Rabbis like Rav Avigdor Miller or Rav Itamar Schwartz say things that sound shocking or funny to our ears, but that's only because of the low level to which our generation has sunk.
The frum world has borrowed so much from the non-Jewish world (after undergoing some kind of "kashering" process, of course), it's very difficult to know what's really okay.
Authentic Judaism can sound or look strange (or even offensive) to us because we got used to (or in some cases, have only been fed) the kashered non-Jewish version of things.
Objectively speaking, the copying itself is nonsensical, especially in light of Yirmiyahu 16:19 & what Rashi says about it (which is the Haftarah for Parshat Bechukotai).
"Kosher" Music? Chassidic Pop?
It seemed cool, catchy, and creative.
For those of us raised on totally non-Jewish pop music, this eased the transition from the secular world to the frum world.
However, the price paid was that most of us never adjusted to authentic Jewish niggunim, which actually benefit the mind & soul.
I remember listening to a good-quality CD of authentic Chassidish niggunim sung acapella, and feeling so moved by it.
Yet I never managed to fully let go of pop music and even today, I have what they call "chassidic pop" on my MP4 (along with some acapella).
I remember a cute, catchy song with frum lyrics and it never occurred to me it was lifted from the secular world.
Yet on a trip to the US, I was shocked to hear that same song with an incredibly filthy concept & deplorable lyrics, and wondered who on earth thought that would be a good song to "kasher" for presentation in the frum community. I was also shocked it was played on the public radio because only 10 years earlier, it wouldn't have been. By the way, my children were right there, but we were in a car and the person driving refused to change the station even after I politely requested. (So much for the "nice tolerant Liberal" stereotype...)
But now, our children have been born into this music style and don't know any different.
In other words, normal and authentic Jewish music sounds strange or unattractive to most of them.
That's just one example.
What's Wrong with Copying the Secular World of Marketing?
It was dismaying to see the ads for children's clothes (especially in preparation for such holy chagim like Pesach and the Days of Awe).
The ads posed the frum boy models in poses and facial expressions that were obvious imitation of the non-Jewish ads. A minority were posed or photographed in a way to disguise the kippah.
But the ads for girls' clothing were really disturbing.
In one, the girl (who looked around age 5-7) wore a dulled facial expression & heavy black eyeliner on the lower rim of her eyes.
This reminded me of the "heroin chic" popular in the 1990s, so called because of the models styled to look sick & dying particularly pale & gaunt bodies, heavy eyeliner under the eyes and a general pale-faced, sunken-eye look reminiscent of those suffering from an intense long-term addiction to heroin.
(They also looked more like young men or gender-neutral, despite the fact that they were indeed female models.)
Alternatively, they looked like they were dying of disease.
The above associations aren't surprising, given the orientation & lifestyle of the mostly male fashion designers who promoted the look.
Yet here, a charedi magazine features a full-page ad with a little innocent Jewish girl made up in this disgusting style. (Also, first-graders do not need make-up, and certainly not thick black eyeliner or popsicle-red lipstick).
The majority of the ads featured little girls in heavy makeup, overly styled hair, come-hither pouts, and non-Jewish clothing styles.
In non-Jewish America, the heavy makeup required in some popular child pageants (making 6-year-old faces look 14) continues to be controversial, especially after one 6-year-old pageant queen was murdered in her home in Colorado.
Yet here, a charedi magazine in Israel features page after page of very little girls all dolled up — not to look like sweet bridesmaids, but to look like somebody's disco date in the non-Jewish world.
The idealization of the transgression of basic halacha also bothered me.
For example, red is a problematic color in Judaism. (Certain types of red accents are okay.) It's more problematic for women than men, but Jewish men are not supposed to walk around wearing red suits either.
(For more clarification, please see: Red in Women's Clothing and Man Wearing Red Clothes. Please also note that the answering rav doesn't just pull a rabbit out of a hat, but actually presents solid well-known sources.)
Yet in one ad, a kindergartner was dressed head to toe in scarlet red: her hair-bow, her dress, her tights, her shoes...everything was scarlet red. And she was posed in a way that made her skirt rise way up.
What message is being given here?
Also, in every issue of this magazine, every single ad for girls clothing featured girls in short skirts.
Not one featured a skirt that covered the knee.
Halacha differs according to community; some say that from age 3 girls need to dress modestly while others say from age 5.
This is not because we are pervs (although some people are & with extremely young marriage acceptable throughout human history & still today in some significant parts of the world, it pays to take any precautions available).
There is also the ideal of chinuch.
Dressing girls modestly is no different than putting tzitzit and kippahs on boys from age 3 or habituating them to sleep in the sukkah from age 5.
6-year-old boys without kippahs or tzitzit suffer no sin and 6-year-old girls in pants or short skirts suffer no sin, but it's not good for THEM to allow breaches.
But when you feature ads in a charedi which EVERY SINGLE girl (including those above the age of chinuch) wears a short skirt (against the halacha of all communities), you're glorifying miniskirts (and alluring hair and heavy inappropriate makeup).
How is it different than featuring Jewish children eating bacon double-cheeseburgers? Or turning off a light on Shabbos? Or punching someone in the face?
These problematic ads all declare "THIS is desirable! THIS is the ideal!"
Zman cheiruteinu? It's taking the culture of "Mitzrayim" with us into the Pesach Redemption.
