Sunday, August 30, 2009

She's not like other girls.

I like iCarly a lot, but one of the major weaknesses of the show is the character of Carly – or, more precisely, the lack thereof. She’s smart, but not a nerd! She’s cool, but not too cool! She’s not particularly temperamental or particularly laidback or particularly interested in things or particularly anything. She’s not zany like Spencer or aggressive like Sam or nerdy like Freddie. All she ever gets to do on the show is react. This is not a good or strong or entertaining centerpiece for a television show!

On the other hand, there's Sam, who is the very best part of the show, and the complete opposite of Carly in that she's absolutely bursting with personality. Sam is played by my tween BFF Jennette McCurdy, and Jennette McCurdy’s amazing hair. Seriously, I know I’ve said it before, but this hair is magical. Check it out:

Anyway. Sam is loud. Sam is uncouth. Sam is ill-behaved.

Sam is a fantastic role model.

Obviously kids should not model their behavior on Sam’s. Sam doesn’t do her homework, she sasses the teachers, she attacks kids in the hallway on little-to-no provocation. She’s violent and rude and a bit of a bully, and her moral compass is a little borked. This is not a good way to behave!

And yet.

Sam is a girl on TV, and yet she still gets to be loud and uncouth and ill-behaved. She gets to eat enormous quantities of meat and push people around and buff her feet on Carly’s couch, and…that’s just Sam. The show doesn’t make her worry about her weight or tell her to nibble daintily at a salad. It doesn’t restrain Sam in any way. She just gets to be Sam, and her friends and her audience love her for it.

Which is why I was so very disappointed when iCarly pulled the same stupid bullshit Hannah Montana did, way back in Season 1. In “You Are So Sue-able To Me,” otherwise known as the Most Infuriating Hannah Montana Episode Ever, Lilly has a crush on some random Boy of the Week, who is obviously equally smitten with her, but Miley tells Lilly that she (Lilly) is “not a girl” and thus cannot attract him. Miley gives Lilly a makeover, but the boy stands her up, so Lilly takes him to some kind of teen court TV show, where she discovers that the boy liked her just the way she was, and happily goes back to the old Lilly. Because it’s not okay to be yourself unless a boy likes you that way!

The iCarly version of this, “iMake Sam Girly,” sidestepped some of the problems with the HM episode. Sam really is uncouth and undainty, as opposed to Lilly, who had those attributes slapped onto her for an episode and forgotten the next week. Carly totally accepts Sam the way she is and only agrees to make her over when Sam asks for help, instead of Miley’s fairly nasty and totally unwarranted attack on Lilly. And Sam goes back to being herself in order to protect herself and her friends by fighting a bully. But she’s still subjected to half an episode of “you are wrong for being yourself,” and she is still validated by the Boy of the Week continuing to like her. Both episodes even have their tomboys eat spaghetti messily to prove how unladylike they are. And both episodes turned my stomach.

“I want to be more like you!” Sam tells Carly at one point. “You know, all soft and girly and weak.”

It’s a funny line, but when I heard it I thought of a comment I’d once seen on the official iCarly website, left by some little girl out there in viewerland: “I think Sam is the coolest, strongest girl I have ever seen.”

And I wondered what that little girl would think of Sam – the strongest girl she’d ever seen – begging Carly to teach her how to be weak, because that’s how girls are supposed to be. Unless, of course, a boy tells them they can be otherwise.

Come on, iCarly. You can do better. Let Sam be Sam.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


This weekend, your bloggers took a journey to the heart of darkness -- or, more specifically, to the small New Jersey town where Jess went to high school. We were only trying to beat the heat of New York City, but it turned out to be thematically appropriate, because while in the Garden State Parkway State, we saw Bandslam, which is not only set in a New Jersey high school, but which turned out to be much like Jess's high school experience: angsty, hormonal, poorly paced, and full of ska. Oh, and kind of suckish.

A few of our commenters had let us know that a) the movie was much better than it looked; and b) it was completely mismarketed. Y'all were right on both points. The marketing failure is basically understandable, when you consider that it's starring both Vanessa Hudgens and Aly of Aly & AJ (sorry, I mean 78violet) fame; making it look sparkly and tweenie was inevitable. But that wasn't the movie's real market -- it was a teen comedy, more along the lines of 10 Things I Hate About You (albeit with a more indie feel); it's a movie meant for actual teens who are actually in high school. You can tell, because it was heavy on the How Much High School Sucks commentary.

Jess: It also had the kind of protagonist who appeals more to teens than tweens: the awkward, sensitive loner Will, played to perfection by Gaelan Connell, who probably spent the entire movie baffled by the fact that he was playing opposite Aly and La Hudge. He had the earnestness of a teenager who is totally into classic rock and convinced that he's the only one who's ever heard of, say, Led Zeppelin down pat, and he may soon start stealing roles from Michael Cera, but God, I'm so sick of whiny nice guy misfit protagonists, and the fact that the plot went seriously awry towards the end doesn't really help me to like Will. But more on that later.

