Because life is a series of edits

The Kids Are Growing Up

In Internet, Movies, Musicians, Thought, TV, Westminster on November 20, 2008 at 7:28 am

A thought crossed my mind this week that I’ll throw out to see if it sticks. For many of you, this may fall in the “I could care less” category, but since I spend a majority of my time with teenagers, I’m interested.

It seems to me there’s a major generational shift going on in the teen entertainment business. For instance, earlier this week, the MTV show TRL (Total Request Live) took a final bow after ten years of attracting the “biggest and hottest recording artists, actors and celebrities on most weekday afternoons,” all while playing “the most iconic videos of the day.” For better or for worse, a majority of the boy bands, pop tarts, and rappers of the past ten years got a whole lot of promotion via TRL, a fact wonderfully and cynically documented in the 2001 movie (not the 70s TV show) Josie and the Pussycats, one of my favorite commentaries on the youth culture of the time.

But that’s not all that makes me think about a shift occurring. This weekend, the movie Twilight – teen romance with unfortunate vampire issues – comes out, and the teen world all over will be filling theaters for weeks on end tomorrow to see it. I was intrigued by a comment one of the girls in my class made when, commenting on the “hot or not” looks of the movie’s Edward character (Jane Austen fans, imagine a teenage Mr. Darcy with fangs), she said, “He’s not even really that cute. All the cute guys – with the exception of Zac Ephron – are older.”

Hmmm.

Finally, I don’t know if anyone’s seen the trailer for J.J. Abrams‘ new Star Trek movie, but there’s nary a recognizable face among the actors playing the new (and young – very young) versions of Kirk, Spock, Scotty, et. al. Granted, Abrams’ name is the draw (he of Alias and Lost fame), but with him at the helm, it’s interesting there isn’t more familiar young “star power” (notice I didn’t say “talent”) attached.

Is something going on here? Anyone have any thoughts, or am I just spending too much time with high schoolers? My interest is not in the fact that I’m getting older (I know that already), but in the fact that the youth culture of recent years seems to be.

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  1. I’m with you. I am often surprised about how young the new generation seems.

    Of course, both of us have been in that age bracket where more (most?) of the sports, TV, movie, and music “stars” are now younger than us. It’s a bit weird to watch a feature on SportsCenter last night (I learned with Jack that ESPN’s all-night SportsCenter stretch makes a good companion for late night– or early morning– bottle feedings!) about how odd it is that the two NFL teams to watch– the NY Jets and the Tennessee Titans– are both led by “old guys”. Brett Favre (38) and Kerry Collins (35) are the most seasoned quarterbacks to hit the NFL in years, yet both are leaning on their experience and wisdom for their leadership. It doesn’t hurt that both are still in phenomenal physical condition, “even for their age.”

    And we were in college with these guys. I vaguely remember Favre’s Southern Miss upset of Florida State, as well as Collins’ Heisman Trophy win while he was at Penn State.

  2. I think the star trek actors all appeal to the 20-something crowd. You have John Cho from Harold and Kumar (big college movie) and Zachary Quinto from Heroes. Tim and I like Quinto’s character in Heroes so much that we were really looking forward to him playing Spock.

    Really, with so many older fans out there would they really want to put teen stars in the movie?

  3. I hadn’t thought about the sports examples, Ed, but they’re good ones. Last weekend, my girls happened to watch the remake of The Parent Trap starring one (or two, if you know the story) young Lindsay Lohan (thankfully, they’ve not encountered the older version). Talk about time passing since 1998.

    Another illustration I thought of is Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (anybody remember that little film about a big boat, circa 1997?) reuniting for a film in which they are – get this – married with children in the upcoming Revolutionary Road.

    Not sure I understand your question, Amy. Do you really think the target audience for this film is one made up of old Trekkies?

