Two pieces of vastly different, youth-marketed media ruled this past August weekend.
High School Musical 2 obliterated all previous records and cemented itself as a full blown pop phenom, becoming the highest rated basic cable program of all time, and the second highest rated television program (cable or not) among 9-14 year olds, behind only the 2004 Superbowl. Yay for my bank account.
I had a few thoughts.
- Although both films are marketed at different audiences, (tweens for HSM2, older teens and early 20s for Superbad) there will be scores of young people who see both, and for whom both pieces of media will be internalized and mimicked. We can expect random outbursts of singing, dancing, frivolity, as well as bad McLovin impersonations for months to come.
- Youth media has both matured and gotten soft all at the same time. People saying that HSM2 is the new Grease have forgotten how sexually provocative and naughty Grease was. They’ve also forgotten that the actual story of Grease is pretty dumb, lacking anything even resembling a genuine emotion. The kids occupying the alternate universe of HSM2 are actually given real things to think and feel, and sing about, albeit perkily. The writers and producers are actually making an attempt (in a mass market, squeaky-clean way) to give their young audience something to process. In the real world, the Wildcats would be singing about the first time Gabriella gave Troy a blow job. It would be soaring ballad, no doubt.
- At the same time regarding the evolution of youth media, Superbad is (on paper) more disgusting, immoral, filthy, explicit, and deviant then anything John Hughes or Amy Heckerling put on screen in the 80′s and 90′s. In practice, I think it’s a sweeter movie (and more honest about how life actually works) then any of those PG and PG-13 rated farces where all parents are idiots and jerks and the kids know everything. John Hughes movies weren’t really about growing up, they were about declaring a state of perpetual immaturity apart from your hypocrite parents.
- One of the recurring themes in Judd Apatow’s canon is the delayed maturation process of men in this culture. Knocked Up, which I adored, actually made me weep due to the loving, honest, painfully funny depiction of what happens when a man-child actually has a child. The crassness serves as a backdrop to explore this really interesting idea of what happens when men deal with each other, but refuse to actually deal with women as equals, and deal with sex issues with people who are equals and not objects.
So here’s my groupthink question: Has media aimed at kids gotten generally better or worse? Or both?
P.S. I am not actually recommending Superbad, if you were wondering. The language and situations are… really foul. I laughed at some of it, and I was actually quite moved by the simplicity and honesty of the ending, but there were not enough laughs between squirms for me to sit through it again, or tell you that you should go see it.
P.P.S. You should see Knocked Up, however, as the emotional payoffs are as big as the laughs. If you have a problem with honest observations of how single heterosexual non-Christian men living together behave, give it a second thought.
P.P.P.S. I am heartily recommending HSM2, but actually on DVD would be nicer for me… what with the royalties and all. My interests are conflicted, but that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.