Becky: Squeaky Hudgens played outsider Sa5m (the 5 is silent), and made a serious effort to be less piercing than usual. She doesn't quite pull off flat monotone, which makes her first few scenes awkward, but when the writing settled down and focused less on "look what a misanthropic outsider weirdo she is!" she did a pretty good job. But the script never quite decided what kind of outsider she actually was -- the visual cues (heavy eyeliner, black nailpolish) said goth, but the personality cues leaned much more heavily towards shy nerd. And somehow they missed the archetype that would have actually made sense, the music-obsessed indie chick, which is a shame, because if Sa5m (that causes me physical pain to type) had been more into music, it would have made the relationship between her and Will read a lot more genuine.

Jess: Aly Michalka was much more convincing as Charlotte, the oh-so-fascinating-and-unattainable rock goddess who recruits Will as her band's manager. (The plot around her character was kind of rocky, but that wasn't her fault.) Lisa Kudrow and Scott Porter were fine but unremarkable as Will's mom and Charlotte's ex-boyfriend, respectively, although Scott Porter can barely pass for a college student anymore, let alone a high school one. The rest of the cast of kooky misfits was appropriately kooky and misfitty.

Becky: Basically, this movie had all the elements it needed for a decent teen flick. The pacing was a little off and some elements never quite gelled into place -- Hudge's jealousy of Aly springs to mind -- but the first 3/4 or so were fun and watchable. Some of it was actually really sweet, some of it was really funny. But unfortunately, it went all to hell at the climax. The climax was supposed to be a double-whammy of awfulness: it's revealed that Will's been lying to everyone about his father, and also, Charlotte has betrayed everyone. And while the first part more or less works, the second... Not. At. All.

Jess: Yeah. Not to spoil you guys too much, but the "betrayal" scene basically consists of Will, our ostensible hero, screaming at Charlotte for being distant and cranky on the way to her father's funeral. At which point Becky and I realized we both hated him, and none of his mopey "poor me" posturing for the rest of the movie could get him back into our good graces.

Becky: Not to mention the fact that her "betrayal" didn't actually involve betraying anyone. The only thing she did that was in any way bad was make Will feel bad about himself, and since he was being a total asshole AND her father had just died, yeah, our sympathy was with her, not him, which wasn't what the movie wanted us to take out of that scene. And it didn't help that the entire rest of the movie was about what a super-special, awesome, all around fantastic, fabulous guy Will was. ZOMG WE GET IT. SHUT UP, MOVIE.

Jess: And then the movie wanted us to believe that Will's band went on to take the world by storm. There are several reasons to doubt this:

1. The band's name is "I Can't Go On...I'll Go On." What? No. Shut up.
2. It is fronted by Vanessa Hudgens in a macrame dress. Rawk.
3. They cover "Everything I Own," which...I'm sorry, but you cannot rock out (or shred, which Vanessa commanded them to do in the trailer but sadly not in the movie) to a Bread song. A Bread song that has been covered by *NSYNC, Boy George, and Olivia Newton-John.
4. It's a ska band! Ska! I'm sorry, I didn't realize this movie was set in 1994.

Becky: And finally, let's not forget some casual racism. Early on in the movie, Will completely dismisses a group of black students as listening to hip-hop or rap; they aren't worth his time to talk about (in fact, the only black students I can recall seeing are listening to or performing rap and hiphop). He goes on to make fun of white kids who are listening to reggae. But repeatedly in the movie, he and other characters profess their deep love of ska artists by saying, "They took reggae...and made it their own!" So: black kids enjoying music primarily performed by black people? Dismissed out of hand. White kids listening to music primarily performed by black people? Laughably stupid. But white kids listening to music primarily performed by white people while actively applauding the artists for appropriating it from black people? AWESOME. Not that it's a surprise. After all, Will is obsessed with rock generally, so I guess it's a proud tradition.

Jess: Basically, Bandslam had elements of a good movie floating around in there, but failed to tie them together, and threw a few major stumbling blocks in there for good measure. We basically wanted to go back in time, get our hands on the script, and mark it up like crazy with our red pens. Alas, that technology is not yet available. If you're a big Hudgens or Michalka fan or enjoy neurotic white guys being sad about their lives (and someone must, or Woody Allen wouldn't have a career), you could do worse than giving Bandslam a shot. But you could do a whole lot better, too.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Baby, remember my name

The latest remake of Fame leaves me with many questions. Is it based on the movie, the stage show, the TV show, or is it just a bunch of kids at a performing arts school with a couple of the more recognizable songs crammed in there? Is it still set at the New York High School of Performing Arts, and if so, does it take place in the 80s, since the NYHSoPA was folded into LaGuardia High School a quarter century ago, and I don't see any painters in the trailer? And perhaps most importantly, what on earth is the point of remaking a movie that's less than 30 years old? I mean, the clothing may be violently late 70s, but the film's central thesis isn't exactly dated beyond recognition.

