Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Open Letter VIII

Dear Zac Efron,

Your mustache is unacceptable.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Leave it to Bieber

(Okay, that post title has almost nothing to do with what I'm about to say, but I've been wanting to use it for a while and I'm tired of saving it.)

I was on the subway the other day and some guys were doing a sort of dance/comedy act to various recent hits. At one point this supremely catchy song came on. "I kind of like this," I thought to myself, grooving along to the music. "Who is this girl singing?"

Then I realized it was Justin Bieber. Whoops!

The song was his smash hit "Baby," which I then went home and listened to all the way through. And, you know, I was pretty disappointed with myself. I mean, the lyrics alternate between moronic ("And I was like 'Baby, baby, baby, oh'/ Like 'Baby, baby, baby, no'/ Like 'Baby, baby, baby, oh'") and creepily, age-inappropriately commitment-focused ("And we would never ever ever be apart...I'd buy you anything/I'd buy you any ring"), but the song itself is super catchy. I'm not going to lie: I've listened to it about a billion times in the past few days.

But if you're afraid that I've succumbed to Bieber Fever, don't be, because I watched the music video, and it is vile beyond imagining.

[Trigger warning for sexual aggressiveness and stalking.]

The basic plot of the video consists of Bieber chasing his ex-girlfriend around a bowling alley. And I do mean chasing, or at least physically pursuing, and doing the following charming things:

- He grabs her jacket and pulls her towards him, and she pushes his hand away angrily.

- He leans in, cups her face, and tries to kiss her, and she pushes him away (we can't see her face) and walks off.

- He bumps into her, stands directly in front of her so she that she has to stop, and places his hand over her chest, almost but not quite touching her breasts, and she pushes him away angrily.

- He dances over to her as she sits on a stool and sits on the next one as she sidles away, then leans into her until she stands and walks away, with an epic hair toss.

- As she walks down some sort of ramp he keeps pace with her on the railing, at one point reaching down to grab her shoulder briefly and then letting go as she looks up at him; then she walks away.

- He chases her around and over a pool table and presses his forehead to hers. She's clearly weakening, because she gives a little exasperated smile to the camera as she (you guessed it) walks away.

Then they have a danceoff, which I guess wins her over? He slowly progresses closer and closer to her over the course of it, and finally places a hand on the small of her back and pulls her hips flush against his own. They sway with their foreheads touching, then Ludacris gives him a "Way to go, dude" high-five/handshake, and Bieber and the girl walk out of the bowling alley hand in hand.


I watched the rest of Bieber's music videos today, and two of the others also involve him being a creepy, creepy stalker who follows a teenage girl of color around a colorful set until she falls for him, but this one grossed me out the most. SHE IS PUSHING YOU AWAY, DUDE. PHYSICALLY, WITH HER HANDS. And yet he still persists! So here are the messages I've gotten from this video:

1. It's totally okay to stalk your ex-girlfriend.

2. It's also totally okay to keep bothering a girl who wants you to leave her alone. You can wear her down!

3. You can touch her if you want. Her body is not inviolate.

4. If a girl acts like she doesn't like you, she probably thinks you're cute and charming and wants you to keep harassing her.

5. Ludacris will like you if you do these things.

I don't blame Bieber himself for this video, or for the other ones where he's Creepy McCreepenstein. He's like, what, four and a half? He doesn't direct these things. And I will give him credit: when he's not Autotuned to within an inch of his life, he has an impressive voice, and I was pleasantly surprised by his dancing ability. He's a talented kid!

But good lord, do his videos give me the skeeve. Usher or whoever else is guiding this kid's music video career, could you please dial down the creepy like, 20 notches? Because right now they just make me want to boil my eyes in order to clean them. And I'm horrified that the 8-year-olds who love him may be basing their romantic fantasies on the horrendous little dramas Bieber is playing out for us.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Victorious! No, Wait, the Other Thing. Failure.

Since I've become a little obsessed with Big Time Rush in the last few days -- by which I mean there are nine episodes on the TiVo and I snarled at Rachel when she asked if she could delete them -- I've been watching a lot of Nickelodeon. And thus I've been inundated with promos for Victorious so I figured what the heck, and TiVoed the pilot and second episode.

And then deleted them immediately, swearing to never watch the show again. Seriously. It was THAT BAD, and also THAT INFURATING.

Let me get the worst out of the way first: the second episode contained flat-out sexual assault played for laughs. I started to describe it to Jess (smoke pouring out of my ears from rage) and she already knew; she pointed me towards this angry rant by her friend (and Tweenage commenter!) BeyondHeroism. It encapsulates my feelings on that subplot nicely. And that's the reason I won't be watching the show again, because that shit isn't funny.

Beyond that -- if you can get beyond that -- the show was just bad.

