The Fish
for 10 November 1998. Updated every WEEKDAY.
 
 
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Production Manager

& Ass Kicker

 

[yes, it's a plunger. i'll l
eave the rest up to your imagination ... ]
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Production Manager

 

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Ghost in the Machine

 

Matt Beer
Matt Beer
Development Manager

Earnest Goes to Camp

Today, during a discussion in
English class of To the
Lighthouse,
indeed, during my
desperately vague comments
hoping to hide the fact I
hadn't yet read it, we
started talking about Joyce,
and his presence on The List.

I heaped scorn upon it,
drawing from your article for
inspiration ... my teacher
said: "Well, what can you
do?"

My mind raced. My retort?
"Read the books, not the
list."

I think that should be my new
motto. It's better than my
last one, which I cribbed
from someone's .sig ...

btw, tho' I haven't read it,
To the Lighthouse sounds like
an early stab at hypertext!
You should look into this.

A postliterate Canuck,

Nick Wolfe
<eneyeseekay@www.hotmail.com>

Don't know what article
indicated to you that James
Joyce, who has furnished our
culture with innumerable
literary devices, allusions,
Suck aliases, and better
readers, is deserving of
scorn, let alone heaps of it.
But boy, your teacher must
have been way impressed when
you declared: "Hey, I know
Joyce is for shit because it
said so in Suck!"

Preliterately,

Sucksters

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dear Sucksters: I'm not sure
what sort of teenagers are
congregating in your
building's entryway, but the
kids I'm around absolutely
love this Earnestness
bullshit. Don't underestimate
Matchbox 20, Goo Goo Dolls,
and Titanic. The weepy
teenage girls I know admire
them in public, while the
weepy teenage boys borrow
copies and listen to/watch
them at home. Teenagers
aren't all as smart as you
think. It's possible that the
kids in your entryway are
more intellectually apt than
my classmates, because most
of the kids I know wouldn't
understand irony if it
whapped them in the face. Or
whatever it is that irony
does. I'm guessing that
"Earnestness" is going to be
with us for a while. It's
appalling to see that some
students at my high school
are completely without humor.
They just can't grasp
anything that isn't serious.
Seriousness is something that
everyone can understand, and
something that most teenage
kids think they can relate to
- It's SO hard being a
middle-class white teenager
these days - and apparently
something that sells.

Before you assume that most
teenagers are any more
emotionally mature than an
average 8-year-old, make sure
you've talked to some AVERAGE
teenagers.

Jon Black
<jblack@dailyinterlake.com>

You may be right. I went to
high school in the 'hood,
where earnestness tended to
take a back seat to character
assassination and routine
beatings (often of me). Which
is probably kind of strange
considering that these
middle-class white teenagers
you refer to tend to think of
Inner City Youths as somehow
more "real" or "legit" than
they are.

As for the weepy teenage boys
borrowing copies to listen
to/watch, I suspect this
falls under the "pathetic
efforts to suck up to weepy
teenage girls" category.
That's a timeless spectacle.

Less emotionally mature than
the average 8-year-old,

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

I typically greet new
programming by the "younger"
networks (UPN, WB, Fox) with
the same enthusiasm as having
a Rottweiler clamp itself
onto my upper thigh. When I
was forced by my (now
ex-)roommate to sit through
the premiere episode of
Felicity, I could feel the
iron jaws closing on my leg.
Ironically, it was not a lack
of realism that caused me to
feel this way, but a surfeit
of it. Having just gotten out
of college within the past
few years, I recognized the
representation of Felicity's
melodramatic late-teen angst
and confusion as being fairly
well on target. But, you know
what? I just got done dealing
with these people; I would
sooner face the Rottweiler
than have to watch them on
TV.

Tom Maddox
<lmaddox@tigger1.nado.hp.com>

Realism? You mean the fact
that Felicity's freshman dorm
room in New York is bigger
than the cathedral at Tours?
Or that Ben's hair is as
immovable as granite? Or is
it just the gritty street
scenes? You're right, it's so
hyper-real it gives me
flashbacks.

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

In response to your 27
October posting about the
state of teen television.

Of course the television
market is going after the
teens. In all economic times,
especially ones where
double-income parenting and
single-parent families are
the norm and the middle class
is shrinking (and not because
everyone is making the shift
to upper class), parents
sacrifice for the
children.... The male wolf
gives up the rabbit kill to
the mother who, in turn, gives
them to the pups, leaving the
adults to remain hungry. It
is no different for humans.

