Thursday, March 25, 2010

Suffer the Children

As much as I hate to mention American Idol twice in one day, I just can't resist the opportunity to gloat over being at the tip of the spear in what I hope is a burgeoning movement.

And when I say "tip of the spear" I mean it, given that, yes, I was preaching this gospel two years ago.

This morning in Salon, Mary Kelly recaps Tuesday's Idol showdown and proclaims goofy, talent-deficient heartthrob Tim Urban this year's tween sensation on the show. For the record, I think she's way off base; it's harmless David Archuleta doppelgänger Aaron Kelly -- who seemed to experience his first little orgasm while pressed up against Miley Cyrus during their hug -- that's sure to nail down the obsessive tween vote over the next several weeks.

Regardless, at the end of her piece, Kelly makes the following entreatment at the prospect of the 12-year-old vote determining the future Idol winner:

"God help us all if I'm right. Parents, take your cell phones away from your children until they develop a brain!"

If that sounds vaguely familiar to regular readers of this site, that's because back in 2008, when Idol came down to nothing less than a battle between good and evil -- David Cook vs. David Archuleta -- I said this:

"Tonight, David Cook will face off against Disney/Pixar's latest CGI creation, David Archuleta.

The choice here for anyone who likes even relatively decent music is simple: Cook is already a fucking rock star; Archuleta is the lost Jonas Brother.

The problem, however, is that Archuleta will win and we'll all suffer accordingly as by this time Thursday, his sickly sweet baby face, puppy dog eyes and wispy voice will be all over the goddamned place -- unless parents across this great land of ours take decisive action.

It's simple, really. Tonight at 9PM EST, as the phone lines open and the voting begins, I propose the following: TAKE YOUR CHILD'S CELL PHONE AWAY.

That's right, prove to yourself that you're not completely beholden to your kids; that you haven't abandoned all control and allowed children to dictate the trajectory of our pop culture; that you won't let your fucking kid make a decision that you and your fellow adults will be forced to live with for months. (Think I'm wrong? Just wait until your whining tween begs, no, commands you to keep your hands secured to a life-sized effigy of Archuleta longer than any other suicidal parent in your neighborhood, all in an effort to win tickets to see Little David live -- a concert you'll be forced to attend I might add.) I realize that whether he wins or not, Archuleta will still be the golden calf of America's young, female 'Purity Ball' set, but tonight parents have the power to take a stand that will actually benefit their kids in the long run -- by making it crystal clear to them that life is all about disappointment, and no matter how much they cry or how strongly they've been led to believe that the world revolves around each of them, in the legendary words of Mick Jagger, you can't always get what you want.

Tonight's your chance to get your balls back, parents.

Don't blow it."

So see, I'm the leader of a goddamned revolution -- and I don't even need a blackboard.

Just for the hell of it, here's the extended piece I wrote leading up to the 2008 Idol finals. I'm reprinting it because I have a bad feeling that we'll see a virtual rematch this year, with the hellaciously talented Crystal Bowersox facing off against -- well, probably Aaron Kelly or Tim Urban. Whichever one gets the iCarly panties of the tween girl crowd the wettest.

"Kids Incorporated" (Originally Published, 4.24.08)

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 Mylie 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.


Figgylicious said...

I was gonna comment about how you felt that you had been wrong with your prediction. But then I remembered that I couldn't name the actual winner before I had read the article. I had, and have no idea, who he was. I never heard him sing or even saw his face.

But I still remember that squirrel-faced little Archuleta person. I wish I didn't. But, there you go.

Dan Carlson said...

Aaron Kelly looks like Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry. That's all I can think of when I see him.

cousinavi said...

Whichever one gets the iCarly panties of the tween girl crowd the wettest.

Hordes of screaming tweens leaving a trail on the street like a pack of rabid slugs.
An entirely new level of creepy here.

Alanna said...

So glad I don't give a damn about AI. When someone who is classically trained (like Jill Scott) or has more than 2-octave range mentors these kids, let me know, I'll tune in. (turns nose up and walks away).

John said...

Alanna, there are actually are a couple of very talented performers on this show this year. Crystal Bowersox is freaking awesome, and I think Casey James is pretty dang good, too. The season finale better come down to those two, but it won't.

Ethnic Redneck said...

Why does every generation have to go through this whole "popular ≠ good" battle? As for stopping the tween phenom, why do you think every other country bans direct advertising to kids?

Alanna said...

Oh, I won't debate that some of the vocalists are talented + worth merit, I'm just not entertained by the show as a whole. I like the beginning of each season - the acapella auditions remind me of my days in musical theater and I find the crazies fun to watch. After those few episodes, I tune out. To each their own :).

However, the whole cell-phone voting as democracy irks me. It reminds me of a student government vote - just a popularity contest.

Germain said...

TU was in the bottom 3 this week (if your tween theory was right wouldn't he have been higher up?). His days are numbered.

Chez said...

Actually it's Salon that things Urban's the tween favorite. I think it's Aaron Kelly.

oskar said...

Tim Urban has been the Vote-For-The-Worst pick for a few weeks now.