Basically, the set up goes like this: Tori (Victoria Justice, of course) is a normal, average, typical girl whose sister happens to go to a performing arts school in Hollywood and is preparing for a big showcase with Andre, a piano player and composer. But the night of the big show, Tori's sister has an allergic reaction and can't sing, so Tori has to go on instead! She wows the crowd and is immediately enrolled in the school, but isn't sure she's good enough! Everyone says she is, so she gives it a chance, but on the first day she accidentally spills coffee on Douchebag Whose Name I Can't Remember But I Think I'm Supposed to Like ("Douchey Guy" for short), and as she's trying to help him clean up, his girlfriend Jade walks up and goes all Mean Girl on Tori for touching her boyfriend. She and Tori catfight for the rest of the episode until Tori out-sasses her and wins, the end.

Except it sucked way harder than that can possibly convey.

First, to give credit where it's due, Victoria herself is actually a pretty good singer. She could stand to take it down a few notches, but her voice is strong enough and despite the fact that she's popstarring it up to 11, she manages to avoid the Demi Lovato School of Tuneful Shouting. As an actress, she's passable. She managed to hit some punchlines, seriously blew others, but wasn't offensively bad. She was blandly likeable, but, well, that was the show's fault. More on that in a bit.

So the problems with the pilot: first off, her sister. Her sister is the one at the arts school who wants to be a star, right? But she's bad at singing. That's not my judgment, it's a gag (Trina: "How was that?" Tori: "Loud.") so it's unclear to me why she would be at this school, and why apparently no one ever thought to ask Tori if she also likes singing or whatever when she's presented in the show as being so much better. So it doesn't make a lot of sense that no one had ever actually asked Tori if she liked singing before, but whatever; there's a rant in there about female protagonists who aren't striving for anything, but that's not entirely about this show. Which is bad enough that I don't need tangential rants.

Aside from that, the instant feud between Tori and Jade really irritated me, because literally their only interaction before hating each other had to do with Douchey Guy. Look, I'll be honest, I'm never going to love mean girl characters and bullying; just not my thing. But this one annoyed me specifically because it wasn't, like, "Jade is jealous of Tori's mad skills," or even, "Jade is pissed because Tori spilled coffee on her." Nope: their entire feud revolved around the guy, who, by way of occasionally speaking to Tori, seems to be turning it into a really stupid love triangle. Now, I'm not fond of those either, but this one actually gives me a double-whammy of Do Not Want:

1) Douchey Guy has no character and doesn't do anything; I think we're supposed to want him to get together with Tori because he's just sort of there and is the only viable candidate, which he is because

2) The only other guys on the show are the nerdy sidekick with the puppet -- who I loathe because "puppet sexually harasses people" is not funny, it is creepy and gross -- and Andre. Andre! Who is talented, and actually shown interacting with Tori, and encouraging her, and being friendly and nice! (You know, when not sexually assaulting people and being an asshole, as he does in the second episode…) These are the sorts of things you should found a relationship on! But I don't think it's going to happen, and maybe I'm overly cynical about this, but I'm betting he stays supportive friendly guy and not flirty boyfriend material, because -- sigh -- he's black, and interracial relationships are still pretty rare on TV generally, and teen/tween fare in particular, and more so on Nick than on Disney.

Like I said, maybe I'm just being cynical. Maybe the show will surprise me! This is an area where I'd be thrilled to be wrong. But at the moment, despite showing an actual friendship between Tori and Andre, and even though they haven't worked to make this guy likeable, to show any reason why he and Tori would like each other, or actually given him any sort of personality at all, the narrative is shaping up in a Tori-and-Douchey-Guy-UST way.

[Note: actually, looking at cast pictures to go with this post, Douchey Guy appears to be more ethnically ambiguous than I remember from watching the show. So that does alleviate the "why no interracial relationships, show?" fear a little bit, though not totally, since black/white relationships are much more rare than white/hispanic or white/ethnically ambiguous relationships in tween/teen fare. But once again, a discussion for another day.]

So even though Jade is a fine, generic mean girl, I'm annoyed by her; I want to like Andre but he was detestable in the second episode; I hate Puppet Guy; I have zero interest in Douchey Guy. Tori's sister basically vanished. That leaves the teacher (generically wacky) and another female character, Cat, who the show jokes is bipolar. Because someone says something mean so she bursts into tears, but then someone gives her candy and she squeals! Yup, that's bipolar all right. Mental illnesses totally work like that, and also, are hilarious.

Then you've just got Tori herself. (I said I'd get around to her eventually, right? How long is this rant now?) She's best described by looking at the second episode. There's a subplot about how all students at her new school paint their lockers to represent themselves. Like, the piano guy has a keyboard on his, Douchey Guy says he has no secrets so his is somehow translucent, etc. Tori is made intensely uncomfortable by this, and her initial solution is to put up a white board on her locker, so other people can draw whatever they want on this area that reflects her. She has so little character that she's actually defined by other people. Jess once described the main problem with iCarly like this:

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!

