† H a p p y H a l l o w e e n †
An article by Laura Moss entitled Why must we hate the things teen girls love? has been circling the social networks like crazy lately. It basically bolsters the recently popularized belief that anyone who criticizes content (be it a movie, music or an infamously braindead book series) that panders to teenage girls is only doing so because everybody else is doing it, supposedly ignoring the quality of the work itself entirely, which would be unfair and, like most things, sexist.
What spawned the article was the recent release of Stephenie “Why are you still doing this” Meyer’s new novel – a gender-swapped version of The Twilight Saga – which is intended to prove how no-one cares about what a bad role model for teenagers and bad character in general the protagonist is if they’re male instead of female. The real reason no one cares about Meyer’s new book is, of course, that it’s by the woman who fucking wrote Twilight and something tells me that writing a bad character a second time but with different genitals proves nothing to anyone anywhere.
But back to Moss’ article: While it does contain good points, such as the implied sexism of people who don’t regard Katniss Everdeen of Hunger Games as a “regular girl” just because she’s more complex and deep than Bella Swan of vampire fanfiction fame, it overall seems like it’s just an addition to this recent trend of assuming that us critics have always made fun of shit that teens like just because they like it. So it can’t be that we name legitimate reasons as to why a work isn’t good and then make fun of teens (or very gullible adults) for liking it.
And that’s one of several problems I have with people who cry foul whenever we criticize pieces of young adult entertainment. They assume that we only hate them because they’re made “for teens” and that we’re just trying to conform to some societal trend that dictates we should make fun of everything that teenagers, especially female ones, enjoy doing/watching/listening to. And while I agree that it’s become a bandwagon, and that this might be the reason some people outside of my critic circles do it, the real reason to poke fun at shit teenagers watch is that it’s objectively terrible.
A possibility that’s being ignored here is that some of us, namely those of us who can tell when something is written or directed or produced to be a meaningful and timeless work of art as opposed to when it’s only designed to be mindless gunk that panders to the world’s most pliable demographic, laugh at whatever new content teenagers adore because it falls into the latter category. And it almost always does.
Teenagers don’t generally care about the actual quality of a work. Hollywood and the music industry know this, so if you throw in just the right amount of shirtless hunks and clichéd love scenarios for the girls and enough breasts and explosions for the boys, you’ve already succeeded in appealing to enough people to (A) have money in your pocket and (B) not be bothered trying to make something more intelligent and artistically valuable. They use the same logic when remaking R-rated films into PG-13 ones; it’s all about easy money. That’s why most, but certainly not all of the stuff that’s made for teenage girls gets made fun of: it actually DESERVES being made fun of.
So, to recap, here’s why we hate the things teenager girls love:
- It is obviously designed to appeal only to them and thus typically isn’t that good, which goes hand-in-hand with the fact that…
- …teenagers don’t yet have particularly evolved standards, so they themselves might get made fun for being oblivious pawns in Hollywood’s game (although it isn’t necessarily their fault) and also for acting hyper-defensive whenever someone points it out. Waiting for the comments already.
Basically, when Moss says in her article that “Mocking teenage girls and portraying their interests as worthless can further reinforce ideas that things created for women and by women are unimportant”, my suggestion is that the things we market for women should be something that takes their intellects a little more seriously than Twilight and blatantly formulaic rom-coms/”chick flicks”. We’re only gonna sneer at the content for as long as that’s the stupid shit that gets made and marketed for the demographic. So focus less on our reactions and more on what you’re actually being fed. If you still like your crap, that’s fine. As long as you can tell it’s junk food.
I will agree that the girls are the worse ones off in this, because while there are some good “chick flicks”, Hollywood will often use that label as an excuse to make shitty movies. Even if they successfully take adventage of the most impressionable ones (again, usually teens), their belief that all women are gullible enough for the term “chick flick” to justify lazy filmmaking is both sexist and cynical. There’s a handy Nostalgia Critic video on the topic here, noting that we relatively rarely hear people use a similar excuse when making other bad films:
Even so, I mentioned above that filmmakers do use this trick to fool teenage boys/men as well. This leads me to a part in the Moss article where we see the following (note that her links aren’t to studies that prove that this is a thing that happens in media or even concrete examples of reviews that say it, but to people who make the same claims as her):
Just before “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” was released in 2012, Melissa Rosenberg, the screenwriter who penned all four “Twilight” movies, told Women And Hollywood that there’s a double standard when it comes to fantasy films.
“We’ve seen more than our fair share of bad action movies, bad movies geared toward men or 13-year-old boys. And you know, the reviews are like ‘OK that was crappy, but a fun ride.’ But no one says ‘Oh my god. If you go to see this movie you’re a complete ****ing idiot.’ And that’s the tone. That is the tone with which people attack ‘Twilight’.”
Um, what? When something stupid and effortless is made for teenage boys I see critics point that out with the same condescension and anger they use against stuff for teenage girls. I’ve almost never heard a big-name critic call something like Grown Ups or Transformers 4 “stupid but a fun ride” but I ‘ve often heard people call its fans idiots, not unlike what happens to dedicated Twilight fangirls. I’m not denying the existence of the double standard (especially amongst, say, the common moviegoer); I’m just used to people such as film reviewers and critics being angry at teen entertainment more “fairly” and it’s worth pointing out since this Rosenberg character seemed so sure of herself in her absolute claim that no one [sic] has ever written something along the lines of “if you liked Fast and Furious 69 you’re probably an impressionable dipshit”.