At 30, my philosophy about
consumerism is: used first,
wholesale or on-sale second,
retail never. Brand names
happen only by accident or
maybe occasionally at
Marshalls. I specifically
boycott all products that
tell me to buy them....
Unfortunately, our kids have
not learned that yet, and
they still struggle with peer
status and must behave and
dress accordingly. As such
they become one of the only
markets for many different
categories of consumer goods.
Kids have free time and no
overhead....

I turned to Felicity because
of one thing. She's hot.
After 10 minutes I had to
change the station because I
was getting nauseous. The
acting was almost as
horrendous as the daily
soaps. Bursting with
idiocy.....

Critics on Felicity: "An
emotive tour de force ...
bursting with honest
sentiment." "Searing in its
intensity." "A drama that is
intense because it is real,
every minute [in sharp
contrast to a TV culture
that] has rarely had the
resolve, particularly in
recent years, to wear its
heart on its sleeve with a
really good drama."

Real!?! Are these reviewers
for real? Were they watching
the same show I was?

Shows that identify with teen
angst are like asthma
products. Cover the symptoms,
but NEVER, NEVER solve the
problem. That would eliminate
the market. "Tough being a
teen, we know, so buy our
product." How about, "Tough
being a teen, well, being an
adult is far tougher." Or
"Why would anyone really want
that?" The shows geared to
the youth act like the weight
of the world is soooo heavy on
teens. Here's a thought, tell
the youth that it is the time
of life for them to live,
love, and learn, and that the
transition is merely a state
of mind.

Paul C. Doyle Jr.

Editor, Vermont Review
<pcdnv@vermontel.com>

Wow, talk about a
point-by-point response. All
the critical reviews I cited
were real, except the one
from Orange Julius, which I
stole from a high-school pal.

But let me just call you on
two points:

1) What is it with all these
people complaining about big
corporations trying to sell
products to unsuspecting
teens? Ever heard of the
American Way?

2) "How about, 'Tough being a
teen, well, being an adult is
far tougher.' Or 'Why would
anyone really want that?' The
shows geared to the youth act
like the weight of world is
soooo heavy on teens."

How about "When I was your
age we had to walk five miles
to school in the snow
barefoot, while keeping
swizzle sticks clamped
between our butt cheeks?"
Adult problems are obviously
tougher than teen problems,
but that's why they're
usually reserved for adults.
Being a teenager was and
remains no picnic. The
drinking age alone ensures a
painful adolescence. For me,
adult life is infinitely
preferable to teenhood. But
then things were pretty tough
when I was a teenager, what
with Grant laying siege to
Richmond and all.

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Earnest
Goes to Camp

I wanted to let you know how
much I enjoyed your recent
article called "Earnest Goes
to Camp." I do have a question
about one of the things you
wrote, if you have the time
to answer it.

What did you mean when you
wrote: In the New Woodstock
generation, only Neve
Campbell has the Necessary
Gravitas to be the brown
acid.

I hope you can clarify this
for me. Anyway, thank you for
your time and keep up the
good work.

<basementsound@mindspring.com>

During the 1960s, batches of
LSD were color-coded (e.g.,
Owsley Blue, Red, etc.). At
the world-famous Woodstock
concert, legend has it that
there was a bad batch of
"brown" acid in circulation.
Apparently, everybody who
dropped the brown acid had a
bad trip, and some of the
era's legendary performers
had to make announcements
from the stage warning
audience members to avoid the
stuff. "Don't eat the brown
acid" eventually became an
anti-catch phrase in the
manner of "I love my dead gay
son."

As for Neve, well, she gives
me a bad trip every time.

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

But isn't the whole point of
these programs to get
Washington's Morality in
Media brigade off of
Hollywood's back by providing
"family" programming that
still fills pop culture's
need for an endless parade of
Babes of the Month? I mean,
even back when the
not-yet-ripe Felicity was in
those Noxema commercials she
was becoming prime
masturbation material for the
middle-aged, even Wayne and
Garth said so. SCHWING!

BTW, where is this "Canada" I
hear you speak of?

Eric Walker
<ejwalker@mislabs.com

Maybe, but as Suck's own St.
Huck pointed out in Tuesday's
piece, contemporary family
values seem to involve
bumping off the parents.
Which is probably just as
well, since today's parents
are all slimy, Bill Clinton
boomer types who don't really
have Christ in their hearts.

Bartel

P.S. Rebecca Gayheart, not
the girl in Felicity, was the
Noxema girl.