It remains true! The shows are both Dan Schneider fare, and they both center around basically blank slate characters. The differences are that Carly herself actually makes things happen -- the iCarly show-within-a-show exists because it was Carly's idea -- and the supporting cast are pretty much all endearing. Victorious, on the other hand, centers around a blank-slate character who so far hasn't really made anything happen -- she's dragged on stage and talked into going to the school -- with a supporting cast I overwhelmingly disliked.

I know it's early going. Even good shows tend to need a handful of episodes to find their stride. But Victorious alternated between run-of-the-mill dreadfulness and actively, seriously offending me, so I won't be hanging around to see if it improves. Sorry, Nick, but this one's a failure.

Monday, April 12, 2010


"We're trying to set up a movie for me in the near future - it's going to be similar to the story of how I got discovered. Kinda like my own version of 8 Mile." - Justin Bieber






...I mean, is it about his life on the mean streets of YOUTUBE? Or...what?



Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hey Hey, We're the Big Time Rush

So I've decided I should attempt to watch more Nick shows. With the exception of the odd episode of iCarly, I really haven't paid much attention to Nick in awhile; I tend to be entranced by the cracktastic stylings of Disney, and the way they promote their stars does its job in that I get sucked in and become fond. But there's plenty going on at Nick, so I figured what the heck and decided to watch the next Nick show I stumbled across. It happened to be Big Time Rush.

YOU GUYS, why didn't anyone TELL me that Nick was running a barely-disguised updated version of The Monkees? I love boy bands, and I love wacky hijinks, so it took about four seconds for me to decide I needed a season pass on my Tivo. I mean, come on! It's boys running around with cartoon side effects, and then doing choreographed dances and wearing wacky costumes! Their theme song seems to be primarily sung by robots, but that hardly matters, because YOU GUYS, THEY HAD TO SPY ON SOMEONE SO THEY HID BEHIND A SHRUBBERY WEARING TREE HATS. THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE SHOW.

Also check out the theme song/music video, which I was going to embed, but it auto-started AND the embed code broke Blogger. Nickelodeon, that is very bad planning, boo.

The show also has most of the peripheral cast going for it; they range from unremarkable (the sweet but dumb mother) to actualfax adorable (the smarter-than-everyone-else little sister) to over-the-top but watchable (everyone else -- manager and his assistant, record exec, hotel guy, etc). There are some recurring girls in the background somewhere; I'd like to see them get larger parts to even things out gender-wise, but at least they've managed to make the boys' girl-craziness as non-skeevy as possible.

Sadly, the show is not without LOL Wacky Sexism. The subplot of the second episode I saw -- look, Nick has aired about six episodes in the last 24 hours, what do you want from me? -- featured The Gay One desperately wanting to see a sexy mathematician (totally not Danica McKellar, really) give a lecture, but it turned out to be at an all girls school. Naturally, he had to wear a dress and sneak in. I'm with them so far! But once he got inside, Not Danica explained how she was excited to be at a girls-only school because boys are so dumb and no boy has ever understood her book because they're all so bad at math! LOL. So The Gay One proclaims that yes, he is a guy who is good at math! So all the girls tackle him angrily, with cat meow sound effects. The cat sound effects would have bugged me on their own, but were actually the least irritating part here. What bothered me is that, in real life, we know how it works and it ain't like that. In real life, people still suggest there's an innate difference between men and women that makes women bad at math. Maybe the show thought reversing that would provide hilarity; idk, but actually, I found it belittling to a very real, very existent problem.

That said, if I can still watch Hannah Montana, an actually terrible show, despite its issues with racism and sexism -- wait, why do I watch that again? -- I can tolerate the problems with Big Time Rush for now, and hope that the show, still early in its run, improves in that regard. Because it was 90% charming to only 10% irritating (…okay, it was 60% charming, 30% old-school Hanna Barbera sound effects, 10% irritating), and for tween TV, that's actually a pretty good ratio.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Kids' Choice Awards 2010: I Didn't Actually Watch Them

So the Kids' Choice Awards! They were, uh, a couple of weeks ago. Look, I've been very busy writing a story about gay pirates, okay? It's serious business.

I didn't watch the actual show because I was out of town on a business trip, but I paid very close attention to all the follow-up coverage on the tween blogs. I have no strong feelings about the winners, except surprise over Slightly Worse Sprouse walking away with Choice TV Actor, and firm agreement that iCarly and Selena deserved their wins. I'm here to talk about the most important thing: the clothes. Specifically, the clothes on the tween starlets, because boys are boring, and I don't actually care about Rihanna and Katy Perry.

(Click on the pictures to embiggen.)