  4. craig, i think maybe you’re just getting old. ;-)

    seriously though, perception is a big thing here. you’ve perceived this cast “unknown teens” but a quick glance at the imdb listing for the new star trek revealed several things. first, far from being teenagers most of the main actors in the film are in their mid to late twenties with several in their early thirties. second, as i looked down the list i saw several recognizable names. as already mentioned quinto (playing spock) is from the hugely popular heroes franchise, then there’s eric bana, winona ryder (why i do not know), sean pegg (the lead from several hit films), karl urban (a kiwi most popular in the states for his turn as eomer in the LOTR films), bruce greenwood (one of those guys you never think of till you see him and then you remember he’s been in a ton of movies), leonard nimoy even has a cameo.

    you are right in saying that the abrams brand is what will be the biggest draw for this movie but i don’t think you’re critique of the cast is necessarily fair. i’d be curious to see how well know the original trek cast was before the tv show started. my guess is they weren’t. with all that said i’m not actually even a star trek fan. i just thought some of your comments were interesting, though the young woman’s comment about older men was a little disturbing.

    hope all is well.

  5. Yeah craig, I think the audience is older and Abrams doesn’t really do projects for a teen crowd. (I was in a hurry so it was a poorly written rhetorical question).

    I may not be able to read between the lines— where is the shift happening? In talent? In youth? or in exposure?

  6. I am interested, but I’m not quite sure what you’re driving at. Can you rephrase the question? :)

  7. So, you’re basically wondering if others have noticed that it seems like a cohort of youth celebrities and their vehicles seem to be either fading away– a la TRL –or growing into more mature roles– a la Kate & Leo. Is that right? Yeah, I guess I’ve noticed it. What’s going on with it? Well, maybe a few things.

    First, obviously, people gotta grow up some time, even celebrities. So, there’s always going to be a fresh crop every few years.

    But, I have a couple of other theories with respect to the Hollywood machine. I sense that there is cyclical thinking regarding the benefit of “star power.” Is the extra draw of a celebrity worth the extra $$ he or she is paid? In the 80’s, it seems like the idea of the “brat pack” was worth it to studio execs to put them all in movies together, even though it soon became evident that several of them were just not very good actors (or had other fatal flaws off the set). I think that maybe now there is a mindset that if “fresh talent” is given the right vehicle, the studios can pay less for them and still rake in the teenage spending dollars.

    My prime example is the High School Musical crowd who were unknowns before they were teamed up to earn Disneay a kagillion dollars. (And it’s no fair for Travis to go look at IMDb and tell me all the well-received community theater performances those kids were in before the movie came out.) If you want to look even deeper at why there might be a tilt toward the unknowns at this time, I think we might be able to blame the American-Idol-reality-tv-contestant-type-shows phenomenon. America has shown that it’s willing to be interested in people they’ve never heard of before as long as they are put onto a tv or movie screen.

    I have no idea why I have put so much thought into this or spent so much time writing these thoughts down. I don’t even really know if I’m on point with Craig’s post. But there you go.

  8. nick, i think your point about the obsession with reality and it’s possible connection to unknown talent is an interesting one. and don’t worry, i wouldn’t waste the energy searching the web for anything to do with high school musical. that franchise is such a….. i better stop there and simply say it’s amazing how much money can be made from awful acting, awful plot lines, mediocre singing, derivative choreography… seriously, i’ll stop now.

  9. The only teen talents that come to mind are the ones created and promoted by Disney… Miley Cyrus, Jonas Bros, HSM cast, Disney channel stars (whom I don’t know because we–by the grace of God–don’t have cable).

    I don’t know much about the Twilight cast, other than Edward is played by the same guy who played Cedric Diggory… I thought he was a pretty cool choice, but apparently at least one person in the movie’s target audience doesn’t agree.

    On a tangential note, I tried to read Twilight because I wanted to have a basis on which to tell my 10-year-old, “No, you can’t read it” (if anyone’s gonna ban a book for my kids, it’s gonna be ME). I couldn’t make it past about halfway. At about the point when he’s lying in the grass being all sparkly, I checked out.

  10. Headline about Twilight from Drudge Report on Saturday:

    “NO SEX, NO VIOLENCE, NO STARS: ‘TWILIGHT’ STORMS BOXOFFICE”

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