Thoughts, notes, observations on the everyday nonsense of American Pop Culture from one of the most not-hip people on the face of the planet...

Friday, December 23, 2005

More on bad television

I don’t know how many people would admit to watching it, but Elimidate may be TV’s lowest common denominator (and these days, that’s saying an awful lot). I work nights, so I happen across this televised abomination fairly regularly and – like a car accident – I can’t pull myself away.

The premise of the show is that one guy, typically some handsome meathead, takes four girls out on a day-long date in his home city. Over the course of the day, he eliminates them one by one until he gets to the final girl, who “wins” a second date. In other words, it is every guy’s dream. The concept wouldn’t be bad if the scenario were not always the same. It’s as if these contestants watch this show and take it as a cue for how they should act.

The guy is always looking for a girl “just to hang out and party with” (i.e. someone easy) and the girls are always cattily picking on one another and trying to take ownership of this worthless guy (typical girl behavior). There’s always one girl who comes on very strong from the beginning, wearing revealing clothes, sitting on his lap and trying to make out with him before the first commercial break. And every time I sputter at the screen, “God, what a shameless whore! No way he’ll pick her!” Nine times out of 10, this girl wins.

The girl who speaks the least is always the first eliminated – she always loses because she’s unwilling to fight for this idiot or to shamelessly brag about herself. And she’s usually the only one that is of a different race than the guy (take that for what you will). The only female in the group with a strong will, nice personality and great sense of humor is always the second one to go, because all of these guys are idiots. Sometimes, this one sane girl they must have lied to in order to get her on the show actually quits.

The last two women are always the most abhorrent to the viewer – and they spend the last 10 minutes of the show essentially trying to outwhore one another, with the easiest lay always winning. Most of the time, this “winner” has very obvious issues that leads the viewer to always ask, “Why do men complain about women when they choose girls like this?” Case in point: Last night’s “winner” said from the beginning that she doesn’t like to work, she’s a wannabe princess and she will only date a guy “who can afford” her. I ain’t sayin’ she’s a gold digger…..actually, I am. Who willingly chooses a girl like that?

Maybe the problem isn’t the show so much as society. Maybe the other people out there my age are like this and I just didn’t know it…but it seems to me that like most “real” shows, this blind date is anything but legit. If nothing else, I wish they just lied a little better...

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Looking ahead

You know what is the very first sign a movie is going to royally suck? When a music video by a teen idol debuts, featuring intermitted scenes from said movie.

Case in point: the new Beyonce video that is promoting the upcoming remake of The Pink Panther. Yes, Beyonce is, in fact, in the movie – but what the hell does a hip-hop video featuring ass-shaking pink-clad dancers and an angry young rapper have to do with Inspector Jacques Clouseau? At least Will Smith managed to keep his videos in-theme with the movies.

Of course, the mere fact this movie is even being remade is a sign that it will suck (because we are meant to believe that Steve Martin is somehow superior to Peter Sellers and that the world is clamoring for a new version) – but the song should be a hint.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sad news

As of today, it seems that Radar magazine is folding already. It was a great three issues and I'd daresay the first magazine to truly engage me as a reader. Who will next make the best pop culture magazine ever?

And what about that subscription I paid for? Do I get that money back? Huh? Huh?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Re-reviewing Reality Bites

It’s very strange how much a movie can change for you as you grow older. Tonight, I watched Reality Bites for the first time since my freshman year of college and found that I no longer like it at all.

When I was about 19, that movie was my favorite because I thought the characters were like my friends and me. It embodied the Generation X ideal that I so wanted to be a part of.

I saw myself as the main character Lelaina (Winona Ryder), a woman of vision who had just graduated college and was out to change the world. She and her friends were dead-set on not “selling out” or becoming yuppies. They’d rather be poor and live off her dad’s gas station credit card then take work that compromises their lofty ideals.

When she meets young executive Michael (Ben Stiller), he seems like the Enemy. He is "the man" (though he claims to not be materialistic) and I at 19 wondered what there was to like about him. I mean, he was cute enough, but he wore ties and had a desk job and a cell phone. What a square.

At 19, I rooted for Lelaina’s best friend Troy, a perpetual slacker who can’t hold down the most menial of work or even graduate college - but he has the soul of a poet and he sees himself setting the world afire through his music. He’s well read and intelligent, but he rejects the notion that people Michael could ever be more than just hapless, pop-culture-driven zombies.

The movie sets up Lelaina to choose between longhaired pretty-boy Troy and the sweet, patient, youthful success of Michael. We’re supposed to believe that because Michael can’t pull together a witty comeback that he’s somehow a lesser person in the grand scope of the world than Troy’s deep, intelligent brooding Troy’s constant irresponsible and standoffish behavior is supposed to belie a heart of gold and Michael’s obvious heart of gold is just a useless token of materialism.

When I was 19, I thought Troy was the answer. Even though he’s a complete dick for the entire movie, I wanted Lelaina to end up with him because he just refuses to conform. How daring. How admirable.

