Thursday, April 24, 2008

Kids Incorporated

David Archuleta's going to win American Idol -- you may as well get that through your head right now.

It doesn't matter that he's a short, somewhat frumpy kid who always looks like he just got his ass kicked for his lunch money at recess, or that his willowy voice conveys all the passion and soul of Muzak, or that he actually admitted on national television -- without even a hint of irony -- that John Farnham is one of his favorite artists, or that Michael Jackson is already trying to figure out a way to get his smooth young body to Neverland. None of it makes any difference, because Archuleta has the one thing that matters -- tragically, the only thing that matters these days: The unwavering worship of every 13-year-old girl in America.

The 'tweens are legion, they are powerful, and they will see to it that David Archuleta is crowned boy king of the pop culture universe. In a couple of months, they'll have his face plastered everywhere you look -- and only the little girls themselves, and maybe NAMBLA, will have reason to rejoice over it.

But here's the thing: It doesn't have to be like this.

Never has there been a seeming eventuality -- in this case, a cultural zeitgeist -- that was easier to stave off.

All adults have to do, is take back the world from their kids.

Don't pretend that you don't know what I'm talking about, because it's become impossible to ignore: A generation of parents who spoil their children rotten -- hubristically buying into the notion that their specific spawn is somehow special and deserving of society's deference -- combined with the technology that gives every computer or text savvy kid a voice, whether he or she deserves one or not, has conspired to hijack a good portion of what we see and hear. It's a Wiki world, one in which a vocal majority can literally rewrite the rules and twist reality to suit its needs, and right now, the 'tweens are the most vocal -- and what they need, apparently, are crappy, overproduced, Disneyfied Stepford Teens to scream for and sing along to.

This is why Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers are all but inescapable right now -- and why David Archuleta is next.

Last night on American Idol, that palisade of democratic instant gratification, Carly Smithson got the hook, while utterly forgettable, high-all-the-time retard Jason Castro lived to annoy another day. The reason Smithson was sent packing, particularly as opposed to Castro, is obvious: she had nothing to offer the wild-eyed 'tween girl demographic. Without at least a portion of this fan base, no one on Idol stands a chance these days. Talent doesn't matter, nor does personality; all that really counts is the innate ability to give America's cell phone armed rugrats something to either fantasize about or aspire to.

I've always had an issue with parents who allow their children to take over their lives, turning them into frazzled, Nickelodeon-watching, Wiggles-vs.-Zach & Cody-debating, shadows of their former selves -- the kind of people who once listened to The Clash and now have no issue with mortgaging the home to buy Miley Cyrus tickets. It's one thing to let parenthood change you -- to rightly make your kids a priority; it's another thing to completely forfeit your identity and become nothing more than an extension of your child's tastes. In years past, this kind of sloughing off of the various predilections that make someone an adult didn't have the far-reaching effect that it does today; before the age of viral transmission, YouTubed kingmaking and iRule, prepubescents didn't really have the ability to inflict their will on the rest of us. But all that's changed now that text messaging and the internet have allowed for the creation of a hive mind -- and what's worse, one that's turned Generation-Y into one big conduit/amplifier for whatever's been cleverly marketed in its direction. It's no longer a kid grabbing Mommy's sleeve and screaming, "I want that!" It's a kid hooking into the Borg and joining with every other kid in the country, then voting and calling and posting and commenting and asserting power in every way possible until his or her request is no longer a request but a demand, and one that's been handily brought to fruition. In the chaos theory of popular culture, all it takes anymore is a few butterflies flapping their wings to start a tempest that becomes a juggernaut. The 'tweens decide what they want, the parents follow, the lapdog media that are always on the lookout for the Next Big Thing trumpet it, and before you know it, it's unavoidable -- on every TV and radio and in every magazine and department store across the nation.

The easiest way to change this would be to simply stop allowing them to have such a deafening voice. Believe it or not, adults are still in charge; they can say "no" once in awhile, or take away the cell phones attached to their children's ears, or pry their hands away from the computer keyboards. The bottom line is that what a bunch of little Veruca Salts want, particularly when it comes to entertainment, is what the rest of us are getting stuck with -- and I didn't grow older, endure bad relationships, a drug addiction and various harsh disappointments, and now pay an exorbitant rent and $4.15-a-gallon for gas so that I can have David Fucking Archuleta rammed down my throat by some lovestruck 12-year-old.

To twist a lyric from The Doors -- they've got the numbers, but we've got the guns.

Or in this case, the plugs.

Pull 'em.


Anonymous said...