It's not that I'm in love with the original Fame. I've actually always found it rather boring. But I'm so very baffled by this new one! And vaguely concerned by the veneer of glitz they seem to be laying over it, when the original Fame was more about laying bare the hardwork and agonies of performing - not about the stage, but about the memorization, the vocal scales, the exercises at the barre, the blood, sweat, and tears that go into that fleeting chance to, as the song says, live forever. It's not sparkly.

I am pleased by the cast. Bebe Neuwirth and Debbie Allen are rightfully living legends, Kesley Grammer is an inspired choice, and Megan Mullally will probably surprise quite a few people with her pipes. As far as the kids go: Asher Book is the perfectly acceptable frontman of the fairly decent boy band V Factory, and from what I can tell from snippets of the soundtrack, he is at least vocally pretty much perfect for the part I suspect he's playing (regardless of the version, Fame always seems to have a skinny neurotic white boy actor, although if that's him with the guitar in the poster he may have just thrown my theory out the window). Kay Panabaker (or Little Panabaker, as we call her) has appeared on various Disney Channel stuff, and although our hearts belong to her older sister (Big (Danielle) Panabaker, star of our beloved Sky High), we're down with all Panabakers as a rule. Anna Maria Perez de Tagle (you probably should've shortened the stage name, hon) plays a bitchy sidekick (poorly) in Hannah Montana and a bitchy sidekick (poorly) in Camp Rock. Let's see if she can actually act off a decent script (assuming this movie has a decent script)! Finally, Bitchy Dance Goddess is played by Kherington of So You Think You Can Dance Season 4, who wasn't our favorite, but at least we know she can dance, which is not always the case in these kinds of movies, Zac Efron.

So cast-wise I am cautiously optimistic. But...listen to those soundtrack snippets again, or at least the second and last ones, the snippets of the title song. "Fame" is not a laidback, groovy dance tune. It is not cool. It is not patient. It is an explosion of ambition and joy and excitement, of dancing on taxis and demanding attention. It is this:

I don't care what you do to the plot, NewFame, but give me that uncontrollable longing bursting out of every student in that school, or you and I will have some very harsh words.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


I thought I'd posted the third installment of the Official Tweenage Wasteland Official Boy Band Watch a while ago, but I guess I didn't. Whoops!

Well, anyway, meet Wow:

There’s not enough info out yet about these guys to give them a full rating. The number one thing that comes to mind when looking at them is “OW MY EYES.” Once you get past the blinding hues, though, they seem to be a bunch of average-looking dudes who at least understand two of the key principles of boy bandom: wearing bright colors (oh, do they ever understand this point) and jumping on things. Their single, “Goosebumps,” sounds appropriately boy bandish, so it’s a shame that it’s terrible. In fact, we’re not sure that it was actually recorded by human beings and not robots.

But boy, they certainly do like to jump on things.

They’re currently on tour opening for the MoFoJoBros, so we imagine we will hear more about them soon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

All the Way Osment

Here at Tweenage, we love Emily Osment, the most adorable part of Hannah Montana. I'm not sure it's fair to say that we've been eagerly anticipating her album, because all we've heard from her so far has been an overproduced Tiny Robot Voice, which does not inspire confidence in her singing ability, but we've definitely been interested. Here's the first peek:

Is it just me, or does she sound like she's doing her best Miley impression? She's way overproduced, but I'm pretty sure at this point that her voice is so weak it requires such overproduction. Which is a shame, but the greater shame is that every tween actor feels the need to record an album (or, conversely, every tween singer feels the need to do some acting) when they are not necessarily any good at it.

Also, the song isn't very good.

And yet, I think I love it, just because I love Emily that much. Oh, Tiny Robot Voice, I am your willing slave!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aliens in the Attic

I mentioned a couple of times that Jess and I were excited for Aliens in the Attic, La Tizz's first post-HSM3 cinematic offering. Excitement levels skyrocketed when we found out Josh Peck, Jess's Inappropriately Young TV Crush, was one of the voice actors. So, while we didn't quite make it opening day, we did catch it last weekend. Here's the rundown: Math-and-science nerd Tom Pearson (Carter Jenkins) is none too happy about spending his summer vacation with his family, particularly his bully of a cousin (Austin Butler), his perfect older sister (La Tizz), and her jerk of a boyfriend (Robert Hoffman), but the summer takes a turn for the even worse when the kids discover that a scouting expedition for an alien invasion has landed on their roof.