Best Dressed: Selena. You guys, she looks like a goddess. I love the summery yellow and the toga-like drape of the dress, and the gladiator-esque sandals and braided belt complement the Greek look without being cheesily on-the-nose about it (and, incidentally, make her legs look about a thousand miles long). The delicate gold accessories and loose side braid are appropriately girlish and, again, help to subtly buttress the theme without being, you know, a heavy collar and an updo and a "DO YOU GET IT THIS IS A GREEK LOOK?" A++++, would KCA again.

Runner Up: Ashley Argota. In preparation for this post I did a little research on Miss Double A Battery here, and YOU GUYS, I LOVE HER. Expect a flaily post about how I want her and Jennette McCurdy to make a thousand musicals about friendship and determination, okay? Anyway, it's not quite as unusual or striking as Selena's, but it's bright and springlike and fun, and she looks great in it, and when we're best friends she's totally going to let me borrow those shoes. I'm like 97% positive this is going to happen. Okay? Okay.

Close But No Cigar: Keke Palmer. Keke P will also be getting a post about how much I love her, because - brace yourselves - I also love her. And, you know, I can see what she's going for here - kind of a funky, unusual fabric (upon close examination those appear to be beads and not candy. alas.) to break up the usual "sundress, colorful pumps, minimal jewelry" look everyone was rocking. And she herself looks lovely, of course. But I just...I want to eat her dress. And I keep wondering if it hurt to sit in it. I feel like these reactions are not optimal! Also, the pockets are awkward.

Yawn: Demi. Clingy. Black. Silvery stuff. Half a size too tight. I repeat: yawn. Demi, there will be plenty of time for this sort of thing when you're a 20something starlet and you're not allowed to wear pastels. In the meantime, you're, like, what, 11 years old? Have a little fun! Wear something with color and flutter to it!

Also, she accessorized really poorly. Is it just me or does it look like Adopted is in costume as a young Doc Brown?

Yawn, Redux: Miranda. Miranda is so, so pretty. I included the closeup solely because I can't get over how insanely pretty she is. But this is so boring. She looks like she's headed to an eighth grade prom in Anywhereville, USA, not an awards show. There's nothing wrong with the dress or the shoes or the bangles, there's just...something missing. It needed something more. (Psst! Miranda! Next time accessorize with Former TV Big Brother and Jess's TV Crush Josh Peck and all is forgiven. Dude has been scarce lately.)

Disappointing: Jennette. I get the feeling Jennette gets tired of stomping around in Sam's board shorts and hoodies and converses, because she always goes all frilly and poofy at events. Which could work (even though Sam's costuming - and all the costuming - is one of the highlights of the show, and she looks adorable in it), but this doesn't. All the baggage around her waist just kind of makes her look like a turquoise creampuff, and also way too matronly for the KCA. My kingdom for a pared-down sundress!

The best-dressed member of the iCarly cast was actually Nathan, surprisingly enough. But look at him! He looks like a little man! (Which is exactly what I said, out loud, when I saw him.) He's totally dreamy if you're eight, and not even in that "eight-year-old girls like boys who look like girls" way - dude's got some shoulders. I love the shades and the cuff; he looks like he just snuck out behind his prep school to grab a smoke, but in a wholesome kind of way. Well done, sir.

(Yes, I know I said I wasn't going to talk about boys. Hush, you.)

Not Winning Me Over, Newbie: Victoria Justice. Her new show looks incredibly blah (I like Leon Thomas and the rival seems amusingly caustic, but Victoria needs to go to the Miley Cyrus School of Shouting Is Not Acting, post haste), and in general the way Nickelodeon is promoting her everywhere (and it does seem to be Victoria Justice the Product, not Victorious the Show, that they're making a big, borderline-creepy deal over) leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The Stacey McGill-esque emphasis on sort of hard-line sexy New York nightclub fashion here doesn't help - "Ooh la la, doesn't this shirring make my dress look tight? It's off-the-shoulder! Check out my peep-toe booties!" It's boring, I can see it walking down Madison Avenue every day of my life, and those booties make me sad, Victoria. Sad inside.

Would a Smile Kill You?: Miley. Nightshirt. Leggings (I think?). Those damn peep-toe booties. Hair. A sullen expression. Jeez, Miley, I know you're money and everything these days, but come on, you're still only 17, and this is the award show aimed directly at the people who made - and are still making - you famous. Make an effort.

Just...No: Justin Bieber. What is this, Bieber? Are the green shoes supposed to be Nickelodeon slime? Have your lower legs been devoured by the dreaded Lime Green Feet-Eating Snakes That Look Like Ugly High-Tops? WHAT ARE YOU DOING, CHILD? Whatever it is, you need to stop. Immediately.

All pics from Just Jared, Jr., which shouldn't surprise anyone.