Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Second Look at Victorious

Wow, so. Okay. I'm already on record as not liking Victorious, but in the last year, I've actually kind of come around on the cast members. Victoria Justice, while she has zero stage presence, actually has a powerful instrument in her voice. Ariana Grande is actually amazing and probably Jess's new favorite. I think it's pretty great that Avan Jogia made a PSA for Straight But Not Narrow. I've heard rumors the rest of the cast is also pretty talented. So when the new episode of Big Time Rush ended and Victorious came on, I figured hey, why not give the show another shot?

Big mistake.

Man, this show is not only not good, it's still actively, really offensive.

The episode was about the kids making a movie and some jackass young director taking credit for it; meanwhile, Puppet Kid (who's name apparently is Robby or Robbie; I can't be assed to look up which spelling, because of all the loathing I have) and Douchey Hot Guy (Beck) fix Robby's car. And that was the way more troubling plotline.

First, let's start with some casual transphobia: Robby refers to his car as "it," and Beck corrects him: vehicles get "she" and other female pronouns. "Not just cars. Cars, boats… my 'uncle Barbara,'" with sarcasm and finger quotes. Ha hah ha, silly transgender people, trying to forge identities that feel correct to them! Ha ha ha, let's use them as punchlines, because it's not like it's a group that faces incredible amounts of stigma and discrimination, including but not limited to frequent assault and murder! Hi-fucking-larious.

So the plotline then goes on: girls gather to watch Beck get greasy, working on the car; Robby wants to impress them and embarrasses himself. This, of course, leads to one of the girls turning a hose on him -- with spray so powerful he is knocked off his feet. Now on the one hand, at least the show doesn't sympathize with him for objectifying girls; on the other hand, he is physically assaulted and it is played for laughs. When Beck finally looks up and sees this, he encourages the girl with the hose to do it some more. So I guess he's a good enough friend to fix Robby's car for him, but not a good enough friend to, uh, not want Robby to be badly injured.

That's a major problem that underlies this show and every single character in it: they have zero empathy for one another, or indeed, other human beings in general. But more on that in a second. First, to wrap up this storyline, Beck finishes fixing the car and Robby laments that the girls were only there to watch him, and now he's bummed. Beck points out that… girls love guys with cars. Robby adds, "Right, because I can drive them places. Like… shopping!" LOLOLOL girls all love shopping, you guys! I've never heard that as a punchline before, ever. Hilarious cutting edge comedy! Or wait, no, the opposite of that.

Anyhoo, Beck goes off to "find [Robby] some cheerleaders who need rides," which is pretty gross and objectifying, but while he's gone, some thugs or someone come and steal Robby's car. While Robby sits and pouts, the cheerleaders roll their eyes and walk away. The end.

So in summary: 1) transgender people make for good comedy, 'cause the entire concept of someone choosing a gender identity not based on the one assigned at birth is funny; 2) girls love shopping and are shallow; 3) physical assault is funny.

The main plotline was mostly better, and even managed to contain some funny lines. Tori's exchange with her sister was mean but funny (if only because Trina -- is that her name? Wait, I still don't care -- doesn't seem too upset by it), and the exchange between Andre and Tori, "What's the plan?" "You're smart, [Jade's] mean, you figure one out," actually made me laugh.

So… the director was a jerk and took all the credit, and they came up with a wacky revenge scheme, involving calling him out on a live talkshow. And I guess for some reason, they can't do it themselves…? So okay, Andre hires his cousin to do it. And that's where it becomes problematic, because Andre's cousin is 100% Sassy Black Woman Stereotype. She sasses at the kids, then the talkshow gets started. And, shockingly, the jackass director actually gives them credit! The kids are stunned… then turn to the cousin, trying to signal to her not to go through with the plan, but she shoots them a thumbs up and starts yelling at the director, and then -- you guessed it! -- physically assaults him.

