Study Hall Makes You Free
There are several reasons for my reticence. First of all, my source could be too easily traced. I also don't like dealing in information that reveals plot twists or endings. That's more of a job for people who make theatrical trailers for major motion pictures.
Then, of course, there's the simple fact that whether Felicity ends up with Ben or Noel hinges on a pathetic plot twist that's typical of any lame soap opera, which is typical of this supposedly quality television for idiot teens, which remains the kind of thing that's an important part of my daily life, which makes me the only writer in America who isn't being snide or ironic when he pleads for someone to kill me now kill me now KILL ME NOW.
Oh, but there's no reason to risk a six-month jail sentence for homicide. The ACLU and their Homeless Army of Doom will see me dead soon enough. (That acronym, naturally, is HAD, as in, "That white devil HAD to be pushed in front of the F train.") In the meantime, I'll continue to toil and suffer in teen culture. If anybody asks, though, I will maintain that my work actually pertains to truly interesting post-apocalyptic theory. This is because most teenage culture distinctly resembles the end of the fucking world.
Take a moment to appreciate my great courage in approaching this subject. Writers are generally terrified of making fun of teenagers. I goofed on a stupid 16-year-old a few years ago, and Option wasted no time in quoting me as an example of what happens when rock critics get old. That was actually my punishment for earlier goofing on Option's editors for being naive enough to believe that Madonna introduced s&m to popular culture. It's all false fear and bravado, anyway. Even teenagers are aware that teenagers are morons. Only desperate professional adolescents obsess over keeping their credentials as young and stupid. That's fine with me, though, since that kind of thinking provides us with important publications like Teen People.
I read Teen People regularly, but would usually never mention the magazine in these pages. This column is a responsible member of the hunting community and refuses to bag more than our limit. As with Spin and Rolling Stone, each issue of Teen People is full of enough assorted absurdity to easily fill a column. I settle for tearing out pages that will later help me knock out a quick holiday wrap-up of the year in stupidity. Here're a few highlights from Teen People's October '99 issue: Salma Hayek flaunts her education while talking about the human race's search for God: "We've been on this planet for two thousand years." MTV intern Kalinda Vazquez explains her taste in vintage fashion: "I actually wear a lot of my parents' clothes from the 70s; some of the shirts are really authentic." And an article titled "Where The Sidewalk Ends" reveals the plight of homeless teens who sport expensive fashion accessories and wear cool rock t-shirts.
There're other reasons why I love Teen People. Say what you will about Pat Boone, but he's never pretended to be Little Richard. Teen People shows the many busy faces utilized by today's young businessmen. Orgy's Jay Gordon and the guys of Limp Bizkit are completely different personalities when they're kissing up to their teenybopper demographic?which, despite the magazine's title, is determinedly preteen.
Teen People gets a little less funny when you start considering that true readership. It's one thing to lie to intelligent teenagers. They will naturally rebel while seeking out an individual identity. Teen People is busy trying to brainwash average imbeciles who are barely into their adolescence. Corporate indoctrination is often neatly summed up within the monthly "Now!" calendar. Make your plans for Oct. 18: "Forget history?get the herstory of women's music with the R-E-S-P-E-C-T box set ($70)."
But don't think indoctrination is all about shopping. There's also National Pizza Month and Gwen Stefani's birthday. And look who's the hunky dreamboat for Wednesday, Oct. 6: "The attack that took Matthew Shepard's life occurred a year ago today. Fight intolerance!" Then, just one week later, it's National Coming Out Day. This is also Columbus Day, but why make that the focus? Columbus helped kill the American Indians, you know. And the next Saturday has Britney Spears and Joey McIntyre In Concert on the Disney Channel!
At least Coming Out Day promotes diversity within Teen People. There's an article on two proud young lesbian couples, which marks the first time Teen People has ever run a picture of ugly fat women. Heck, this may be the first time Teen People has ever run a photo of any young woman who isn't at least five pounds underweight. (Fortunately, a poll on pages 201 and 202 explains the importance of a healthy body image. These happen to be the only pages without photo illustration.)
Coming Out Day is also the focus of Teen People's News Team Editorial Page. This has four teens explaining why they're so wonderfully sensitive about not being threatened at all by the idea of homosexuals. There's even a Christian who?remarkably?doesn't believe in beating gays on the head with broken beer bottles. He's a good Christian! The true Teen People spirit, however, is best expressed by Shawn Anderson of Spencerport, NY. The 17-year-old explains, "We need to make tolerance and diversity classes mandatory so that teens reevaluate how they treat others."
That's inherently funny, but I left out the punch line. Here it is, in full: "We need to make tolerance and diversity classes mandatory so that teens reevaluate how they treat others, especially minorities like gays." Shawn Anderson looks like a pretty sturdy blond kid. He could probably beat some sense into any of those Catholic students, or anyone else who has some kind of weird religious objection to mandatory tolerance and diversity. Don't think this is exaggerated speculation, either. We're coming out of the summer where Teen People hooked up with Dateline NBC for their very first news special. It was a careful look at teens and violence, which mentioned that jocks were pretty much responsible for all those kids getting shot at Columbine.
The magazine's called Teen People. I can't help but look at it and see the future. Then I only make things worse by talking to teens in person. There was, for example, my social experiment with a kid outside the big Orgy concert. He was wearing a backpack that sported a sticker that said "Stop Hate!" There's a tragic statement from our young people. Anyone who's anti-hate is also anti-love...although that doesn't interfere with the ability to get laid, so why should a teen worry about that?
Anyway, I casually told the kid that hate should never be stopped. "After all," I said, "there's one group that it's always okay to hate."
