Friday, August 17, 2007

Tween Culture is Scary

I have no idea what High School Musical is, except that I often wondered what it was whenever I saw it as the number one most downloaded album on iTunes last summer. However, I have now only recently discovered it was a popular Disney Channel movie because even the curiosity of wondering what it was last summer and why I kept seeing the title everywhere did not make me actively seek out such knowledge. (I really need to call my nieces about this, because I have a feeling at least one of them could recite the film's entire script even if it stars neither Orlando Bloom nor Dakota Eff-ing Fanning.)

Anyway, I guess there is a sequel to this supposed cultural phenomenon. And I guess the male lead is some sort of teenaged sex symbol? Huh? He looks like Clay Aiken. His name is Zac Efron. I recognized him from some of those gossip sites I sometimes peruse . He is one of the people I scroll past really quickly because I have no idea who he is or what he does. And I don't like his eyes.

So this got me thinking about "teen hearthrobs". Now I was never into New Kids on the Block, nor did I watch Beverly Hills 90210. When I was 13, my celebrity crush was Alec Baldwin. I made fun of Kirk Cameron before he became Jesus Christ's biggest groupie. I've never been one for overtly pretty boys, even as a child.
My current knowledge of teen pop culture only extends itself to Canada's prized export, Degrassi: The Next Generation, which I have faithfully watched since 2003. I cannot tell you why I enjoy Canadian adolescent melodrama, but I do, even through several cast changes. Since last season, there has been a main character named Peter who embodies the ultra-Aryan look I have typically only witnessed in a handful of Brazilian young men who also have Italian citizenship because that's where their grandfather was from. Peter is a petulant brat whose mother is the school principal. He is portrayed by a kid named Jamie Johnston.

(I just looked this up, too, which says a lot about how much this kid irritates me because I typically remember useless information about show credits without my knowledge. This can sometimes be useful in the scheme of things, as I discovered in Prague when I planned my exodus with an actor whose name I remembered from the credits of a recent Law & Order episode.)

Jamie Johnston is a terrible actor and while I typically ignore him while watching the show, I felt myself unavoidably creeped out by him during the season finale. Those creepy eff-ing big blue eyes. I can't explain it, but that look just skeeves me out. It made my skin crawl, to be honest, and I was forced to send a text to my good friend Adam (a fellow Degrassi fan) about this while watching. Of course, I forgot about being skeeved out within a few minutes after the show's conclusion, so no harm done, I suppose. I get skeeved out at least once a week in my neighborhood 7-11. You can't let these things control your life.

But I started thinking about this kid after reading the aforementioned article in the New York Times on High School Musical. Because I was forced to learn who Zac Efron is and why he is, in some circles, famous. I realized that there are pre-teen (er, tween) girls from Toronto to Tennessee wallpapering their rooms with these guys' photos. And this scared me. Perhaps because I have nieces and a nephew hovering in these age brackets. Particularly my nieces. Do I want them to grow up thinking wide-eyed pretty boys with strategically mussed hair are the way to go? It's not so much that I have never been into this particular look in men, but maybe more so that when I see such boys with such cartoonish features (Neither Efron nor Johnston look entirely unlike characters found in Anime), I automatically think "future date rapist" much more so than "closet case"? Or maybe this look has long been appealing to young girls, and I am now just so far removed from those years of my life, I don't actively recall such information?

I'm not quite sure what the answer is and hopefully, this is the last I will ever think about such nonsense.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He has weird eyes. They creep me out.