The kids muse that they feel kind of bad, because the director actually did the right thing in the end, and maybe they should help him. Instead, they go get waffles, while the Sassy Black Woman, you know, continues to beat him. Because hey! Physical assault! It's funny!

Basically, my issues are 1) racism, because hey, did you know black people are really really agressive??? Oh wait, that's a racist stereotype; and 2) assault isn't funny. I can feel exactly what comedic beat the show was going for there: it is funny to have a normal person observe something absurd, consider it for a moment, and then move right along as if weren't absurd at all. But the reason that doesn't work here is because it's not funny to walk away from an assault that you caused as if nothing problematic is going on. The kids weren't being hilarious here, they were being assholes. Just like Beck to Robby earlier.

Why are these characters so unable to see that causing serious injury is, you know, bad? That laughing at someone's misfortune is cruel? They aren't a group of friends (or frenemies, in Jade's case); they're a group of sociopaths. Why is it meant to be funny when you get someone horrifically hurt, as was the director; or when you set your friend up for injury and humiliation, as Beck and Robby? Look: a fun show about a wacky group of friends should, ideally, make viewers wish they were part of that group of friends. This show? Makes me wonder how long it'll be until most of the characters are in jail. I wouldn't want to be friends with a single one of them.

So our finally tally…

Sexism? [✔]
Transphobia? [✔]
Randomly vicious, borderline-sociopathic protagonists? [✔]
Racist stereotype? [✔]

So I guess it wasn't just a few unfortunate choices in the pilot. This show is full of fail, and, having given it a second look, I do not think I will ever, ever give it a third. I really want to like some of the members of the cast, and I'm genuinely sad that they're all on this show.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday Flashback, and a Discussion Question

Britney Spears: ...Baby One More Time (1998)

Christina Aguilera: Genie in a Bottle (1999)

I recently watched the "Genie in a Bottle" music video for the first time in a while, and I was shocked at how blatantly sexual it is. Not because I felt the need to clutch my pearls or anything, but because I don't remember any controversy about it, whereas I do remember people talking about the "...Baby One More Time" video like the world had come to an end.

But Christina's midriff is just as bare as Britney's, and the song is far more suggestive. While Britney did a cheerful little dance and some gymnastics, Christina spends most of "Genie" rolling around on the beach at night in tiny shorts, and at one point writhing on the hood of a car like the B-roll from a heavy metal video.

(Please note that I think "Genie" is a fantastic video and I am not trying to imply that Christina did anything wrong. I'm just noting that the sexuality is more overt than in "...Baby.")

So why the lack of controversy? Was it because Christina was over 18 at the time, and Britney wasn't? Because Christina didn't combine that sexuality with the trappings of childhood (the infamous schoolgirl uniform)? Because Christina is biracial, and biracial women are stereotyped as being more sexual and can thus "get away" with acting sexier? Or were we as a culture simply inured to the concept of blonde teenagers' bellybuttons at this point?

Let me know what you think! Once you're done watching the videos and reminiscing, that is. It's okay, I'll wait.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Fairly Decent Movie: I'm As Surprised As You Are, Timmy Turner!

I love Drake Bell. I think he’s adorable, and a super talented actor and musician, and basically an all-around cool human being. (And I saw him in concert a few weeks ago. I should probably write that up.) Which is why I’m so frustrated with his post-Drake and Josh acting choices, because he seems really committed to cheerfully making terrible movies no one wants to see. (I’m also frustrated with Josh, but that’s less because of his acting choices and more because he’s a pothead.)

I successfully avoided College and Superhero Movie, but I did make Becky TiVO the live-action Fairly Odd-Parents movie last week, mostly out of morbid curiosity. I didn’t watch the show much, which was somewhat after my youthful Nick-watching days and before my weird grownup Nick-watching days, but I was familiar enough with it to be horrified by Drake’s decision to slum it. Regardless, I figured the movie would be terrible and thus good for a lulzy blogpost.

