carrieI hope Carrie didn’t run to check her twitter feed the moment she stepped off stage, because some of the comments made me cringe.

Most of them were written, mind you, by people who would be terrified to attempt what she did.

Full disclosure: I was one of the critics for about fifteen minutes. I “liked” a few funny facebook comments about her. And it was hard not to be a home heckler as I watched The Sound of Music Live in the same room as my brother, who provides commentary more entertaining than an episode of Mystery Science Theater 2000.

At one point I thought, “Poor thing. She is not used to the athleticism required for musical theater. You really have to be in shape. She’s out of breath!”

That thought was immediately followed by a stinging memory of that afternoon, when I had been out of breath myself. Apparently, you really have to be in shape to bring in groceries from the car.

Man, we are a critical bunch. When I took a close look at Carrie and at myself, here is how we measured up last night.

Carrie: wearing a braided wig over her awesome honeyspun hair
Me: wearing a beanie over my awesome greasy hair

Carrie: sporting dirndl after adorable dirndl
Me: sporting a long-sleeved t-shirt with a down vest and holey jeans and thick socks

Carrie: looking like her absolutely stunning self
Me: looking like Adam Sandler (pick any movie)

Carrie: dancing in heels, up and down winding staircases and over fake hills and fake fountains
Me: sitting on the couch, remembering the time I danced in a recital when I was five

Carrie: singing with incredible strength, keeping step with Tony-award-winning musical theater artists
Me: sitting on the couch, remembering the time I sang in a couple talent shows in college

Carrie: acting in front of a national audience
Me: sitting on the couch, remembering the time I acted in high school in front of a bunch of parents and grandparents

Carrie: trying something completely new to her, turning her face to the spotlight on a different kind of stage, championing all fear of criticism, and doing it all on LIVE television for three hours straight
Me: sitting on the couch for three hours straight

And Carrie wins by a landslide!

Since last night I have read enough times that “Carrie Underwood is no Julie Andrews.” Are you Julie Andrews? Put down that maple nut scone and answer me! Are you?

I don’t think anyone is Julie Andrews anymore. She has become a statue of the past. Not even Julie Andrews is Julie Andrews. We have idolized her and Audrey Hepburn and all of the rest of them. But idols don’t move. They don’t change. They stay as they are, frozen. The real, breathing women and men have to move on, even if we don’t want them to. I’m glad Audrey didn’t live in the twitter age. We might have broken her heart.

(How we tend to remember her.)
(How we tend to remember her.)
older Audrey
(How she might have wanted to be remembered.)

The truth is: Carrie Underwood is not Julie Andrews. Carrie Underwood is Carrie Underwood. She’s a living person. She is not an inanimate idol. She is a real person with a real soul. She is somebody’s daughter and somebody’s friend. She smiles when she is affirmed and cries when she is brutalized, just like we do. And on her worst week, she is doing a lot more than most of us do in a year. Even her legs are a Pinterest phenomenon. Most of our legs are under Snuggies right now.

Maybe acerbic public criticism doesn’t hurt seasoned stars like Carrie.

But I think it hurts our children. We can’t run up to the schoolhouse and beg for a parent conference because our child is being made fun of at recess, when we are making fun of someone else’s child at home. (Don’t pretend she can’t read what you write; she can.) We can’t expect our children to be the kind of people who will try something new and brave, when they hear us chopping those kind of people to bits.

It is not enough to tell children that risks are worth taking.

We have to let them hear us applauding the people who take them.

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