Friday, April 30, 2010

The ESC is Team Raven

We're still not over the Rupaul's Drag Race Season 2 finale. Raven was robbed!!!

We're still not over the way that the fabulous Pandora Boxx was treated either, but that's a story for another post, and we were happy to see her walk away with the much-deserved title of Miss Congeniality at the reunion.

We're so upset about it, we feel like this:

Tyra is the next Drag Superstar? NO WAY. To quote Raven herself: “Keep your eyes on the stars, you’ll never be one.

We just have a lot of feelings, okay? So to help us work through them, here is our tribute to Raven, an honorary member of the ESC...

And here are some of our favorite Raven-quotes...
"There are no small people — just big bitches." [LogoTV]

“I don’t speak eloquently. I’m not a lady.”[LogoTV]

"We are making a reality show — don’t sit here and act like we’re filming an episode of 7th Heaven" [Popwatch]

"In my interviews, I was always being questioned about Tatianna. So it was like, OK, I’m gonna help create this story to make it better. It’s a f***ing TV show. And that’s what kills me when I see on Facebook, “Get rid of Tyra. Get rid of Raven. They’re bitches.” You want to watch a show that’s a bunch of people running around nice and kissing? ...
It’s a TV show. And that’s why when I see people who are like blogging about how I’m such a bitch and how they hate me, it’s like, OK, you’re the only one allowed to be a bitch? You bought that franchise? Just because I’m speaking my mind and giving my opinion when it’s asked for, I’m being a bitch. OK. Change the definition and stick my picture next to it. It’s so funny how other people are allowed to be bitchy, but we aren’t." [VH1. Bolded for awesomeness.]
That one in particular really struck a chord with us, not just because we're strong advocates for the right to be a bitch on TV, but also because we were so annoyed by the way viewers and some cast members - and the Reunion special in particular - put so much emphasis on what a cold, heartless bitch Raven was and the terrible, hurtful things she said about people. Meanwhile, they completely ignored all the terrible, hurtful things everyone else said...I mean, Tatianna really made us laugh with her stance that when she was talking smack, it was totally different.

The audacity of those queens to suggest that Raven was jealous or insecure - um, no. And what the fuck was with the whole Tyra-has-really-grown-and-changed bullshit? Not according to the bitchy shit she said backstage at the reunion (thanks to the absolute best "recapper" in the fucking world and our not-so-secret blogger-crush Rich Juzwiak). America's Sweetheart, my ass.

But this isn't supposed to be about those bitches. It's supposed to be about our favorite bitch, Raven... so we'll leave you with one more quote. Words to live by:
"Do your makeup responsibly...that's the biggest thing, when I see a queen with Cover Girl on. It doesn't cover a boy. Plain and simple."

Monday, April 26, 2010

Rethink Possible

Has anyone else seen that AT&T Ripple Effect commercial? You know, the one where a guy changes his train ticket at the last minute so he can sit next to some girl - and thank god he does, because sometime in the future their son becomes the 57th President of the United States!

What is the lesson here? According to AT&T "any second could be the second." You know what that means guys... you have to hit on every single hot woman you ever see. You have to. Even if it means getting on the wrong train. Because your kid might be the President of the United States! You can't deny our country its next great president!

Gee, thanks AT&T.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What's the point of Disney XD, really?

Before you read this, I just wanted to apologize for writing about tween television twice this month. Sorry 'bout that. Don't worry, I swear it won't happen every week! Anyway...

The other day as I was "researching" Disney and Nickelodeon's Magic Tween TV formula, Lil' Lilith and I got into an indepth discussion about some of our her favorite TV shows and channels. We realized that we had no idea what the hell Disney XD was supposed to be about. If you don't have a kid, you probably have never even heard of that channel, but we she watches it all the time. 

The four main channels that Lil' Lilith watches (not including LOGO because we love our gays) are Nickelodeon, TeenNick, Disney and Disney XD. The intended difference between Nick and TeenNick was pretty easy to decipher just by the name, but I couldn't figure out what this whole XD thing was about. Allegedly the "XD" stands for "Xtreme Digital" and is marketed to tween and teen boys. Yep, that's right. Disney XD = Disney-for-boys.