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

Dear Sir,

Two months away from my 21st
birthday, I find that I'm
already old news to the folks
on Madison Avenue. Yes, my
attention span for '80s music
was quickly shortened when
every radio station of every
format decided to co-opt the
culture of my imagined youth,
however objectively
unappealing that culture was.
For all my angsty talk about
commodifying my dissent, I
have to admit I was a little
flattered that someone took
the time to market to me.

But now, in my
late-adolescent
"post-adolescent" haze, I've
realized what I should have
known all along: TV (and
every other institution based
on the holy laws of supply
and demand) is full of crap.
And that's the way it is,
whether it's marketing to
me, or to a future generation
of pseudo-emotional Barbie
dolls.

Isn't it time to come to the
sad (and liberating), complete
rejection of television, pop
radio, and everything else
that centers around taking a
genuine but unremarkable
sentiment and turning it into
eight to ten years of flaccid
programming, advertising with
co-opted messagee, and, generally,
more crap. It's just
not worth it.

If an ad-man hocks "Helen
Keller on tape" to the deaf,
is he contemptible, or just
disgusting?

And does it matter, when the
Al D'Amatos of the world are
clearly the former?

Sincerely,

Saurav Sarkar
<saurav.sarkar@yale.edu>

What? What else are the radio
stations supposed to co-opt,
if not your so-called
imagined youth? TV is full of
crap? Time to reject all pop
culture because it's so
deeply painful to you that
there's nothing of quality
out there? Not like the salad
days of ... Laverne &
Shirley?

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

D'arcy -

How I wish we could just put
the final nail in the coffin
of Felicity and the like ...
but it's these television
writers that we really need
to bury. Always riding the
crest of This Year's
Pathology and its
corresponding anodyne. Two
years ago, the furtive minds
of screenplay writing
confused irony for hipster
detachment ... now they've
caught wind of the masses'
tendency toward optimism and
have mistaken it for
blandness.

The trouble with shows such
as Dawson's Creek and
Felicity is that you need
only watch the commercials to
follow what's going on.
Sadly, there just isn't
enough meat on the bones of
folks like Keri Russell. Lump
Sarah Michelle Gellar into
that crowd if you want, but
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is
at least a well-written show
with a bright, subversive
take on adolescence: High
School as Hell. Joss Whedon
has decided on his worldview
and has stuck to it
relentlessly, winning fans of
people like me, who didn't
figure too highly in the
high school caste system.

The big problem with
Felicity, in my mind, is that
it fails at capturing the
experience of going to
college. The mistake that
Felicity's writers make is
similar to the mistakes I see
in other television shows
centered around college: They
make the mistake of believing
that college is an
intrinsically interesting
place, when in fact the
typical college experience is
only interesting once you
factor in a friendly,
bong-hitting motherfucker
like me. At the center of
Felicity is this complete
cipher of a character. She
emotes, she's earnest, man,
she really gives a shit like
no one's given a shit before,
but - I fail to believe that
anyone can spend 18 years on
this earth and still be a
complete tabula rasa. (Though
with the current trends
toward part-time parenting
and sheltering one's
offspring, I can certainly
imagine that someday a whole
generation of kids could grow
up that disconnected. Maybe
Felicity should read as a
cautionary tale.)

What's sadder, by the way, is
the damage this new blanding
has wrought to music, because
it's harder to avoid. Which
is why I turn Rancid way up
loud.

Getting harder to avoid,

Jason Linkins
<J_Linkins@psava.com>

So when I get my pitch
session with WB executives,
does this mean I should tell
them "It's this total college
show, except you know there
really isn't anything
interesting about college, so
there won't be any emotions
or romance or people taking
classes or anything; it'll
just be like this friendly
bong-hitting motherfucker
like this Jason Linkins guy
who writes to Suck. 'Cause
that's really the bomb
college experience, you know
what I'm sayin'?"

For my money, Felicity is
already wearing out her
welcome. After four or five
episodes, she's quickly
moving from adorably clingy
to psychotically stalking.
Read the Flaubert story A
Simple Heart,
another tale
of a too-affectionate nutcase
named (not coincidentally,
given the way TV writers like
to let you know they really
do read books and stuff)
Felicity. Ben should really
make a clean break, but he's
just such a tease.

Buffy's been well fluffed by
all and sundry, but I never
actually saw the show until
last week. My verdict:
BO-RING!

Bartel

 
Fish With Letter Icon
 

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