It’s a celebration of incompetence. I despise Saw and Hostel and just about any of the numerous torture-slasher flicks that pass as viable entertainment. Watching people be slowly sliced apart or forced to hurt themselves for no reason other than the sheer pleasure of causing pain and destruction is not my idea of a relaxing Friday night at the movies. It’s a celebration of ugly. Hannah Montana, The Cheetah Girls and High School Musical all make me a tad nauseous. These saccharine Disney brands are not exactly hurting anyone except maybe the millions of worshipers who probably lose a few brain cells every time they watch Miley Cyrus shake her puerile hips. It’s a celebration of the nymphet.
The movie industry claims these products are made because they are cheaper than the blow-it-up-car-chase-gun-toting-superhero blockbuster (not that we have a lack of that genre) and they appeal to a younger demographic in the American population that is willing to spend its money on these movies/TV shows and all the related merchandising. But I can’t help but wonder... why do adults allow teenage boys and girls to dictate cultural mores? They may be spending all their cash and plastic on Jonas Brothers concert tickets or the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, but it’s their parents and grandparents that have all the true financial power (and pay the credit card bills). But if 50 is the new 40, and 40 is the new 30, then it is natural to conclude that 30 is the new 20, and 20 is the new 10 and so why not cater to underdeveloped minds that will feed at the trough of greed and discontent?
Michael Cieply of The New York Times wrote in a June 22, 2008, article about how American comedies are a harder sell overseas because of “pop cultural in-jokes and cameos” and theorizes that “it may be that adolescence actually ends by the age of 20 or so in Europe, and considerably later in America.” Turn on your television or visit your local mall and you will no doubt be able to prove this theory to yourself.
All of this escapism entertainment is dictated by a corporate bottom line... the incessant need for high quarterly numbers for stockholders. And it has become clear that the surest way to hit the profit margin is to develop projects for and from an adolescent state of mind. Because the adults with earning power also don’t mind a little regression. The surest way to keep the peace at home with a young brood is to supply them with the fluff that keeps them quiet. And people don’t enjoy having to get old and feel like they missed out on all the adventures of youth they let pass by. Single folks don’t want to grow up either and be responsible for anything but themselves and the longer they can hang onto and reminisce about the years when being stupid was expected, the more comfortable they are with their own unwillingness to embrace mea culpa in any given situation or relationship.
I am tired of teenagers and their problems. Girls with tan skin, boy-like hips, flat asses and pushed up boobs, the 14 going on 35, are not hot. Boys who sit around drinking Coca-Cola or beer in their pajamas, unshaved and unwashed, playing Halo 4 for a week straight or watching the World Series of Poker are not charming or silly. I don’t care to know about their first love, first drug experiences, bowel movements, bad skin and pre-ejaculation. I don’t give a shit about people who wallow in a state of arrested development on purpose and do not know how to travel, order a cocktail, open a door for another human being, behave graciously, speak clearly, speak another language, take care of themselves or care for anyone else for that matter.
When I want my mind to escape and have a good time, I want my suspension of disbelief to be smooth and silky. The romance and intelligence of the John McTiernan remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, the slick technology and not so subtle religious undertones in The Matrix, Christopher Nolan’s insightful reinvention of the superhero myth Batman Begins, the booze, sex and broken dreams of The Fabulous Baker Boys, hip and clever family fare such as Toy Story or Finding Nemo and even the hard-edged visceral realities of shows such as 24 or Rome, worlds that don’t glorify and objectify violence but incorporate it into the fabric of people’s lives who don’t have the luxury of indecisiveness. And I must mention Sex and the City, both the TV series and the film, because the depiction of women who take control of their lives, go after what they want and do it all while looking fabulous from head to toe is something worth appreciating.
I am not completely down on the immature being as comedic fodder. I was an early adopter of the supremely engaging and funny HBO comedy Flight of the Conchords. There is nothing to dislike about two guys who may be camped out in Loserville but are good-natured and kind and are unsuccessfully trying to change their current situation while mocking themselves and the world around them to music in every genre possible. I have a special place in my heart for Juno, which has been praised by many but also harshly criticized for not being a realistic portrayal of a teenage girl. Why would anyone be uncomfortable with a young girl, albeit a pregnant one, being played as smart and sassy instead of timid and shy or insecure and oversexed? In the end it’s all a heightened reality.
There is a place for all forms of entertainment and I do not condone censorship of any kind because without the chaff there can be no wheat. However there is a need for a more balanced plate of choices. Give a little more Nick and Nora Charles and a little less of the slutty, snarky, sloppy, smug adolescent. Create the entertainment that appeals to a sophisticated palate, and the audience will come. And hopefully there will not be a teenager in sight.