We want to be free of the suffocating, degrading impositions of a degenerate society.
Unfortunately, part of the social conditioning is that when someone like me mentions this as problematic, I become the target for criticism & accusations.
Because I (well, halacha, actually) opposes short skirts beyond a certain age and scarlet red garments and popsicle-red lipstick, much of the non-Jewish world sees people like me as (let's use refined language) "objectifying" very little girls.
But people like me AREN'T the ones objectifying them.
We aren't the ones dressing them up in pritzadig clothes, scarlet red, makeup inappropriate for a grown woman let alone a kindergartner, and "heroin chic."
The fashion & "entertainment" industry and the marketing departments are objectifying these children; it's not people like me.
And if you had any clue about what goes on behind the scenes of the fashion & "entertainment" industry with regard to children, you would understand why they are so gung-ho about objectifying children in this way and why they respond so defensively & mockingly against anyone who tries to curb them.
There are people who go nuts the minute you want to make women or girls more modest, as if it's a personal outrage.
Why are they so against women & girls NOT displaying their body?
Who is the real degenerate here?
The Last Place I Expected to See THIS!
How many times have you watched a shiur that included inappropriate images (including pagan occult symbols) or language?
Probably the designers simply meant to attract a wider audience to an important Torah message, and so they copied styles from the non-Jewish world in an effort to make the message more attractive and appealing.
In the interest of full disclosure, I've also needed to replace or edit images on my own site when I realized they either violated halacha or weren't in the spirit of Torah.
So I'm far from perfect about this myself. (But I'm trying.)
(Here is an issue that took me by surprise, for example: Making or Taking the Image of the Sun. Never heard of it until I came across it there.)
I've also gone back to edit posts, sometimes in hindsight & sometimes when a reader called a language-problem to my attention.
With popular rabbis, please know that they rarely manage their website or videos themselves. OTHER PEOPLE set up the website and images, including the graphics used in their video shiurim.
But if the hired people display something inappropriate, it makes the rabbi look guilty even though he may have no awareness of it.
(A lot of people don't realize that these busy people trust others to manage their website and will often not know what they aren't told. They deliver their essay to their website manager, but may not see the actual website after it's published. Also, they don't necessarily read every email; with so many emails repeating the same questions, they leave it to staff to sift through & answer much of it. In other words, the staff may decide what the rabbi ends up seeing. If they don't want or think he needs to see it, he probably won't.)
Once, I wanted to read an article by a rabbi who, among other topics, stressed the importance of personal holiness.
Imagine my dismay to see the newest post featured a freshly published book (by someone else) with an unrefined title in block letters.
Within 24 hours, that post had been taken down as if it never existed. I assume that someone alerted the rabbi to the issue, and he had it taken down immediately — much to his credit.
It never happened again.
But you see that it can happen.
On another site (which, again, emphasized the great importance of shemirah & personal holiness & living a spiritual life), I noticed one image used for a blog post, which contained blatant erva. It was one of these old paintings of Roman or Greek events, a busy painting in which you might not immediately notice that there are serious halachic issues with it, and likely chosen by a female graphic designer who is less sensitive to these issues and just wanted a really cool image to go with the topic.
So I emailed them to let them know. I noted it in the subject of the email so it wouldn't be missed, and wrote 2 or 3 sentences about the issue, indicating that I also gave them the benefit of the doubt that it was an oversight and not done on purpose.
When I checked a month later, the image was still there.
By the way, you SHOULD write to websites and magazines to let them know you disapprove of their images or topics.
Don't be nasty or verbose or use ALL CAPS or tons of outraged exclamation points (!!!!!!!!!!!).
Just briefly state the problem and why it's a problem, preferably in 3 sentences or less.
Most of the time it's an honest oversight or financial pressure (like with ads).
Very occasionally, you might have an Erev Rav person in there somewhere who is corrupting things on purpose.
Writing letters to the publication can rein in that person, and even eventually get them ousted (because someone somewhere will realize that there is a REAL problem and not just mistakes).
However, these Erev Rav types (being conniving & lacking conscience) try to set up innocent people for blame instead — which is another reason why your letter should be sensible & polite; you don't want an innocent person to suffer the repercussions while the Erev Rav person continues gleefully along his or her way.
No, I'm not making this up.
It's Not Our Fault & Hashem Still Loves Us Very Much...But at Least We Shouldn't Sleep Through It All; We Still Need to Try
Men cannot discuss female tsniyus (dressing & behaving with dignity) at all without being called all sorts of names and enduring all sorts of accusations (usually lobbed at them by ignorant brainwashed females), which is I think why rabbis rarely discuss the prohibitions displayed in these ads & so on. (I think it's also personally uncomfortable for them to dwell on thinking about it too much, which I also respect.)
But I'm a woman, so it's easier for me to discuss it, even though there are still people who will think I'm awful or deluded for seeing things this way.
I just want to give us all the benefit of the doubt.
We're surrounded by so much "borrowing" and "kashering," it has become genuinely difficult to know what's good and what's not, what's Jewish and what's not, what's spiritually healthy and what's not.
And it's not our fault. We just need to try.
May Hashem please forgive & atone for our distorted thinking & confusion, and may He please grant us the clarity to always decide properly & to appreciate the real beauty of Torah.