You might be wondering, why is there no Disney-for-girls? Well apparently regular Disney is Disney-for-girls. At least that's what some people think.

According to a recent piece from LA Times, some people think that tween TV is skewed toward girls:
Has there ever been a better moment for tween girls? "Hannah Montana" and "Wizards of Waverly Place" reign on the Disney Channel. Tween idol Taylor Swift rules the radio. There are even tween girls in the White House. Since mega-successes like "High School Musical," Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers showed execs the way, pop culture has been flooded with tween girl entertainment. And yet another promising series about a cool teen girl, "Victorious," debuts on Nickelodeon on Saturday.
But what about the boys? Some parents are asking whether the TV landscape has undergone a tween gender shift that leaves boys in the lurch.
Nick and Disney executives on the other hand claim instead that boys' tastes are changing (including choosing to watch more relationship-based shows rather than just action-based ones) and they just don't have a problem relating to strong female leads.  As much as I hate to defend Nick and Disney execs, I think they have a point on this one.

For a long time there were very few empowering young female role models on TV. According to a 2008 study by the International Central Institute for Youth and Education Television (IZI) only 32% of all main characters in children’s television were female. (The ratio of male to female characters in animated shows - including when the main character was non-human - was 87:13 male-to-female.) For years, children's literature has also had a disproportionate amount of male and female lead protagonists, forcing girls to be able to relate to strong male leads. Now that times have changed (it's definitely not perfect, but it's better) can't we expect boys to be able to watch female characters on TV?

Based on the demographics, it seems that they already are.

Nickelodeon's iCarly is the number one live-action program on TV with all boy demos and brings in almost a fifty-fifty male-female tween viewership. Apparently boys and girls of all ages just love iCarly, including the 6-year-old son of one of our favorite bloggers (Queen of Spain). Miranda Cosgrove's "Carly Shay" may be the main character and namesake of the show, but the primary focus is on her relationship with her two best friends (one male, one female) and older brother.

According to the IZI survey, girls and boys are both looking for "narratives and characters that represent their interests and ideals, and that provide suspense, humour, and involvement." Somehow Nickelodeon has mastered that perfect formula with iCarly.

A lot of the other so-called "girly" shows are also far more gender-neutral than you'd think. Not only do they deal with topics any kid might be intrigued by (such as leading a double life as a popstar, having secret magical powers, or joining the cast of your favorite TV show) but there are also plenty of male characters to back up the strong female leads.

In the supporting cast of Hannah Montana, Emily Osment's "Lily" is outnumbered by guys (Jason Earles, Mitchel Musso, Moises Arias, Cody Linley, and of course Billy Ray Cyrus). Wizards of Waverly Place doesn't just tell the story of teenage wizard "Alex Russo" (Selena Gomez) but also her two brothers "Justin" and "Max" (David Henrie and Jake T. Austin, respectively). Sonny With a Chance, Demi Lovato's star vehicle on Disney, features four male and two female characters in addition to Lovato's "Sonny Munroe".

Similarly, many of the shows that feature male leads instead of female ones still have a lot of unisex appeal... such as The Suite Life on Deck (as well as its predecessor The Suite Life of Zack and Cody), Phineas and Ferb, JONAS, Cory in the House, I'm in the Band and Nickelodeon's new show Big Time Rush, which brings close to a fifty-fifty male-female demo.
And then there's Disney XD's "flagship" show Aaron Stone. It seems no tweens are really watching that show - boys or girls - proving that any tween would rather watch a well-written show that is relationship-based and stars a girl, than a "guy show" that just... isn't very good. (Not to imply that Hannah Montana is necessarily "well-written". But I will go out on a limb and say that Phineas and Ferb has some of the best comedic writing on TV today. Yeah, that's right. I said it! But I digress...)

A similar point can be made about movies as well. There was another story recently about Disney's upcoming movie Tangled. Apparently, The Princess and the Frog did so lousy at the box office, that the studio decided boys just must not want to see a movie with "princess" in the title. So they restyled their upcoming Rapunzel story to be less "girly" (i.e., they changed the name and brought in a male swashbuckling lead). But maybe the reason The Princess and the Frog did so poorly was the fact that it just kind of sucked?

