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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Squeal Like a Fan: Teen Obsession and Growing Up In Pop Culture

I remember the biggest craze, growing up, was either the fist fights between moms at Christmas over cabbage patch dolls OR The New Kids On The Block.  I remember the way my pubescent female friends swooned over the boy band.   I remember the clothes, the albums, the Trapper Keepers, the branded textbook covers and even the brown paper bag ones, scribbled in pen, with the words, “Mrs. Jordan Knight” or “Mrs. Donnie Wahlberg” or “Mrs. Joey McIntyre” and maybe one or two, “Mrs. Other New Kid.” Nobody loved Jonathan. What was the other one named, Marlin? Merrill? Oh, well.

But then these girls grew up and stopped obsessing over these boys from Boston and went onto other interests, “Mrs. Dylan McKay-Walsh.” Um… Ew.

So, now that these same girls are moms and they are forced to reckon with their past obsessions being reborn in their children as they see their daughters drool and squeal over the latest of bubblegum trends and while their daughters are scribbling “Mrs. Justin Bieber” all over their facebook walls, the moms are scribbling all over their grocery lists, “Mrs. Cullen-Black.” Um…. Ew2.

But there is the other side of the coin for teenage obsessions. Boys had their own likes in the world of pop culture. I whole heartedly remember having my own scribbles on my book covers, “Mr. Susanna Hoffs” and “Mr. Debbie Gibson.” Um… [facepalm].   I was also a huge fan of Erin Gray from Buck Rogers and Alyssa Milano, pre Phoebe Cates/Demi Moore short haircut. The walls in my bedroom were adorned with not one, but two posters of her; one wearing a big gray sweater and the other a New Jersey Devils sweater. Of course, I also had a door length poster of Samantha Fox in a swimsuit, too. Once I gave up the ghost of ever becoming the object of Samantha Micelli’s or Debbie Gibson’s affection, I moved on.  But I still kept the option open for Susanna Hoffs a little while longer.  Hey, it was the only reason for repeated watchings of The Allnighter.

Yet, like all childhood obsessions, we grow up and we grow out. I no longer scribble “Mr. So and So” and though I joke about all these things, like they actually happened, I still laugh at the mere thought of having such obsessions, even in smallest amounts. Of course, now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit my own squealing, today, over such goodies as Kristin Chenoweth and Giada De Laurentiis. Um… Yum. But it’s nothing compared to the pure hysteria seen today when Taylor Lautner appears before a crowd of pent up female wolf lovers at a showing of Eclipse in Pittsburgh. You can even see the blushing on the anchors of the local news team as they report footage of him leaving the theater, which was pretty much his hair and chin behind a bodyguard.  Sorry, no abs, ladies.

However, teens today perhaps or more savvy and learn to adjust quicker to memes and trends as seen in the lack of love ,these days, for Miley Cyrus. I’ve noticed in a few people that her choices in art and clothing has registered an out of tune note with some teens who actually “get it.” Just a couple of years ago, older teens were on the bandwagon with Paris Hilton’s and Britney Spears’ trashy lifestyle.  Even South Park made reference to it in the episode, “Stupid Spoiled Whore Video Playset.” Maybe we are seeing the pendulum of risk behavior begin to swing back the other way. One can only hope.

Now that Hannah Montana is scheduled to end we can be sure that there will still be “Miley Watch” as she most likely continues her musical and acting career. Except, now there will be no “Uncle Walt” telling her to go back upstairs and wipe that crap off her face. We’ve seen Britney hit rock bottom, maybe. We are now engrossed in the spectacle that is Lindsay heading to jail, a la Paris Hilton, which if she actually makes it to jail, she will most likely not serve the entire sentence. Frankly, it’s probably the best thing for her.

If Miley is smart she will recognize these examples of how not to conduct your privileged life, [begin rant] driving that post fame vehicle at high speeds, while under the influence, into a crosswalk full of nuns and then fleeing the scene as TMZ chases after you and Perez Hilton attempts to draw scribbles all over you.  [end rant] She still wants to focus on her career but needs to carry those tween fans that are starting to get older and smarter as well as attract new fans that can relate and identify with her music. She’s opted to not go to college which is probably dumb move number one. There are plenty of stars out there who balanced the best of both worlds, fame and a good education. She says she can always go back. I said the same thing when I graduated, with a theater degree, 12 years ago. I still have yet to finish an application.

I have another piece of advice for Miley. If you plan on focusing on your career then start networking with people, with proven track records, who can help you. And If you plan on continuing to act, I HIGHLY suggest doing some theater. Even if it’s Off-Off Broadway you cannot discount the experience as anything but helpful and enriching. The chance to collaborate with creative people in that kind of environment is one of the best resume and experience builders there is. Work on those acting chops and learn from those who know how to do it. Stay away from the Glitter and Crossroads type of films and pay your dues in grease paint and stage lights. You’ll be a better person for it. If you are worried that taking a break from the bubblegum pop set will hurt your career then you already realize that your fame is probably fleeting. Maybe college isn’t such a bad idea. I suggest business or media and communications in your case. You’ve got a brand to uphold. Don’t blow it.

There were a lot of fallen idols in my teenage years.   We just saw Corey Haim and Gary Coleman die this year.   Yet, the level of partying and addiction seems a lot less classy then it did in the 80s.  When I recently discussed the parallels of Lindsay Lohan's life with those of the 80s starlets I was reminded of a hysterical, yet sad but true, sketch from Saturday Night Live entitled "America's Most Wanted: Former Child Stars" which recounted The Barrymore Gang.  I wondered if SNL would try to dust off the sketch and update it to today's stars and fads with Lindsay, Britney, and Miley.  I was then told that even in her worst days, Drew Barrymore held more sense of class than Lindsay ever could.  This got me to thinking, "Maybe the drug scene was more chic and glamorized in the 80s than now."  Shows like Breaking Bad and Weeds portray the lives of drug dealers but it's not like Bright Lights Big City and Less Than Zero. It's more like, toothless, penniless, running around in your underwear with a .44 tucked into the waistband of your BVDs instead of the glitz and glamour or the neon party scene. Maybe it really was a downward spiral of seedy motels and bathrooms and we didn't have the paparazzi and bloggers to document the cracks in the painted facades. 

And on that downard note, I’ll get off my soapbox now and back to scribbling “Mr. …”  Hmm.

How is Markie Post looking these days?

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