Hey Inara's daddy--Talk to me in 12 years, buddy!--One Who Knows Whereof She Speaks

Chez said...

Well, that didn't take long.

That's alright, we'll get the unbelievably obvious responses out of the way first.

BV said...

Hike your pants up and tell those kids to get of your damn lawn.


trish said...

Didn't you say last week that you were going to vote for Cook?

Chez said...

And I did -- five times actually.

Anonymous said...

Stop slumming with the tweens. You pick up tiger beat or whatever and you get what you deserve. How many channels you got? Pick an adult one.

dammitjanet said...

Ok, I have teens at home who DON'T run my house cause they know, no matter how old ol' mom is, she'll still kick their little asses. I don't hesitate to take the phone/computer/tv/etc away. They work, they go to school, they are on honor roll. By god, when my son gets in my van, what cd does he invariably pop in? None of that teeny-bopper, it's Clapton, or the Who, or Madness....cause I've raised 'em better than that. They don't have to have Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister or whatever the hot fad is this week, just whatever is comfortable. My 16 year old daughter knows she has to save her own money to buy her own car, cause I am too poor to buy her one. Kids are spoiled and the parents are to blame. Thanks for ruining the next generation, and the world, fuckers.

b80vin said...

There's nothing more over-rated than a child's innocence. And by innocence I don't mean the ignorance of horror, I mean the ignorance of disappointment, the basic knowledge that the world does not exist for their amusement and contentment. The pressure for parents to insure their children's JOY is wholly criminal. Childhood is a transitional state that ends in a lifetime of adulthood with all its varied moods, it's just selfish to give your children everything they want so YOU'LL feel good knowing that they'll grow up in a world ambivalent to their needs. Yeah you got yourself a princess there, but she's going to live most of her life in a world that thinks of her as just another pauper.

sparksinner said...

You got my word Chez. I will NOT succumb to the bullshit mediocrity you're ranting about. I have 2 kids, 3.5 year-old boy and 15-month girl.

They've both been exposed to Neil Young and love it. They both rock with the Black Keys and love it. Thanks to mommy we listen to more classical music than anything else. They both like to sit with books and page through. Even the little one will sit with her brother's books about cars and trucks, exclaiming and pointing with great excitement.

My boy watches some Sesame Street in the morning, maybe 20-30 minutes, but only if he's had his breakfast, taken a leak and gotten himself dressed. After dinner, assuming it all went without drama he gets maybe another 20-30 minutes, but it's Clifford or Barney. Both those shows are fucking awful, but to the best of my knowledge it isn't poisonous.

How's this for saying "no." Few days ago I told him he could watch some TV in the evening after his dinner. As I cleaned him up I asked if he'd watched TV that morning with mommy. He said "no." So I asked him again and told him if he lied to me there would be no TV tonight. Still "no." Gave him a few more chances but he stuck with it. So I called mommy and of course, "yes he watched Sesame Street." So no TV. Less than 5 minutes of drama on the couch and he's off in his room playing with his trains. It's that fucking simple.

Anyway, another great post. Couldn't agree more. For a minute you sounded like John Rosemond (, which is a good thing.

Jessie said...

Funny you should mention this..

I was talking to my 15 year old cousin the other day about Ernest Hemingway--but she literally had no idea who he was. She asked me if he was the lead singer of a new band. However, if you were to talk about Miley Cyrus, you've got her talking as if Miley was the greatest thing to roam the planet.

Sigh. I'm only 23 but somehow I've become so jaded. (Although, I must say-I do love David Cook.)

Michael J. West said...

I second the previous commenter. Children, frankly, are sociopaths until you teach them that there's something bigger and more important than they and their immediate gratification.

David Cook or no, you're not actually going to ALLOW that shit in your house once your daughter is born, are you, Chez?

Stephen said...

First of all, Dammitjanet...your son throws in a Madness CD? That's just friggin' awesome...I'm going straight home to watch my Young Ones DVDs now.

Secondly, let's put things in perspective here. For all the crap that's going on in the present, we are living in a time where most of us are far better off than our parents and grandparents were. There is more money to spread around and for the most part better living conditions.
I'm not condoning spoiling your children, but there are certainly going to be things that I can do with/for or buy for my child that my parents could never do for me...and I'll be happy to do so.
Let's not condemn a whole generation of parents just because their children happen to be moist for Fez, Jr.....especially since Fox and Disney are such a small slice of the overall entertainment pie.

That being said, I understand your passion. I'm always ready for a tactical nuclear strike on Philadelphia every time the Eagles beat the Giants.

Manny said...