At 25, I see this movie and think, “What the hell are you doing?”

As a post-college adult, I wonder who would ever pick a guy like Troy over Michael. I respect a guy with passion for his career, one who would do anything for me and bare his soul whenever I asked. I like a guy with his heart on his sleeve, even if that sleeve has French cuffs. I see employment as a sign of maturity and slackerism as a sign of childish indulgence. I know that book smarts mean nothing if you can’t apply it.

I see Lelaina struggling to find a job and to make her documentary and I say, “Get over yourself! You’re not too good for the world! Get a job already!”

And now, when she chooses Troy, I think she’s a witless little girl, following her sexual instincts instead of her brains. What reasons does she have to turn to Troy? He has proven himself to be unreliable and unwilling to grow up…yet he’s the romantic hero? What? Michael’s the one who sold her documentary and saved her from poverty. Michael’s the one who played her Peter Frampton and has “Planet of the Apes” toys. Michael's the good guy.

I realized Generation X was a generation of lazy frauds. They talked big about how they were going to change the world, but they were so busy avoiding sell-out jobs that they never even got a foothold in the adult world. In fact, my generation, the generation after, is already head-and-shoulders above them.

I have grown up to learn that having a career doesn’t automatically negate one’s dreams of making a difference. I know that I could make just as positive an impact in the boardroom as I could toting a sign outside it. And I know that all of the heart and talent in the world doesn’t make for a good life or a good person without work.

Call me a sell-out. But I can’t believe I ever identified with this sort of mindset. But I hear adulthood is funny that way.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

America's contribution to pop culture

From Roger Ebert's review of The Lion, The Wihe Witch and the Wardrobe :

But it's remarkable, isn't it, that the Brits have produced Narnia, the Ring, Hogwarts, Gormenghast, James Bond, Alice and Pooh, and what have we produced for them in return? I was going to say "the cuckoo clock," but for that you would require a three-way Google of Italy, Switzerland and Harry Lime.

Yes, that IS remarkable. What have we done in return? Discuss, I'm gonna think on it, but as of right now I know we at least have all the good comic book characters, if not true literary heroes.

Friday, December 02, 2005

A great collaboration

Anyone who saw Thursday's "Daily Show" was given quite a treat. The show had it's first-ever musical performance by none other than the White Stripes. It's as if someone out there knew exactly what I love.

As weird and uncomfortable as the Whites were, the two songs they performed were the best picks from their new album Get Behind Me Satan: "Denial Twist" and "My Doorbell." The sound turned out to be great and really gave them a chance to perform somewhere without awful acoustics (like the Rave Ballroom here in Milwaukee, where I saw them).

What a great surprise! Getting to hear the best album of the year on my favorite show! Amazing how those ad execs can figure my demographic out.

So where are you Sunday nights?

So, first off I have to apologize for being so off my game the past few months. Real life has once again gotten in the way of my pop culture passions (or at least writing about them)…but I’m trying to get better.

On to the show.

What show? I speak specifically of "The Boondocks", which made its television debut last month on Adult Swim.

I hesitated to review it based on its first two episodes because it seemed to be so uneven. But now, four episodes in, I feel as if the show has fallen into its pattern.

Based on the relevant and often controversial comic strip by Aaron McGruder, "The Boondocks" is a setup just made for snappy TV. Two black boys from the hood go to live with their grandpa in the lily-white suburbs and offer shrewd, grownup opinions on, well, everything.

Though some have complained, the addition of surrounding plots and voices merely takes the strip one step further. The boys, Huey and Riley, are both voiced by Regina King (she of the Jerry Maguire meltdown) and sound – get this – like little boys. And in having more than just four panels to portray a storyline, the TV show gets a chance to show the boys not just as uber-smart future revolutionaries, but also as little boys. It makes Riley’s gangsta poseur stunts so much funnier when (in the same episode) you get to see him throw a massive temper tantrum.

Though not up to par with the strip in terms of political controversy and current events, "The Boondocks" brings a whole new kind of show to television. With the social commentary of the "Daily Show", the goofy quotables of "Family Guy" (particularly from Riley) and the sleek look of anime, Adult Swim’s newest addition is one to hold onto.

The dialogue is still sharply-written, with not a single line wasted nor unbelievable (the exchanges between granddad and the self-loathing racist Uncle Ruckus are particularly priceless). The second episode, about the trial of R. Kelly, is one of the funniest, most quotable and most shockingly honest half-hours of television I’ve seen in a long time.

And the guest voices are definitely worth tuning in for. Between Ed Asner and Charlie Murphy in the first episode (as a rich white man and his militant son) and that of Adam West as R. Kelly’s race-baiting lawyer, the show seems to be on deck for attracting voices the Adult Swim audience can appreciate.

So, in short, if you aren’t watching this show you’re missing out. And you have no excuse to not understand what’s going on when someone says, “Game recognize game – and you’re lookin’ kinda unfamiliar.” For shame.