I’m back from Blogher ’14 by now, but probably still sleeping it all off. So today I have my second guest post by the wonderful Off-Duty Mom. She is one of the first bloggers I ever got to know when I started blogging six years ago, and the first one to give me a spot guest-posting on her blog. She is awesome, as you’ll see when you read her post.
When a child turns 5, apparently, he or she is suddenly a ‘tween.
The term, originally coined to describe a demographic of needy children who were young enough to whine and pester their parents for overpriced Wal-Mart-quality merch, but not yet old enough to get a damn job and pay for their plastic bullshit themselves, has devolved into a craptacular world of low-budget entertainment for those no longer interested in Thomas, Dora, Elmo and Sophia the First.
And, then a lightbulb seemed to flick on in the collective mind of the Disney Machine: to emulate the most beloved/worst show that defined a generation and laugh at the stupidity of the American public (and Canadians, too, but we laugh at them for other reasons already) all the way to the bank.
Here is how Disney ended up taking all of your money and rotting your child’s brain doing nothing but recycling Saved by the Bell over and over.
Let’s first take a look at some of the requirements Disney needed to get together for each show in order to recreate SBTB’s glorious formula:
Piss-poor sound stage? Check.
Some school/park/”local hang out” that only ever seems to have, like, 5 people in it? Check.
Hairdos and outfits that every 12-year old will beg to have, then laugh raucously about 7 years later? (1997: “Hey guys! Look at these old pictures of us 7 years ago wearing hot pink with skin-tight jeans and all those bracelets!” 2021: “Hey guys! Look at these old pictures of us 7 years ago wearing hot pink with skin-tight jeans and all those bracelets!”) Check.
Baaaaaaaaaaaad acting by pretty people? Check.
C-list comedians playing the hopelessly befuddled adults? Check.
Tremendous lack of diversity (the whiteness of even the non-white characters is alarming)? Check.
Houses, schools and other significant buildings only ever seem to have one room? Check.
Once that foundation was in place, they were able to create a damn goldmine of garbage in the form of terrible comedies your kids will ultimately adore.
Let’s break down a few of my favorites:
- Dog with a Blog: Seriously clueless but adorably stupid boy and likable attractive girl who follows the rules and is something of a brainiac fumble with other characters through life’s ups and downs in this sitcom. Stupid boy has weird hair.
- Austin and Ally: This show centers around the “will-they-or-won’t-they” relationship of a pretty blond boy and a cute brunette who live in a sunny place where it is always summer and people are always wearing bright colors. The blond boy is cool. They have a wacky friend who makes ridiculous facial expressions. There is a hopeless laugh-track.
- Good Luck, Charlie: Characters often talk straight-to-camera in this low-concept, character-driven sitcom about good-looking suburban white people that focuses primarily on a blond kid giving advice.
- A.N.T. Farm: Set in some kind of weird high school that resembles absolutely no high school any high school student has ever gone to, a token Black female character is often the voice of reason to her comrades who include one hyper-intellectual female, a beautiful (but self-absorbed) drama queen, and a goofy-looking white boy. Their school leader is a fucking moron.
- Jessie: A pretty girl (named “Jessie,” for crying out loud) with curly hair hangs out with a bunch of kids. They get into all sorts of shenanigans, but she is clearly the smartest among them and often has to be a mother-hen to them. Her love life is a mess, but she is nonetheless lovable and wears cute stuff even though another female co-star is the girly, fluffy “pretty” one.
You know, Steve Martin supposedly once said that “comedy is the art of making people laugh without making them puke.” If this is the case, I suggest Disney go back to the drawing board. I feel ill whenever I even think about Liv and Maddie. By the way: why didn’t they just hire TWINS? If you’re making a comedy about a funny set of twin girls who are so adorably different ‘cuz, like, one is totally just like a BOY and the other is such a GIRL and we are all setting back gender equity and sexual identity about 50 years, why is your first thought to hire ONE ACTOR TO PLAY BOTH PARTS? Criminey. This chick ain’t no Hayley Mills.
Look: I loves me some Disney. I love The Lion King and Toy Story and Cinderella and Frozen. But, when a company so shamelessly tries to re-Britney/Justin/Ryan/Christina itself by building a factory that churns out “talent,” I wonder how talent is actually defined, honed, created, crafted or honored. Then, I think that Pink Floyd ought to reissue “Another Brick in the Wall” and create a video with Zac Effron, Lindsay Lohan, Raven Symone, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus and all three of the Jonas Brothers falling into that meat grinder.
Hey, Disney! Leave those kids alone!
Pick up your pens and write more checks to the Pixar arm of your giant beast. Mike Wazowski > Demi Lovato+Selena Gomez+Vanessa Hudgens+Ashley Tisdale+Shia LeBeouf combined.
Off-Duty Mom, the blog.
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