Ah, where to begin. I've preached the same sermon to my family and anyone else with kids that'll listen.

We took television out of our house years ago and haven't looked back since. Sure, it would be nice to turn on the electric babysitter when we just need a fucking breather, but we know that the long term benefits of forcing them to interact or read or play outside are worth a few more of our adult brain cells. I like to think that because of this, our girls Christmas lists now consist of books, desks, clothes and art supplies.

We've taught them to take care of themselves, because they're the only person they can depend on when they get out into the world.

Sure, they get exposed to the Miley Spears Hiltonhan fiasco when they leave the confines of our humble home, but they know the difference between healthy reality and Disney's mass marketed, pre-packaged, ribbed for Disney's pleasure reality. Mindless fun is healthy in small doses, but not when it replaces mindful parenting.

By the way, their Ipods have Al Green, Rise Against, Prince, and Jack Johnson.

Pen Dragon said...

Back in my day (which was surprisingly recent) it was the parents who imposed their tastes on the kids. So I grew up listening to Mozart and Paul Simon, and watching thinky 70s movies.
Did I ever try to sneak some modern stuff in? I certainly did, and was soundly overruled each and every time. It's an invaluable experience. Everyone, especially selfish children (but I repeat myself) should have it regularly.
Oh, and we NEVER watched TV. Not ever. That probably helped.

Anonymous said...

Hi, it's me again, Barbara, author of the very first, obvious comment. And I am lucky that my daughter never has forced me to attend a concert with her, nor have I had to mortgage the house (well, for her anyway). But there are so many things you WILL do for your kids you never imagined you would, including buying them an ipod to put their Jack Johnson on. My point was really more that once the child is born, the desire to do whatever you can for them kicks in and never stops. And my parents were and are far better off than I will ever be, and bought me far more than we can afford to buy our daughter. In fact, when she wants a big ticket item, she goes right over our heads to grandma and grandpa. I'm rambling, I know, but I just want it understood that my original point was just that you have no idea what you can get roped into purchasing until little precious is standing in front of you begging, manipulating, putting forth well thought out arguments, and throwiing your own words back in your face. Good luck is all I meant!

VOTAR said...


Overall I'd say that this phenomenon is only as disturbing as you let it become.

I have no children + I do not watch American Idol = Therefore, an army of Veruca Salts does not ram David Archuleta down my throat.

Does it bother me that one day Veruca will be too busy text messaging her BFF to check on my colostomy bag and change my hospital bedsheets?

Yeah, but for now, I'll take solace in watching her on the AVI file her boyfriend shot on his cellphone and uploaded to XTube of her getting bukkake'd by his buddies on the junior varsity baseball team.

Chez said...

Thanks Barbara. : )

LizinPA said...

Hey, you gotta problem with Miley Cyrus?

(ha ha ha...maniacal laughter)

I am fortunate that we have a WIDE range of CDs on our 300CD changer, and she only has one of them. We dance to everything from Miley (of course) to Beastie Boys to Trick Pony to the Carpenters (forced on my in my youth) to "Whoomp there it is!" and more.

But let's be didn't take me long before I just went with it and danced along with her, b/c frankly it's fun to see how much she enjoys herself.

Food for thought.

Oh, but the rant is well-placed. I do have some solace in that They Might Be Giants now makes children's music...or maybe that's even more depressing. Hmm...

Steve & Stepher said...

This. Is. Brilliant!

(said the childfree) Stepher

Deacon Blue said...

As sort of a follow-on of Barbara's latest post, I have to warn you, Chez, that you may be able to steer your daughter to good taste early, or you may not. You may be able to keep her from TV (if that's your wish) and you may not. Several posters have proudly shared with you the power of parenting with firmness and discipline. And more power to 'em...and maybe you'll be able to have similar luck. But parents who have relatively trouble-free children often assume that every child can be corralled.

But remember that your daughter is going to have a personality out of the starting gate just about, and no one...not even someone with as much force of will and character as gonna change that. In fact, if personality is genetic, prepare for a little girl who will match you for will and assertivness.

This isn't a lecture, btw, just some friendly sharing from the 40-year-old father of a now almost 3-year-old. (And it's my first bio kid and the only kid I've been around as a baby day to day...when I first made the acquaintance of my now 16-year-old stepson, he was already nearly 4).

I could never have prepared myself for how willful (and charmingly manipulative) my little girl could be. She's wonderful, amazing, sweet, smart and aware...but she's also as stubborn as they come. Keep her away from the mass marketed DVDs and children's music CDs? Hah! I work from does my wife...and the little girl spent the first year of her life at home (no baby daycare). Even now, she only goes to daycare three days a week. And she refuses to play alone 90% of the time, so if it weren't for the idiot box, no bills would ever get paid.

