I watched this recent movie the other day called "John Tucker Must Die" that made "The Craft" look like "No Country For Old Men" and "The Breakfast Club" look like "Citizen Kane." It seemed so stupid, shallow, and without relevance to the realities teens really face. And yet I wondered if it was really all those things -- or was I just becoming an old fuddy-duddy? I was open to the possibility that I didn't appreciate it because I just wasn't 16 -- and that perhaps it really was a good movie, only I couldn't recognize it.
Somehow, I remember "The Breakfast Club" and "Say Anything" having a bit more depth than "John Tucker Must Die." "Breakfast Club" dealt with rebellion, pain, abuse, and friendship. It was, to an extent, about teens attempting to forge their own identities in the face of a system that wanted them to just follow preprogrammed roles. It addressed frustrations and emotions that I could relate to; and as such, I felt very involved with the movie, and even changed (slightly) by it.
In contrast, "John Tucker Must Die" is about a plain girl who gets turned into a Cool Girl as part of the plot of three Cool Girls to get revenge on a cute guy who cheated on them. Lest you think this film is in any way a serious examination on any or all issues inferred by the description, let me describe one scene to you:
The girls secretly feed their target, John Tucker, estrogen. Within minutes, he gets a tender "breastal" area, a craving for chocolate, a higher voice, and all weepy. I mean, every stereotype you could think of for women, that's what he was after eating the estrogen. It was this scene that solidified everything I hated about the movie in one slick sequence. "John Tucker Must Die" must die.
The girls in this movie were the most two-dimensional characters you can possibly think of. They were like the "Spice Girls" -- each one had a gimmick. The Smart One. The Sporty One. And the Slutty Hippie. Unlike the characters in "The Breakfast Club," I couldn't fathom wanting to get to know any of them.
To be fair, I guess "John Tucker Must Die" is a standard teen sex comedy, only it was made in 2006 and not 1983 so there really isn't that much exposed flesh. Probably had more to do with a 1960s beach movie than "Porkys." Which is what I think films like this really are -- beach movies, bubblegum, harmless. Entertainment for the masses with nothing really threatening in them, nothing to challenge the status quo or make young people think.
That brings up another thing -- many of the teen idols that are really hot right now seem like throwbacks to American Bandstand, the sort entertainers that Dick Clark would put his seal of approval on. The Jonas Brothers. Miley Cyrus. Where are the rebels? Where are the entertainment sensations that change a generation? Elvis? Beatles? The Clash? Nirvana? Hello, anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Today's teen idols seem younger than the ones when I was a kid. I remember Michael Jackson, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, Prince -- they were all adults. Now the music acts are more often than not the same age or similar in age to their audience. I guess in a way that's a good thing? But as teenage products of a machine often called "Disney" or "Nickelodeon," how much counter-cultural messages can you actually have? Or want to have? Or think to have? Or be allowed to have?
But there are worse things than to have "clean" acts for teens. Just because I wouldn't necessarily put a lot of this music on my iPod doesn't mean it's not good or relevant music. I just think it's interesting that we are kind of in another "Bubblegum Pop" phase in music.
I think a revival of "The Archies" are in order. And I'm not being sarcastic, I actually think Archie Publications should do a talent search for the next "Archies" band and get it distributed through Disney or Nick. They'd make a fortune.