Monday, September 11, 2006

Teen Culture: A General Discourse

I've been thinking a lot lately about what exactly it is about teen culture that fascinates me so much. Also, what exactly does it imply when I "love" a teen pop star so much? Complicated questions, and probably related questions, ones that would be best left to some psychiatrists out there. Nonetheless, this post will attempt to quantify what it is I love about these things.

Teen Pop Stars

When I think to my favorite teen pop (used in this post herein to refer to all teen culture, be it movies, TV, or music) stars -- and I'm thinking here of Aly Michalka, Kay Panabaker, Brie Larson, etc. -- the first thing that strikes me is that all are female. Part of this is opportunity - I've always been a Disney Channel guy, and almost all of the DC stars ever have been female. Then again, there was at least one DC show I watched regularly where the main character and breakout star was a male, that being Shia LaBeouf on Even Stevens. But when I think back to what I loved on that show, I immediately think to the female stars, e.g. Christy Carlson-Romano, Margo Harshman, and Shia only comes in later. Not only that, but for those female stars I feel a it a certain warmth towards them. Not a sexual attraction, of course, not by any means, just a certain warmth, like I would feel towards a friend or a (hypothetical) sister, but of the kind I would never feel towards a male star. This has always creeped me out, so I've always just kind of tried to ignore those feelings and tried to appreciate the teen pop on a more detached basis. The more and more I get into teen pop the more I realize how basically impossible this is.

I'll use Aly Michalka as an example. Aly & AJ have a huge, really rabid fanbase. They absolutely love them. I have to say that, despite my better judgment, I would have to count myself a fan of the group. And it's not all about the music. It's never all about the music, of course, image always sneaks itself into the picture, especially in pop music, and really especially in teen pop music. Aly Michalka is just so warm, so funny, just so downright loveable on Phil of the Future that it's nearly impossible for any POTF watcher to separate out that persona. Dave from Cure For Bedbugs learned this when he made a post that quite correctly pointed out the oddly dark lyrics on the Aly & AJ album. He has been assaulted with e-mails and comments from enraged Aly & AJ fans since. They (and me too!) just associate a certain warmth with Aly the actress that it's impossible to separate from Aly the musician.

I guess the point is, that warmness and loveable-ness is what causes me to enjoy the genre so much. In fact, take the adult version of actresses who try to be cute and loveable, and you get the modern romantic comedy, another of my favorite genres. But then again, of course, as regards music, there's plenty of teen pop acts I like that have nothing to do with the image and everything to do with the music. I'm thinking here of Lillix, Meg & Dia, Amy Diamond, etc. Surely all perfectly likeable people, but not much to recommend them to me but the music. When it comes to teen TV and movies though (which I've loved longer and more than teen pop) I can't really think of any that I really loved where I didn't also love the main female star.

I've often been concerned about my love of female teen pop stars, most of whom are far too young for it to be societally acceptable, but I've just come to accept that they project a kind of cuteness and warmth is a super distilled form that just isn't available in most "adult" entertainment. When I think to my favorite mature movie actresses, they are the ones who have preserved that kind of warmth into their projects, e.g. Reese Witherspoon.


1) "Cute" is generally sufficient to be "good" for me
2) Sugary pop hooks are and always have been my favorite part of music
3) Cuteness and warmth is and always has been my favorite part of watching TV and movies

4) The reason I love teen pop is that it distills into one package all of the things I love about tv, movies, and music, without trying to make it more mature, or more insightful. Truth be told, I'll laugh more at the average episode of Phil of the Future than the average episode of The Office, that's the way it's always been for me. When done well, this pure distillation can make for a better emotional experience, and just a downright more fun package than any of the more deep forms of entertainment. I love romantic comedies for much the same reason

5) I think most people who scoff at these things don't give them a real chance, and even if they did, they wouldn't really understand HOW to enjoy them.


You may have noticed that I changed the title of my blog. It's basically been this way for a while, but I'd like to go ahead and officially convert this blog into nothing but a teen culture blog. I'm also going to really try to make a concerted effort to up the posting frequency, most likely by decreasing the length and intensity of coverage of each post. I'm not really sure what the readership potential for something like this is, but my teen pop posts have generally been the most popular ones I've done. Anyways, it's what I've been into lately. Sorry to say, but if you haven't been a fan of the recent teenpop kick on my blog, then adios, thanks for the readership.

Look for upcoming posts on Raise Your Voice and the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack. In addition, I'm going to continue my non-comprehensive guide to teen pop and probably start up some more series of posts, because those give my blog more structure. If you know me at all, that's something I do so love.

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Anonymous Terry A. said...

That Cure for Bedbugs blogger sounds like a paranoid wackjob from reading his take on Aly and AJ. He didn't "quite correctly" point out anything, and half the comments are from rational sounding nonsuperfans.

7:42 AM  

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