So how was the movie? Let's go to the points system!

Physical Comedy: The repeated guy-gets-hit-in-the-nuts gags were overdone (did you know aliens have testicles? you do now!), but Robert Hoffman's performance as the sleezy boyfriend under alien mindcontrol was amazing. And Tizz fell in a lake! We love when she does that! +10

The moral: Math is cool! It's good to be smart! Don't hide who you are! +5

Poor execution of the moral: No one stops halfway through a fight to draw a parabola and do math problems before shooting at the enemy. That's not how aiming works. -5

Wacky alien romance subplot: What was this? Why did it happen? It was clumsy and the gender politics made my skin crawl a little. -10

Josh: Jess's Inappropriately Young Tween Star Boyfriend did a decent job as the nice alien, but was underutilized in Jess's opinion, in that he didn't have all the lines. +10

Nerdy Protagonist: He did a perfectly serviceable job in a completely by-the-numbers role, but was most enjoyable when the story forgot he had an emotional arc because he was busy fighting aliens. +2

Austin "Hey, It's That (Tween) Guy!" Butler: He was reasonably amusing in his brief appearances on Hannah Montana and iCarly, and is pretty genuinely hilarious in this as the slacker cousin who gets a leeettle too cheerfully Full Metal Jacket on the aliens. His "It's the po-po!" was probably the funniest line in the movie. +10

Little sister: Of course the little girl (who, with Tizz, is outnumbered 2-to-1 by boy cousins) is the gentle, nurturing one who befriends the nice alien. The idea that boys are devoid of compassion and girls are nothing but is a stereotype we have had more than enough of, but it was hardly a surprise. But this poor kid suffers from Webby Vanderquack Syndrome: she looks about eight, but sounds and acts about four. It's meant to be cute but just makes her come off as mentally deficient. - TEN THOUSAND.

The twins cousins: Were even more forgettable than the Sprouses. 0

Surprising star power: Tim Meadows, Kevin Nealon, and Andy Richter were all in this movie. +10

But they didn't do anything: Like, at all. -5.

The Actual Plot: Holds together reasonably well, despite some flaws (like frequently forgetting the parents exist, and the alien invasion plan not making much sense). +5

And finally...

La Tizz: She is well-cast as the sassy older sister in love for the first time, and does a kick-ass job in the role. She's endearingly vulnerable when the plot calls for it, but she is not going to put up with any crap - not from her brother, not from her boyfriend, and certainly not from aliens. Her comedic timing is spot-on, and her hair actually looks like it grew out of her head instead of being placed there by third-rate wigmakers! And speaking of kick-ass, after this movie, I want her as my plus-one in case of zombie apocalypse. +1 MILLION

TOTAL: 990,032. In other words: if you really love Ashley Tisdale, go see this movie! Otherwise, you're probably okay waiting for it to show up as a FOX Saturday Afternoon Movie.

Saturday, August 8, 2009




The shirttails, and the crooked tie, and the shiny pants, and the hat, and the...

No. NO.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Open Letter

Vanessa. Honey. We have to talk.

Look: I like you! I think you're cute as a button, and in tiny part thanks to you, I now use delicious-smelling pink grapefruit facial wash. You are a cutie-patootie, a passable pop singer, and a mediocre but pretty-to-look-at actress. But honey.

Stop being naked on the internet.

Now, look. I love the theory that Naked Vanessa #1 was an attempt to get out of doing HSM3; fair enough. But whether it was a stunt or an accident, there was no way for you to come out of it not knowing that sending nudie pics to your boyfriend is a bad plan. Neither e-mail nor phone is super-secure, and people will get ahold of them! And you know this! So stop putting naked pictures of yourself where they can be easily pilfered!


I don't mind that you're naked. That's none of my business. I don't think it makes you a bad person, or even necessarily a bad role model (except that it makes you look kind of dumb because really, twice now?). Hey, you've been in a committed relationship for a few years now; you're above the age of legal consent; your boyfriend is a super-hottie. Knock yourself out behind closed doors, honey.

But this? This is not the way to break away from your Disney career. And since Bandslam looks to be another pretty tweenie-looking movie, I'm not even sure how you thought this would play out as a publicity stunt. Look: if you like showing folks your naked body, kudos for you! I bet you anything that Playboy or Maxim would take your phone call. You are an adult lady. You don't need anyone's approval if you want to be naked. You don't need to apologize for it. But for god's sake, stop with this cutesy, "Teehee, I'm accidentally naked, whoops!" thing. You don't need it.

Be naked if you want to. And if you don't, stop being a freaking moron.

That is all.