Cartoon Graveyard: Baba O’Riley Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

May 21, 2009

The American teenager is a weird animal.  (God DAMN, am I original today!)  Ever since becoming a recognized group sometime after World War II (Seventeen started publishing in 1947, which I ONLY KNOW BECAUSE OF PREVIOUS SQUELCH-RELATED RESEARCH, SO SHUT UP), they’ve been simultaneously feared and fetishized by the culture at large.  And I’m a guy who treats the very notion of a single, unified “the culture” with contempt, barely contained when I need to pass my American Studies class, so trust me when I say this shit is everywhere.  Coming up with reasons would be boring and pedantic, so let’s stick with one: they’re loaded.  Anyone with shit to sell sees teenagers as nothing more than giant walking piggy banks, covered with buttons labeled “PRESS ME TO GAIN MONEY.”

You at 15

You at 15

Massive wads of allowance plus brains that technically haven’t fully developed yet equals easy pickin’s for those willing to prey on vanity, insecurity, and plain old gullibility.  Everyone knows it, and since half of our economy counts on it, there’s not much we can do other than exploit it.

What’s weirder is how much other age groups buy into the obsession with teenhood.  Little kids will do just about anything they see a cool teenager doing, and grown adults watch Gossip Girl.  On purpose.  Not to mention the literal fetishization of teens, but I’ll leave that topic to David and Sarah.  The point is, we pay way too much attention to the narcissistic little creeps, and knowing I’m only a couple years removed from their ranks only makes the bile sweeter.

Shit, this is getting depressing.  Let’s move on to the crappy cartoon du jour, shall we?

Title:           6teen
Network:   Cartoon Network
Premise:    Teens in mall do mall stuff, nothing else

This particular hunk of demographic-exploitin’ time-wastery features six inoffensive, good-natured teenagers with approximately one character trait apiece hanging out in a mall after school.  That’s it.  Lock, stock, and barrel. Let’s see if I can even remember who they are: there’s a slightly ditzy girl, a slightly jock-y girl I think, an occasionally sarcastic girl who you can tell is totally rebellious ‘cause she has piercings, a sensible black guy, an egotistical schemer who has never, ever, appeared in any other animated format (ever), and a guy supposed to be a skater dude who oh who cares they’re all just thin sketches, not even approaching the effort that goes into stereotypes.

Okay, stepping back from the run-on sentences for a minute, did someone mention stereotypes?  Let me put it this way: the episode I watched featured prominently a character bearing the sobriquet “Darth,” who, and I’m about to freakin’ blow your mind, is skinny, acne-ridden, fond of electronics, and given to filtering all of life through Star Wars.  Normally at this point I would say “that’s the character in a nutshell,” but that’s the character in his entirety.  That’s nuanced, insightful comedy writing at its finest.



There is nothing below the surface, which really sums up this show pretty well.  Another example: in a separate vignette, the Sensible Black Guy is stalked by an apparently insane girl, whose unexplained obsession with chickens makes her by far the most complex character on display.  Curiously, she is easily decoyed into stalking a completely different person, under the impression that he is SBC.  In the dramatic denouement, with both stalkees present, SBC attempts to explain their differences to her: “I’m black!  He’s white!” I kept waiting for the punch line, or at least more setup, but none came.  That was the extent of it.  The implication: people have nothing to distinguish them beyond their appearance.  Worse yet, the show practices what it preaches. during one of my many, many idle moments during the show, I tried a thought experiment: how would any of the three or four separate plotlines (yeah, having six main characters can do that to you) change if any of the principals switched places?  The answer: not a damn bit.  All are alike below the skin. That sounds good if you’re addressing a seminar on fighting racism, but less so when trying to make a decent TV show.

Perhaps I’m being too hard on the creators of 6teen, which, along with Se7en and Know1ng, taught us that numbers used in words are never, ever annoying.  After all, they’re trapped by their own premise.  Their characters may never leave their mall.  It’s like Sartre’s No Exit, except they’re not the ones in Hell.  There are only so many places a story can go in a mall without interacting at all with the outside world, and in none of them are the stakes very high.  Oh no, X might lose her job!  Who cares, she’s a teenager.  Gasp, Y might date Z, who is totally wrong for him!  Again, not that big a deal really.  In the end, 6teen suffers from Fry’s Law of Television: at the end of the episode, everything is right back to normal.  And if normal is six boring teenagers sitting around a mall, that Law is a death sentence.  For a series who theme song extols the mall as “where we bend all the rules,” 6teen lacks the stones to even touch the rules.

Final Judgment:

Sally take my hand
This show is fucking bland
All you’ll get from it
Is just a half-hour older…

THEY’RE ALL WASTED!  (organ solo)


One comment

  1. […] bookmarks tagged inoffensive Cartoon Graveyard: Baba O'Riley Ain't Seen… saved by 1 others     sushiman75 bookmarked on 05/22/09 | […]

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