The kid gave me a puzzled look, but then he saw I wasn't some kind of racist kook. He gave me a big smile and shouted his response: "Christians!"
I couldn't tell the kid that he had given a good answer. That would have been betraying my own religion. I settled for giving him a high-five and telling him he had given the correct answer. This much was true. The kid had been paying attention in class. Not the classroom, of course, where contempt for Christians is only taught through silent disdain. The kid had been paying attention in the classrooms of Time Warner and Teen People. The kid will hopefully grow up to be a really Godless evil person who eventually runs into another close relative of Gerald Levin.
For the record, the kid would have only gotten a B+ if he had said "Catholics!" That would have shown a lack of imagination. Catholics get positioned as something beyond hateful. Teens will learn this if any go to see the upcoming Stigmata, which reinvents Christ as a demon and presents the Catholic Church as murderers.
Nobody has to worry about protests, either. Anyone who's offended has the sense of humor of the Ayatollah. At least, that's what Ben Affleck says in Teen People about anyone who complains about the upcoming Dogma. Never mind that the Ayatollah was ousted as his ancient religion was destroyed in the name of inventing the Las Vegas of the Eastern World. The Ayatollah should have had more celebrity friends like the Dalai Lama. Teen People supports the Dalai Lama, and no one even cares that his religion believes in willing away homosexuality.
Catholics are frankly more tolerant about Coming Out Day, but why should Teen People get so deep into a topic? The magazine can't be bothered to examine too much diversity. It's best to celebrate homosexuality without any real context. That way, teen people can grow up to be idiot adults who do things like petition for the banning of Dr. Laura Schlessinger and her anti-gay beliefs. It doesn't matter that nobody ever listens to Dr. Laura without making a conscious choice. Why treat someone's belief system with equal value, when everybody feels so good about gay rights?
Teen People gets to be genuinely frightening in its banality, and even that much isn't original. It's a continuation of the early Sassy tradition of being nonjudgmental and stomping anyone who dares to believe differently. Teen People actually believes this is the path to adulthood. That's why the jocks at Columbine deserved what they got coming. And it's why Janet Reno still remains the definitive Sassy girl.
Teen People should put her on the cover. It's a perfect match, as we've all been reminded with Waco back in the news. I no longer bother trying to explain why the Branch Davidians are true American martyrs. People can do the research, or at least take the time to go watch the Academy Award-nominated Waco: The Rules of Engagement. Otherwise, you're welcome to think I'm part of a lunatic fringe that clings to the notion that there was a government conspiracy to kill the Branch Davidians. You're welcome to your ignorance.
But I worry about a new generation that's routinely taught that religion equals brainwashing and guns equal crime. It's even weirder to see entertainment magazines routinely making the template for this unthinking intolerance. My issue of Teen People reads a lot more lately like Soldier of Fortune, and I just don't know how 90s kids are supposed to realize that it's very, very bad when people lie to you and tell you how to think.
Waco: The Rules of Engagement was recently in the New Releases section of my local video store, even though it originally came out on tape last year. This was probably based on some mad retailer's hope that recent news reports will spark new interest in our government's act of genocide. That's not likely. Today's kids can't get interested in any documentary that doesn't have staged events, dramatic recreations or a skewed sense of activism. They need documentaries that look like network news.
But maybe an old-fashioned 80s horror film could teach a similar lesson to that needy teen audience. Especially an old-fashioned 80s horror film that nobody bothered to watch the first time. Bad Dreams originally came out in 1988, and was unfairly dismissed as a Nightmare On Elm Street ripoff. Today, people might be a little more receptive to this look at an evil force in search of control. The setting might even seem familiar to any teenager who's accidentally watched the news over the past six years.
Bad Dreams begins with young Cynthia in the commune of charismatic cult leader Franklin Harris. He's busy baptizing his followers in gasoline as part of a big Jonestown-style barbecue. Cynthia's just a little kid, but she's also the only one who tries to escape the home as the group goes up in flames.
Cynthia only gets far enough to make it into a 13-year coma. More girls should try this, since Cynthia comes out of her coma looking like sexy young scream queen Jennifer Rubin. She's quickly sent into group therapy to adjust to a world where The Electric Prunes are no longer popular recording artists. It doesn't take long before Cynthia starts seeing Harris walking the halls of the mental ward. The scorched psycho then starts killing Cynthia's fellow patients in grisly ways guaranteed to make the pages of Fangoria.
In a bizarre twist, however, Harris isn't a Freddy Krueger-style knockoff. It turns out that the evil Dr. Berrisford has actually been handing out hallucinogenics to the folks in Cynthia's group therapy, as a quick experiment in nefarious mind control. Cynthia has just been hallucinating the charismatic cult leader bogeyman. It turns out that her life is really endangered by the powerful authority figure she has carelessly entrusted with handling her medical program.
This alone should give the thickest teen some clue about the dangers of a nanny society. It gets even better by the time Cynthia's love interest figures out the evil plot. Cynthia's in the loony bin about to kill herself, and the good guy has to open the cells of every nutcase in the hospital just to save an innocent soul.
Let the kids give that exciting development some thought. I can certainly relate. It never seemed likely that I would ever support the rights of neo-Nazis, the JDL, and the new Black Panther Party to store large amounts of weaponry. In this day and age, however, my prayers are with the intolerant. And if the ATF ever shows up at their doors, then I hope those neo-Nazis, the JDL, and the NBPP don't make David Koresh's mistake. They should kill every damn ATF man out there, then reload quickly for the FBI. That'll teach their children well.
New York’s Top Public High Schools
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
New York’s Top Public High Schools
Op-Ed: How the U.E.S. Dies
In Each Picture, a Story