Here are a few choice quotes from Roger Ebert’s website alone:
"Young men: If you attend this crap with friends who admire it, tactfully inform them they are idiots." - Battle: Los Angeles (2011)
"Those who think Transformers is a great or even a good film are, may I tactfully suggest, not sufficiently evolved. Film by film, I hope they climb a personal ladder into the realm of better films, until their standards improve." - I'm a proud Braniac
"I was indeed a snob, if you agree with this definition: 'A person who believes that their tastes in a particular area are superior to those of other people.' I do believe that. Not superior to all other people, but to some, most probably including those who think Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen is a great film. That is not simply ego on my part. It is a faith that after writing and teaching about films for more than 40 years, my tastes are more evolved than those of a fanboy." - Start at the top and work your way down
"A lot of fans are basically fans of fandom itself. It's all about them. They have mastered the Star Wars or Star Trek universes or whatever, but their objects of veneration are useful mainly as a backdrop to their own devotion. Anyone who would camp out in a tent on the sidewalk for weeks in order to be first in line for a movie is more into camping on the sidewalk than movies. Extreme fandom may serve as a security blanket for the socially inept, who use its extreme structure as a substitute for social skills." - Fanboys (2009) (Note the gender neutrality of the quote and the male-oriented film title)
Those are only a few examples, but I feel like it’s enough to trump the “no one ever” argument.
I like a lot of stupid crap too, guys. I think movies like Commando are fun as hell and I may even have liked the first Transformers movie. I just don’t try to elevate them to a higher level of art than they actually are (unless it’s intentional and hilarious like the Swedish film Kung Fury) and I believe that’s the issue people TRULY have with teenagers who act both ecstatic and hyper-defensive about stuff that’s basically the McDonald’s of entertainment.
But even if these kids are suckers who fall for music and cinema gimmicks because they’re still impressionable enough to do so, they’re not necessarily the ones to blame, right? Surely it’s not good enough a reason to poke fun at teenagers just because they don’t know better than to fall in love with obviously stupid films that simply happen to contain enough attractive people and sappy romance/car chases, right?
Well, later in the article there’s this whole thing about stereotyping teen girls as easily excitable and “hysteric” again, as the author points out that not only do we never make fun of overly excited teenage males the same way we do females, but she also makes the case that those who make fun of teenage girls are under the misconception that said girls are not in control of their emotions and that that’s why we mock them.
Feminist writer and activist Bailey Poland says that such discussions of teen girls often seem to be ripped from 19th and early 20th century attitudes about female “hysteria.”
“There’s an underlying assumption that teen girls are not in control of their emotions or interests and become overly excited or upset for no reason,” she said. “When the reality is that teen girls are often very intentional about what they’re interested in and aware of the social influences behind those media products, and they deliberately use excitement and passion as the foundation for community-building and empathetic development.”
Again, I’m sure this is true in some cases and that this too has become a “bandwagon” thing that indeed has its origins in the infamous Beatles fandom, but I think most people who resent the excessive excitement teenage girls express towards things that the industries want them to like don’t do so because they view women as mindless emotional wrecks. We might make the case that teens in general are puppets and that Hollywood pulls the strings but that’s a different story that I’ve already told.
At least trust me when I say this: I know perfectly well that perpetually shrieking One Direction fangirls are in control of their emotions and fully self-aware in what they do. Which, incidentally, makes me hate them even more since we can now blame them directly when they won’t sit down and shut up when they’re clearly getting on the collective nerves of everyone but each other. We can no longer write them off as being young and emotionally out-of-control, nor can THEY blame their obnoxious bullshit on it!
So fine! You win. Teenage girls aren’t crazy. They’re just assholes.
As for the ever predictable “We’d never say that to easily excited boys” argument, I’m going to repeat myself and state that I don’t believe that this is a hypocrisy that doesn’t really exist. I’m sure it does somewhere. It just doesn’t seem as rampant as this article is making it out to be and I’ve seen heaps of people, wherein I include myself, mock the excitability of sports enthusiasts and “overly manly” action fanboys with the same ire with which they’d taunt young women who for the life of them won’t shut the fuck up about Robert Pattinson. I doubt I’m the only one who makes fun of excitable and loud morons of all genders and since I’ve already touched upon the feminist community’s apparent blindness to this possibility in Why make fun of fangirls while giving sports fans a free pass?, I won’t say much more on that.
To be fair, I guess I’m not part of the group of assholes that Laura’s article is targeting. While I have indeed made fun of teens, this article seems mainly geared at those who praise the Fast & Furious films while looking down on those who love Twilight. But while I’m a person whose absolute favorites include creative and ambitious films that were meant to be loved by people of any gender (like Sound of Noise, Ed Wood, The Abyss, Back to the Future, Rango, La cité des enfants perdus, The Dark Crystal, or that tremendous masterpiece The Room), I still felt like someone had to play devil’s advocate when it comes to this article. I don’t even know if my counter post will be read – really, I just felt like writing my thoughts down SOMEWHERE – but it’d be mildly cool if it was.
Although, because I’m a man and/or evidently not on the same page as most online feminists, I suppose it’s potential for them to write this rebuttal off as “ignorant” or “sexist” without actually reading or thinking about it. Sometimes it’s easier to assume who’s wrong and who’s right from the get-go. Reminds me of this other teeny little blog post I wrote a while back about ideological titles and wanting to feel like you’re always right and everyone else not. ‘Tis a difficult world to talk about shit in. Oh well.
“Come gather ’round, Arbie, now haven’t you heard. A career in fast food is like polishing turds. It may shine like a diamond, it may sparkle a bit, but a turd is a turd, it still does the shit” – Lloyd Kaufman, Poultrygeist