Maybe the execs need to stop worrying about whether something is too girly (or not girly enough) and concentrate on creating good TV shows and films that kids, tweens and teens of either gender can enjoy. If tween boys really are "complex beings who are evolving" as Gary March, chief creative officer of Disney Channels Worldwide, claims, then why is Disney XD even necessary? The Disney channel has an overall sixty-forty female-male viewership, while Disney XD has the reverse... it seems that they would be better off scrapping XD and sticking with a single channel that airs only quality shows, period.

And for the record, I'm not suggesting that any of the shows I mentioned are necessarily "quality shows". There are, of course, flaws in each of these shows but relatively speaking some are less bad than others... for both girls and boys.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Breaking News: The One Million Moms Don't Like Lady Gaga, Glee, Or...High School Musical?

The One Million Moms have been a little boring with their action alerts lately, but their latest effort, entitled "WARNING: Lady Gaga to appear in 'GLEE'", delivers like Domino's. Check it out:

There is singing and dancing in FOX's hit television program "GLEE," but this is no "High School Musical."
Okay, this HSM talking point is recycled from their first action alert about Glee, and we still have the same question about it that we had then. Who ever said that Glee was another High School Musical? Aside from the obvious high school and music connections, it's a different show on a different channel with a different target audience. It's just a lazy and silly comparison. But this time they manage to one up themselves:
Not that we approve of either, but "GLEE" is far from a family-friendly program in comparison. Sadly, this program was recently awarded the SAG Award and won the 2010 Golden Globe for "Best Television Series."
I actually stopped at this point and forwarded the action alert to Lilith so that she could read it and confirm for me that yes, the Moms are actually saying that they don't approve of High School Musical either. When even Zac Efron isn't wholesome enough for you, I think you've got problems.
Ryan Murphy, the creator of "Nip/Tuck," introduced "GLEE," last year. This show is full of graphic sexual themes involving high school students, casual drug use and teens who lie and manipulate to get what they want. And to be politically correct, they also had a homosexual student "come out" last season.
I would love to read the first draft of this email that has the politically incorrect description of the "coming out" storyline. I'm guessing it involved phrases like "went down the path of deviance", "fell victim to the homosexual agenda", and "failed to let Jesus take the wheel".
The spring premier of "GLEE" airs at a special time on Tuesday, April 13 at 9:30/8:30c. Murphy has announced that he has invited Lady Gaga to make a cameo appearance this season and she has accepted. Lady Gaga is popular in the music industry and has also been named the "New Madonna" for recreating herself time and time again. Her "costumes" and choreography are vulgar and offensive and she has no place on a teen show.

Cameos usually highlight a role-model, but sacrilegious Lady Gaga is far from someone you would want your child to look up to. Her music video, "Bad Romance," she has crosses on caskets of vampire-like characters who wake up and come out to dance with her, lap dances, sparks that fly out of her bra, and she grabs her crotch while in bed with a skeleton. Her back-up dancers consist of men and women, but all appear to be women by cross-dressing. An interview concerning her personal relationships she told one reporter that "she prefers men because they have something that she doesn't, but she was open to a same-sex relationship."
First of all, I was unaware of this Law of Cameos that the Moms are citing here. I now know that when I see a famous person making a cameo appearance on TV or in a movie, I should consider looking up to that person and encouraging children to look up to them as well. Good tip, thanks OMM.

I'm not sure there's anything I can add to their description of Lady Gaga to make it any funnier. Is there anyone on the planet (at least, anyone on the planet who's in the position to be able to sit around on the internet reading action alerts about TV shows) who doesn't already know that Lady Gaga is a person who is "popular in the music industry"? And why the random quotes around the word "costumes"? You can call them "vulgar and offensive", but that doesn't mean that they somehow stop being costumes. They're just vulgar and offensive costumes. (I hear those are popular in the music industry.)

