Jewish World Review August 2, 2001 / 13 Menachem-Av, 5761

Ian Shoales

Ian Shoales
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Consumer Reports

Stop the pop -- I WAS watching some music awards show or other the other day, as part of my intensive cultural immersion in the 21st Century. I have noticed that the young century has been marked by a proliferation of awards presentations, each more mysterious than the last. Anybody with a dais, a bank of lasers, and access to Rosie O'Donnell can mount a piece of plexiglass on a chunk of fake wood, give it to Matt Damon-- and people will watch!

The virus-like qualities of awards shows is echoed by a certain desperation on the part of America's feature writers and reviewers. We're ushering in a new era, and they're running out of things to say about celebrities. The other Sunday, my local paper ran a series asking movie stars their favorite roles from their favorite decades, and who they would have liked to play. This was an okay angle for a few pages of Sunday paper fluff, I suppose, but just a few pages after this feature, the paper's movie critics reviewed the actors in the roles they had chosen.

Heather Graham, for instance, said she would have liked to have played Scarlett O'Hara. Our movie critic ventured that she was a "little vampish" for the role. Jeff Bridges had said he would have liked to have played either the Jack Nicholson or Peter Fonda role in "Easy Rider." Our critic said he was too old. Hugh Grant said that he wouldn't mind playing Cary Grant in "To Catch a Thief." Our critic said Grant was "just a punk stripling next to the peerless Cary."

My mind boggles sometimes. How can you review an actor in a role that he or she hasn't done? Not only is it rude, it's ridiculous. It's like asking your girlfriend to share her most romantic fantasy with you, and then making fun of it. I've done that, my friends, and believe me, it's not a good idea.

There's another Millennial tendency among critics that puzzles me. It was started, I believe, by Joel Stein, a writer for TIME Magazine. His shtick is that he asks celebrities moronic questions. He asked Don Rickles, for instance, if he tells jokes to his wife when making love to her. My local paper has picked up on this trend. A few weeks back, one of our music critics interviewed Counting Crows' lead singer, Adam Duritz, subjecting him to questions like "...your songs are pretty sad. Why don't you just kill yourself?" I nominate Duritz for one of those plexiglass statuettes just for being pleasant to the jerk. I would've dumped a hotel ice bucket on his head.

Critics have been strangely silent on another Millennial phenomenon, however: the rapid spread of (1) anguished teen female singers, and (2) bland boy groups.

Certainly, teen female singers have been with us for awhile, but they were epitomized by Annette Funicello-- a cute innocent thing who couldn't hold a tune in a bucket. Annette would never have exposed her midriff on national television though, or sing songs that make her seem like a lust-crazed stalker. Nowadays your Mandys and Britneys and Christine Aguileras seem like a bit more woman that a teenage boy can handle.

And. I look over the field of boy groups today-- Back Street Boys, N Sync, 98 Degrees, etc. What do they have in common? They all seem vaguely ethnically mixed, though what ethnicities are being represented is a puzzle. They all make complicated hand gestures picked up from rap groups. They all sing through their noses. Their songs are interchangeable.

My theory is that these boy groups have been formed by a top secret government agency to make us pliant and docile when the economy REALLY goes south.

Well, maybe. But when the revolution happens, don't come anywhere near my water hoard, fellows. I'll bean you with the Recording Artist of the Century award. I know it's just plexiglass, but that thing can still leave a mark.

JWR contributor Ian Shoales is the author of, among others, Not Wet Yet: An Anthology of Commentary. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2001, Ian Shoales