Unfortunately, there are no lulz for you, because – shockingly! – the movie wasn’t terrible.

Oh, it was incoherent. The basic premise is that Timmy, knowing that he’ll lose his beloved fairy godparents (and godbrother) when he grows up, refuses to leave the fifth grade or his parents’ house, and thus even though he’s 23, he’s still basically a kid. But when Tootie, a dorky girl who had a crush on him when they were kids, returns to town all hottified, he starts to consider the benefits of leaving childhood behind. Meanwhile, basically everyone else in the world wants him to give up the fairies.

This means that there are anywhere from three to five antagonists: A mean ol’ businessman who wants to pave over Dimmsdale Park teams up with Timmy’s teacher to steal Timmy’s fairies. Meanwhile, Jorgen Von Strangle tries to force Timmy to fall in love in order to make him grow up. Also Vicky, Timmy’s old babysitter, is in the movie but with basically nothing to do. And Tootie/love itself is its own conflict.

So everything happens really fast, there’s not enough time given to any characters or relationships to make the payoffs work, and I was honestly kind of lost. Plus the vague attempts to make the movie cartoony didn’t really work. And there’s a brief scene where Cosmo and Wanda turn into humans, because apparently Jason Alexander and Cheryl Hines had nothing better to do with their time (the creepy-looking CGI characters are voiced by their regular actors for the bulk of the movie). And no one seemed particularly skeptical of or surprised by the fairies.

And yet the movie…kind of works? And that’s 80% because of Drake, who, bless his soul, totally goes for it and makes you believe that he’s this earnest, fun-loving little manchild. (It helps that Drake Bell is one of the Fair Folk, and boyishly adorable.) Timmy is a delight all the way through, and while I don’t think this movie was necessarily the right choice for Drake, Drake was clearly the right choice for this movie.

Another 15% of the credit goes to Daniella Monet, who also totally throws herself into the role of Tootie. (Actually, no one phones it in in this, which is more than you can say for the typical DCOM. Also, the production values are much better.) I still can’t sit through an episode of Victorious, but the supporting ladies of the cast are growing on me. And 5% of the credit goes to Timmy’s random little kid friends, who get all the best lines, and one of whom is wearing a Jughead hat for no particular reason.

There were some gross gender-related issues in the movie, mostly involving Timmy’s friends AJ and Chester refusing to help him save his godparents and Tootie unless he magically coerced some hot girls into dating him, and the awful dynamics of Cosmo and Wanda’s marriage (she nags him! he insults her! hilarious!). But for the most part, the movie, while not good by any stretch of the imagination, wasn’t really bad either. And for a live action made-for-TV special based on a cartoon, what more can you ask?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

did me old ears hear someone singing a birthday?

Happy 20th birthday, Sandwich Boy.

Don't worry, I'm sure you'll grow out of your awkward phase soon.


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Teen Choice Awards Employs Time Travel, Breaks Space-Time Continuum.

The Teen Choice Awards nominees were recently announced, and I am all at a loss. Now, according to my calendar it's 2011, but according to these nominations, I am way off. So what year is it really?

J-Lo as a red carpet icon: 2000?

A girl-on-girl kiss scene for Choice Liplock, and Enrique Iglesias for Choice Male Artist: 1999?

Kevin Bacon involved with anything with the word "Teen" in it: 1984?

Or heck, with Angel, Pacey Witter, Dean Forester, and Clark Kent all up for acting awards, maybe the early 2000s spirit of the WB is simply trying to claw its way out of its grave, vampire-like:

Come on, tweens of today. You have your own heartthrobs. Quit stealing mine, or I'll make you watch more of those WB promos. The one from 2000 is particularly killer.

A Challenger Approaches

Uh oh! Looks like Robert Pattinson is gunning for the coveted TW position of Dude Making Stupid Faces in Wool Hats! Zac Efron better watch his back.