I also love the fact that the grammar in this alert gets progressively worse towards the end there, like whichever Mom they assigned to actually watch and describe the Bad Romance video was fully in the throes of a Gaga-induced freakout as she was writing, and none of the other Moms were able to correct all of the mistakes because they were all getting the vapors just from the description. They were probably all clutching their pearls so hard by "she grabs her crotch while in bed with a skeleton" that they barely even registered the bisexuality quote.

Don't anybody start panicking, because the One Million Moms have got this. They are going to "monitor this program's advertisers closely" and "report back" to us next week. I can't wait. In the meantime, I actually have a bonus Gaga freakout for you, courtesy of Donny Osmond. (I wouldn't be surprised if he was one of the One Million Dads.) This one is about the video for Telephone.
"I'm all for freedom of speech and against any form of censorship, but all I know is that I'm a parent and I'm upset about this," the father of five said in a statement Wednesday.
"Unlike 20 years ago, in today's modern, viral world in which content becomes instantaneously available irrespective of age, I wonder whether the music industry might need to rethink its marketing policies with regard to making an explicit music video containing profanity, sexual exploitation, nudity, and graphic violence available to anyone with Internet access," Osmond, 52, continued.
"I wouldn't want my child to watch this video. Would you? What do you think? Should these two extremely gifted female role models for millions of young girls, maybe, have given a little more thought to the effect it might have on their core audience?" [EOnline via ONTD]

Yes, Donny Osmond actually released a statement just to share his thoughts on the Telephone video. Now, off the top of my head I can't recall Mr. Osmond putting out any statements to critique any other "offensive" videos that have been released in the last few years, but I still choose to believe that he's doing this purely out of personal conviction and not just so that he can get some free press courtesy of Lady Gaga's current popularity in the music industry. Personally, I'm glad he's speaking out. I know it was a real struggle for me to form my own opinion about the video without knowing how Donny Osmond felt about it, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

So please, nobody tell Donny about internet porn. Or Cosmo's website. Or The Bloggess' sex column. Because even if the music industry did decide to "rethink its marketing policies" somehow, all of those filthy things would still be readily accessible. And so would "Telephone", regardless of the marketing. Because it's the internet. And it's Lady Gaga. Unless you're home schooling your teenagers in an underground bunker somewhere, they're probably eventually going to hear her music and see her videos. And most likely they're not going to be scarred for life by it, or by seeing an episode of Glee or anything else "inappropriate" that's out there, especially if they have decent parents and role models of the non-cameo variety who are involved in their lives.

I'm not saying that there are no issues at all when it comes to sex and violence in the media, especially as it relates to kids and teenagers. I do think that you have to pick your battles, and the One Million Moms consistently pick the wrong ones for the wrong reasons. Maybe if I started getting some action alerts that were more 'problematic depictions of violence against women on popular crime shows' and less 'all shows with any gay characters or storylines should be canceled immediately', I might start to believe that the One Million Moms truly care about protecting kids from things that could actually harm them.

I'd also like to state for the record that yes, obviously I listened to Lady Gaga the entire time I was writing this. Show me your teeth, Moms.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Magic Tween TV Formula

As the mother of a tween, I watch a lot of "tween TV"... I started to notice that while many of the current hit shows on Disney and Nickelodeon are vastly different on the surface they're really all the same show.

You might be wondering what could possibly be similar about the stories of a teenager who lives a double life as a popstar, a group of siblings with magic wizard powers, and a 15 year old fashion executive... but trust me, they each follow almost exactly the same basic formula.

First you need your Marketable Lead. A likeable, attractive, extremely marketable star who will not only pull in tons of viewers but will also potentially bring in sales of CDs, concert tickets, clothing, and merchandising out the wazoo. Think Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato, Miranda Cosgrove... but also Keke Palmer, Ashley Tisdale, Bridgit Mendler, the Jonas Brothers, the Sprouse twins, Jamie Lynn-Spears (pre-pregnancy), Raven-Symoné, Aly and/or A.J., Hilary Duff, etc.