You're about to go on a wild ride, Chez. It's gonna be a thrill...but it will also wear even you out at times. I pray you can keep the David Archuletas out of Inara's life along with all other manner of nonsense.

Just don't be surprised if you fail despite your best efforts.

And if Inara goes to the dark side, fear not...she'll get payback when she has kid(s) of her own.

God bless ya, Chez...may you raise an anti-Veruca Salt. :-)

Girl With Curious Hair said...

You realize that in order for parents to "take away the cell phones attached to their children's ears, or pry their hands away from the computer keyboards" they would have to do more than buy stuff and hand them over. These things take energy, thought and discipline. It's usually easier to buy their children's affections with things and distract them with shiny toys--the same way they are distracted by shiny things.

And for the record, yes I spoil (other people's) children every chance I get; and no I don't have children. If I did, they wouldn't be raised by the TV and Internet.

The Freelance Guru said...

Ohhhh! But he would be so much fun to pick on!

Artemisian said...

Hear hear. Though I'd like to state my pride that Australian Idol managed to have Damien Leith, a 30 year old Irish man with bad teeth and a beautiful falsetto who sang Radiohead as a winner. High point of the entire franchise, if you ask me. I feel that little bit higher on the cultural rung.

Ally said...

Brilliant post, as always - and I have to echo what so many others have written. With a 10 yr old daughter, we are subjected *sparingly* to the Cyrus virus, the Jonas geeks and the whole Disney thing.

Luckily, we're doing something right: there are no demands, no splurges...actually, not much more evidence than a poster hanging in her room. Her iPod contains her Latin lessons and music from my library...I can't even picture taking my daughter to a concert at her age - it's never crossed my mind. Mainly, I guess, because she can't stay up past nine o'clock, no matter how many naps she takes. (She's very much like her dad in that respect...)

Everything in moderation, I suppose. I don't for a second pat myself on the back for doing such a wonderous parenting job; more like, "we're safe...for now...." kinda thought. We also pepper our life with more than just the entertainment media, (living on a farm has its perks) so perhaps that's the diff. But I have friends exactly like what you talk about, and I just wrote a paper in Child Psychology on the topic that got rave reviews. Sound your horn, bro - parents need this message, badly.

Anonymous said...

The only difference between the tween's today and from when we were their age is mass communication gives them a vote. The current batch has the inescapable Hannah Montana while our generation had the completely inexplicable Leif Garret, Rex Smith and Bay City Rollers (or maybe closer to your age ..Menudo). That batch of losers can't even make it onto a has-been D-list celebreality show or 'The Smoking Gun.'
What I find truly interesting however is your rant that is so familiar coming from people who don't yet have children. Everything seems so black, white, and orderly in your adults only world. Just wait.....your time is gonna come. I am looking forward to your forthcoming 'revelations' about parenthood that most of us have lived with for years.

Kyddryn said...

I refused to buy a certain cereal for my son because it had Hannah Montana on it. He wanted to know why, so I told him she's a poor roll model and I won't pay to support her or anything she touches. He got it, inasmuch as a five-year-old can. Didn't even pitch a fit over not getting the sugar-woogies he was hoping for.

The biggest trouble with the way kids are raised today is the absenteeism of the parents. It's easier to give them the cell phone, the iPod, the computer, the gadgets and gizmos, than it is to say no and be involved. I am horrified on a regular basis at the selfishness, the narcissism, the pure ego displayed by children of a certain age. I fear their ascension to political dominance more than just about anything else...even socialized medicine, and that one keeps me awake at night.

Shade and Sweetwater,

oh davey said...

I have been reading your blog for several months now, but this is my first post. I have to say the post you wrote is amazing. Hell, I'm not even that old (only 21) but I feel like joining you in telling those damn kids to "get off my lawn!"

I was raised in a (relatively) wealthy area of the town I'm in; however, my family was certainly on the lower end of the spectrum as far as money was concerned. And after having grown up a little bit, I have to say that I'm glad I wasn't spoiled like so many of the people I grew up with. When I look around, I get the feeling that the way I was raised was more conducive to my being a well-rounded person than a spoiled brat.

Once again, good post, and next time you're yelling at those goddamn whippersnappers to get off your lawn, give them the finger for me. :-D

aloysius stitches said...

My rebuttal to this post is a little long to post as a comment, so I put it up on my blog.

Just click my name and read "In Defense of Generation Douchebag." I'd be interested to hear what you think.