26
Jul 04

There’s plenty to get mildly irate about

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 365 views

There’s plenty to get mildly irate about with this Guardian article by The Usual Suspect on McFly but, for our present purposes, take note of the tone of voice with which he talks about four intelligent, successful, talented – and I suppose this is the crux – late teenagers. Two of McFly are eighteen and one is nineteen. Even the youngest is over the age of consent*. But you’d never get that sense from the article, or most writing on the music that, ick, ‘pre-pubescent tots’ wave banners at.

The first point, as evidenced by NYPLM itself I suppose, is that it’s never enough for a band like McFly to appeal just to the prepubescent. Not only do they not have enough money, they can’t drive to out-of-town Brit-malls like the Trafford Centre. And, let’s face it, no self-respecting capitalist/artist is going to limit their audience that dramatically. I mean, come on, naming the band like that – ref: M.J.Fox, 1985 – is, if anything, much more cynically aimed at the nostalgic parents of the pre-pubescent or, at best, literate media-savvy types reading over-worked blog entries. In its own way, its just the same as Robert Zemeckis making seventeen year old Marty speak to the eighties teen audience via his own fifties adolescence. After the famous spate of teen-product fosusing attention on the fifties, the eighties kids have risen to power and are asking the young to carry their nostalgia for them.

But that’s not the main point I was bothered by. After a string of articles talking about ‘messed up, typical teenager’ Avril Lavigne, yet again we have a piece conflating the difference between, say, twelve and nineteen. Avril, like Busted and three quarters of McFly, would just have finished her first year at university, a good one probably, studying something artsy or vaguely liberal. They may well have become well-versed in those ‘particularly arcane passages from Proust’. They’ll have experimented with mildly psychedelic drugs and had to survive in a major city, alone and parentless. Reams and reams has been written about sexualising the young, whether in the wake of ‘Baby One More Time’, Tatu or Chris Morris. But nothing has been written about a generation of ‘young adults’ being defanged and characterised in the name of teen entertainment. Perhaps because it’s all the more obvious in the cinema, the closest we’ve got is that joke in Scary Movie about the ‘high schoolers’ being far, far too old. I mean, think of the building blocks that built the stereotypical teen identity: Brando and Dean, surly and existentially early-twenties. Hell, how’s about Michael J. Fox and Marty McFly. Even with a market supposedly regressing and repressing faster and faster, there have been relatively few true teen idols. Child stars, yes. Idols to teens, plenty. Late teen heart-throbs, loads. But thirteen, fourteen, fifteen year olds sunning themselves in the limelight, not many. Instead we get eighteen year olds, nineteen year olds, twenty one year olds, twenty five year olds becoming twenteenagers. With a pout and a natural nostalgia for the unremembered early nineties, they make the music and then dance to it in the school ties they’ve only just dispensed with. Or, in film, we get Jennifer Garner, Tom Hanks and Jamie Lee Curtis as our teenage cut-outs.

So, we get the Guardian talking to McFly like fifteen year olds, having to justify themselves as fifteen year olds, having to explain away an imagined malevolent hand compelling their childish selves to sell things to even more childish consumers.

Your homework: watch Stuart on Big Brother and marvel at his ability to sense this, enjoy this and use it to his advantage. After all, he is, just as the press kept telling us about the Tatu svengali – inhale, tell me about your mother – a psychologist.

*Autobiographical note: I am, if this makes a difference, twenty two. Which is a fine age to be.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page