Then you need your Wacky Ensemble. A motley crew of supporting characters and side kicks for comic relief and/or conflict. They must include at least two of the follow clichés: The Dummy, The Dork (also known as The Smart Kid), The Rich Kid, The Jerk or Bully; the Troublemaker or Bad Boy, The Bitch, The Dreamy Crush, The Eccentric (sometimes known as The Weirdo), The Pretty Tomboy,  The "Ethnic" Character (or sometimes just The Token Black Guy), The "Will-They-Or-Won't-They" Best Friend of the Opposite Sex, The Ineffective Authority Figure. Sometimes a supporting character will have more than one of these traits (this is what the writers think is referred to as "creating complex characters".)

Begin with some Normal Stuff. The "I'm just a regular kid like you" set-up that makes your characters relatable to the audience. Basically, they should be a typical teenager who goes to school with other typical teengers and has typical teenage problems.

Then throw in a Crazy Twist. This is the exciting, fantastical "I wish it would happen to me" dream-come-true gimmick that makes the show watchable. Because really, what kid wants to watch a show that is just about a typical teenager who goes to school with other typical teenagers and has typical teenage problems unless they also have exciting, fantastical, crazy twist problems too?

Now all you need to do is come up with a weekly list of Hilarious Hijinks... plot twists and conflicts ranging from the mundane ("I can't fail that test!") to the interesting ("how can I get Jordin Sparks to listen to my song?") to the exciting ("do I go to prom or to record a duet with David Archuleta?") to the ridiculous ("I accidentally turned my brother invisible"). Giving your star the opportunity to sing is always a bonus.

Throw in the occasional Guest Stars for sweeps week and voila! INSTANT HIT!! It's that simple.

Don't believe me?

Let's look at one of Disney's biggest hits, Hannah Montana (not just in terms of the show itself, but in terms of the whole Hannah/Miley Cyrus cash cow)...


Wizards of Waverly Place: Wizard SchoolYou can dissect most of their other shows to come up with this same formula... which I've done for you (I watch these shows so you don't have to!)

Selena Gomez + one Dummy brother + one Dork brother + one Eccentric best friend + one Ethnic mom + one Ineffective dad + Normal Stuff (she's just a regular teenage girl who goes to high school with her friend and and fights with her brothers) + one Crazy Twist (she secretly has magic wizard powers!) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (switching bodies with her best friend, teleporting herself into a horror movie, dating a werewolf) + Surprise Guest Stars (like Cindy Crawford, Rachel Dratch and Shakira) = Wizards of Waverly Place

Sonny with a Chance: Sonny's Big Break (Volume 1)Demi Lovato + one Bitch + one Dummy + one Weirdo + one Token Black Guy + one Dreamy Jerk + one Ineffective boss + Normal Stuff (she's just a regular teenage girl) + Crazy Twist (she won a part on a hit TV show) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (dressing up as her own biggest fan, acting opposite a farting dog, challenging the cast of a rival show to Musical Chairs) + Surprise Guest Stars (like Selena Gomez and Jeff Dunham) = Sonny With a Chance

iCarly: Season 1, Vol. 1Miranda Cosgrove + one Pretty Tomboy/Troublemaker best friend + one "Will-They-Or-Won't-They" best friend + one Eccentric brother + a handful of Ineffective principals and teachers + Normal Stuff (she's just a normal teenager with normal friends!) + Crazy Twist (she stars in her own web show!) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (broadcasting webcasts from a haunted apartment, detention, and Japan) + Surprise Guest Stars (like David Archuletta, the Plain White Tees and Victoria Justice) = iCarly

Cory in the House (All Star Edition)Kyle Massey + one Dummy best friend + one Ethnic "Will-They-Or-Won't-They" best friend + one child Bitch + one Eccentric Jerk + three Ineffective Authority Figures + Normal Stuff (he's just a regular teengaer) + Crazy Twist (he lives in the White House!) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (opening up his own braiding shop, making exploding dessert for a White House dinner and accidentally giving the deed to Alaska back to Russia) + Surprise Guest Stars (like Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, George Takei and Raven-Symoné) = Cory in the House

True Jackson VP: Season One, Vol. OneKeke Palmer + two Dummy best friends + one Dreamy Crush + one Eccentric boss + one Bitch coworker + Normal Stuff (she's just a normal teenager with style) + Crazy Twist (she's VP of a fashion company!) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (disguising herself as a male skateboarder, looking after a famous supermodel, throwing her boss a wedding at a zoo) + Surprise Guest Stars (like Andy Richter, Dave Foley, and Justin Bieber) = True Jackson, VP

Disney managed to make this this formula work twice for the Sprouse Twins although they did make some minor adjustments... For instance, the "marketable leads" are also the Troublemaker and the Dork.

