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The (alleged) wisdom of youth

An over-dramatic TV critic -- they're not in short supply -- once referred to the press tour as "the Bataan Death March with cocktails." The truth is, it's mostly a placid affair: The networks parade stars and producers and executives up to a stage; we ask them questions generally ranging from stupid to mundane; they fire random cliches until our eyes glaze over and it's time for the next panel.

Once in a while, though, bullets start to fly, at least rhetorically. A Friday panel on The CW's new reality show Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search For The Next Doll, which debuts March 6, was less a press conference than a bar brawl.

Pussycat In case you're not a Pussycat Dolls fan, they're a modern burlesque troupe masquerading as a pop group, or perhaps vice-versa: little clothing but lots of bump-and-grind, with lyrics like Doncha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?/Doncha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me? The show features nine young women competing to join the group while being beat up by a panel of judges a la American Idol.

Things were quiet for while, until one of the critics asked Robin Antin, the founder of the Pussycat Dolls one of the show's producers, if the group wasn't "a giant step back for women." He added: "Why should young girls aspire to dress up like skanks and sing doncha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?"

"Wait one second," replied Antin icily. "First of all, there's nothing slutty about it. There's nothing skanky about it. Their clothing is cute."  Another critic broke in: "You've been using words like 'empowering' and it sounds like these girls are running for president." To which Antin replied, "It's something that every girl in the world wants to do."

At that point, some of the other producers, including Ron Fair of Geffen Records (the Pussycats' label) and so-cool-he's-only-got-initials McG, a veteran of TV and movies, came to her defense. Fair's point was reasonable enough: "There a lid for every pot." That is, to each her own. McG, however, suggested that the Pussycat Dolls are nothing less than Betty Friedan in lingerie. "This is, frankly, third-wave feminism...women celebrating one another being beautiful," he proclaimed.

That was too much for another critic -- okay, it was me. "Doncha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me -- in what sense does that celebrate other women?" I asked.

McG's reply, essentially, was that I'm too old and stupid to understand the exquisite philosophical nuances of bustiers and pelvic thrusts. "You must understand the fundamental paradox of a gentleman of your age asking that very question," he sneered, adding that anybody who doesn't instant-message his friends on a Sidekick cell phone really ought to just shut up. "I don't think that's a particularly fair question," he concluded, "and I say it with the greatest respect," which is Hollywoodspeak for "none at all."

"And I don't think you answered it, either," I retorted. "In no way did I say I don't find the Pussycat Dolls entertaining. I think hot girls are tremendous. I'm just baffled at how you get from doncha wish your girlfriend was a freak like me to 'celebrating women'."

"It's just saying, 'don't you wish your girlfriend could free and comfortable in her own skin and do her own thing like me,' " McG explained, preposterously. That actually brought down a chorus of boos from the rest of them, which had been punctuating the exchange with laughter and cheers.

McG is probably right -- I am too old to understand his work. Anybody who saw his crash-bang-boom TV series Fastlane or his crash-bang-boom movie Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle would agree they're incomprehensible to anyone over the age of 12. Nonetheless, I was a little saddened by our encounter. Television executives, for a long time, have been telling us that people over 50 are not desirable targets for advertisers, and The CW has placed the ceiling even lower, at 35. (Which, ironically, excludes McG himself; a creaky and senescent 38, in The CW universe he's a potential audience only for ads for Viagra and adult diapers.) But this is the first time one of them has said, to our faces, that passing 50 is equivalent to terminal stupidity. Every time I think Hollywood arrogance has hit its apogee, there's a McG around to demonstrate to me how short-sighted I am.


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Hilarious. I look forward to your print review of this show, assuming it actually gets made.

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