions "not to be the kind of mother who ..." I am living in Spice World. And I have become just that kind of mama.

Six days a week I share my apartment with a girl who claims to be my offspring, but goes by the name "Posh Spice." And on the seventh day, if the goddess does not intervene on my behalf, an assortment of other Spice club members invade my once-peaceful home. There is Maddi, age 9, aka "Sporty Spice"; Aurelia, 7, aka "Ginger Spice"; Tara, 7, aka "Baby Spice"; and Sinclaire, 8, who has been assigned the role of "Scary Spice." (Some names have been changed to protect the mothers' reputations.) When I hold my head in my hands, bemoaning my spiced fate, the entourage rushes in, singing, "Tell me what you want what you really, really want ... I'll tell you what I want what I really, really want ..." Then my daughter screams, "Mama! You're Old Spice!" And they all dance away, laughing hysterically.

These Spice Girls have been a mystery to me ever since they invaded our bland world last summer. The band is made up of five grown women who call themselves Sporty, Posh, Baby, Scary and Ginger (but who might as well be known as Dykey, Bitchy, Orally Fixated, Manic & Slutty). If you haven't yet had the pleasure, imagine a female version of Menudo. Or five Jenny McCarthys co-opting riot grrrl slogans. Or simply consider the Spice Girls motto: "Strength, courage and Wonderbras!" aimed at a 4-to-14-year-old female audience.

Basically, the Spice Girls are the anti-Christ. But since they don't have turntables anymore, I can't play their albums backwards to prove it. But enough of my whining. Maybe I should appreciate the fact that even "Old Spice" was invited on the club's first official outing: the long-awaited premiere of "Spice World," the movie.

Maddi's (Sporty's) mother came too, so I wasn't alone. The line stretched down the block -- an average of five Spice children (wearing Adidas, skin-tight bell-bottoms and half-shirts) waited with mortified mothers for their chance to see what "Girl Power" had been reduced to. Perhaps some of the other kids in line could have explained it all to me, but none of the five girls in my daughter's club were able to articulate exactly why they are so enamored with these British babes. When I asked "Sporty," she said, "I dunno, I just like their music." And when I asked my own daughter, she just gave me the signature "Posh" glare and said, "Go, Girl Power. Duh." And then stumped me with a question of her own: "Why are you writing an article about them, anyway, Mom? You are, like, so retro you don't even know how cool they are."

But once we were inside, munching on the Starbursts that Maddi's mom had smuggled into the theater, I think I finally caught a glimpse of the Spice Girls' coolness. Don't get me wrong, the movie truly sucked. The Spice Girls themselves are not cool. But the theater full of girls who had counted the days leading up to Jan. 23, girls who now danced, screamed and sang along like nothing I'd seen since "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," were having a blast.

The central message of the movie ("You can be anything you want to be as long as you wear a ton of makeup and dress like a Victoria's Secret model") is no worse than Barbie, and, as far as I'm concerned, better than either "Beauty and the Beast" or that damned mermaid. Because the message is not about boys. It's not about Ken and "happily ever after." Admittedly, it's not about power, either. And the militant feminist in me is horrified that I am even considering a positive spin on the Spice Brats. But it's silly, and it's fun. It is five little girls who couldn't care less what the boys think, and who will never, ever buy the line: "She was asking for it." As one friend, a rockin' mama who played in pre-riot grrrl punk bands in the '80s, told me: "We would've died to have girl groupies back then. But it was all guys. The girls were dolling themselves up for Duran Duran."

In a cinematic world where our heroines almost always end up dead or married, this mama can live with a little cleavage. So go, Girl Power. It could be worse.

By Ariel Gore

Ariel Gore is the editor of the parenting zine Hip Mama, the author of the Hip Mama Survival Guide and Maia's mom.

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