The Suite Life of Zack and Cody - Taking Over the TiptonDylan and Cole Sprouse + one Rich Bitch Dummy + one Ethnic stereotype + one Eccentric + one Dorky Crush/Pretty Tomboy + two Ineffective Authority Figures + Normal Stuff (they're just two regular twin boys) + Crazy Twist (they live in a fancy hotel!) + a bunch of Hilarious Hijinks (hanging out with a prince, entering a ballroom dance competition, sneaking a horse into the hotel) + Surprise Guest Stars (like Zac Efron, Jesse McCartney, and the Cheetah Girls) = The Suite Life of Zack and Cody

The Suite Life on Deck: Anchors Away!For the spin-off of the show, just replace one Dorky Crush with another, substitute a Token Black Guy for the Ethnic Stereotype, trade the Eccentric for a full-on Weirdo, and change the Crazy Twist from a fancy hotel to a fancy cruise ship... similar Hilarious Hijinks (visiting a guru in India, helping a spy recover a stolen microchip, escaping prison on a tropical island), throw in some more Surprise Guest Stars (like Jordin Sparks, Ed Beagley Jr., and Charo) = The Suite Life on Deck

Now, this isn't to say that all of Nickelodeon's and Disney's are the same. Some follow this formula to a tee, some tweak it a bit (not every marketable lead can sing for instance), and yes, some of them actually veer away from it altogether... but it is clear that they figured out what works and they are going to keep doing it until it stops working.

Some of the newest attempts at this formula include Disney's I'm in the Band (relatively unknown but amiable Logan Miller is just a regular teenager who joins his favorite rock band, which includes one Dummy, one Jerk and one Weirdo) and Nickelodeon'sVictorious (familiar face Victoria Justice is a teen who unexpectedly finds herself navigating life at an elite performing arts high school with one Bitch, one Eccentric, one Weirdo,one Dreamy Crush/Bad Boy and one "Will-They-or-Won't-They" best friend).

Now that we've figured out this secret formula, we were thinking of how we can capitalize off of this knowledge... We should totally pitch the networks our ideas for a brand new show! (Do you think anyone would actually let their kids watch a show produced by the ESC?) We figure all we need to do is put a bunch of random situations and clichés on a bulletin board and throw darts at it.

We're torn between teen astronauts spending a year on a space station, siblings who live on an wild animal refuge with their animal-trainer parents, and two kids who inherit a popular nightclub (because there would be endless marketing opportunities and guest star potential). With a mix of hot young stars, some lesser known new faces, and an a few older actors in need of a comeback, we're talking about instant success.

Which show would you rather see? Please let us know your vote!

And for those of you who don't know/recognize all of the faces in these totally fake promotional posters (either because you're too young or too old, or your kids are too old or too young)... here's a quick little cheat sheet for ya. Astronomical (from left to right): Adrienne Bailon of The Cheetah Girls; Corbin Bleu from High School Musical; Rondell Sheridan from That's So Raven and Cory in the House; Luke Perry from Beverly Hills, 90210; and Haylie Duff (sister of Hilary) from 7th Heaven. Safari Squad (from left to right): Gina Torres from Firefly; Brian Stepanek from The Suite Life of Zack and Cody; Gabrielle Cartaris from Beverly Hills, 90210; Bobb'e J. Thompson from Role Models; Drake Bell from Drake and Josh; and Alyson Stoner from Camp Rock. Nightclub Kidz (from left to right): Chad Michael Murray from One Tree Hill; Orlando Brown from That's So Raven; Anna Maria Perez de Tagle from Camp Rock (back); Willow and Jaden Smith, children of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith (front); Spencer Locke from Phil of the Future and Big Time Rush; Nick Cannonthe new "chairman" of Nickelodeon.