Friday, April 27, 2012

High School Bullshittical

While cruising the web for Ukrainian snuff films recently I came across one of those obnoxious ads smacked right in the middle of the page, made to look like actual content and just convincing enough that you read the first sentence or so before realizing you're wasting your time reading some ad feces instead of the article you were there to read in the first place.

I am going to point out some of the myriad problems I have with this ad.

Here is the text and image, unfettered for now by my withering barbs:

"Ashley Tisdale stars as high school senior Mandy Gilbert who's not too hot within the high-stakes world of teen society. But her social status is about to dramatically improve when she lands a date to the biggest party of the year with Drew Patterson, the school's hottest guy. Only problem she's grounded! With the help of her friends and her new, must-have video phone, she'll have to outsmart her overprotective dad and Drew's ex-girlfriend, in a crazy, adventure-filled day that proves that popularity can come and go, but good friends will always be in the picture.

Don't miss the premiere of the new [Some Fucking Network I'm Not Giving Free Advertising To] Original Movie Picture This! starring Ashley Tisdale Sunday, July 13 at 8/7c, only on [Some Fucking Network I'm Not Giving Free Advertising To]."


This ad, I'm convinced, is written by people who are at best delusional about the realities of life, and at worst the person you notice is licking pine tree air fresheners in a convenience store and wondering aloud why "they don't taste like Christmas."  I will now break down exactly how I came to this conclusion, and in doing so hopefully explain why the police recently picked me up for rubbing my scrotum on the air fresheners at the Sac N' Pac near my home.

First Of All

If you don't know who Ashley Tisdale is, please trade lives with me immediately.  I know her as The One I Haven't Seen Naked On The Internet from the tween phenomenon High School Musical, and my use of the word "tween" twice in this sentence should make a sad statement to you all about the man I've become.

Tisdale is most famous for that role, despite her attempts to release an album of what I can only assume is a litany of twinkling pop songs about how you can do anything if you believe in yourself, and despite her appearances in nonsense like Picture This! to further show her considerable range at playing vapid, pregnancy-pact swearing teens.  As I understand it, her character in High School Musical is named after a dog, which on the desirable brand recognition scale falls just below being known as "The Guy Who Packed His Sack at Sac N' Pac," which I'm currently in litigation against.

Knowing this, though, she will be referred to for the remainder of this document, and my life, as Shih Tzu, because it amuses me.
The ease with which I can be amused is not today's topic, though.
So, here's our first sentence of the advert once again:

"Shih Tzu stars as high school senior Mandy Gilbert who's not too hot within the high-stakes world of teen society."

I pause to point out the missing comma after "Mandy Gilbert," because I am an asshole, but also because I am a "writer" who doesn't actually write for a living while some dungchunk cashed a paycheck after proofreading this shit.
I mistakenly took the toil road instead.
Now, then, to the content of the sentence.  I recall what it's like to be a teen; their parents have little to look forward to for an easy six-to-eight-year span beyond drowning in their childrens' self-important, self-imposed teen dramas at all hours, ripe with their justification for whatever frittered-away nonsense is being passed off as OMG THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD this week.

But let us be clear on one fact as immutable as gravity: there is absolutely nothing "high-stakes" about teen society.  Being sad because you aren't popular and can't sit at the Cool Table in the cafeteria does not constitute high stakes.  I'd argue that it doesn't constitute stakes, at all.  I've seen protagonists in Mentos commercials with more dire situations.
"Pssh. old guy writing this blog don't know N-E-thing. Just yesterday my phone died at the theatre, right in the middle of the movie! I'm all R U KIDN ME??????? Never found out what Stacy said to make Andrea h8 her, u no??????"
Why this pandering waste of bandwidth made it into an ad posted to a website for adults is baffling to me.  Is there a human being not currently sitting in a pool of their own shit who reads that opening sentence and thinks, "Oh my, things sound pretty dire for Shih Tzu!  I'd better keep reading to make sure she's able to figure out that she can do anything as long as she believes in herself!  Learning how to fit my entire TV remote in my mouth will have to wait for another day!"?

And then . . .

"But her social status is about to dramatically improve when she lands a date to the biggest party of the year with Drew Patterson, the school's hottest guy."

I have a confession to make: it is this sentence that was the sole impetus for this blog.  Well, that and the accompanying picture.

Putting aside that the evident narrative crux of this film is some girl's attempt to be a princess of entitlement by clawing her way up the popularity ladder at fucking high school, it is sadly clear that Picture This! is a cautionary tale about the missteps that can lead a naïve girl to the dark world of date rape.

No, I'm serious.  Stay with me for a minute.
Let's look at what we know, just from the two sentences we've been given so far, and extrapolate it across what any of us know if we've attended a day of high school in our fucking lives.

Kids are cruel, horrible, self-absorbed creatures.  By the time they hit high school and want little more than to have someone touching their genitals on a regular basis, they've already learned all about the caste system that exists within a hierarchical society like high school, and the exploits and spoils therein.

So my critical eye falls to "the school's hottest guy," Drew Patterson.

First of all, just look at the guy.

Does he look like any of the gazillion good looking fuckheads that make up much of the upper crust of teen social society, that you all remember from high school?  There's a reason.  I'll obviously never see Picture This!, but I wouldn't be surprised at all to know that Drew Patterson deftly balances being The Hottest Guy in School with being the quarterback of the football team, or some other such instant signifier of male teen worth and status.

Furthermore, we must question his motives.  He's The School's Hottest Guy.  He's in a petri dish of hormones, surrounded by girls who all notice his looks and are at daily loggerheads over their conflicting wishes to not look like sluts but still give into their loins' quavering call to wet Drew Patterson's tip when he comes off the practice field all sweaty.

Ask any ten guys if they'd like to have random, strings-free vagina thrown at them on a daily basis, and you'll get at least fourteen "yes" answers if you allow yourself to count men offering unsolicited replies as they overhear you while walking by.

And Drew Patterson's status is very much a part of that.  No guy gets handed the brass ring and decides to smear it in fish oil to make it harder to hold onto.  He'd get along just fine for the rest of his high school life by simply showing up and being beautiful and picking which bowl of cereal to stick his spoon in after whatever dance or game happens that Friday night.

And yet here we have Drew Patterson risking it all in order to pursue what any adept high-schooler would see as a social charity case.  It's someone from the ivory tower of popularity reaching down a hand to help up one of the untouchables from the filthy unwashed mass.  This is not a statement on the appeal, or lack thereof, of Shih Tzu.  It is entirely a reflection of knowing what high school is like.  The popular don't go out of their way to mingle with those who are "not too hot" within the no-stakes world of teen society.

So Drew is looking for the easiest slice of sex he'll ever have.  Take out the poor little unpopular girl and just bide your time during "the biggest party of the year" knowing what wonderful things she'll do to your penis afterward, out of sheer appreciation for having noticed her and boosting her status at school.  If there is a voice among you who can deny that such abuses of power are among the staples of teen society, I can only assume you are a hatchling who somehow bent science to begin life in your mid-twenties; furthermore, I would like to know how many times, rounded to the dozen, you've fallen for the Nigerian prince email scam.  Use your fingers to count if you must.
But he promised!

And when it comes to that moment, in the car or behind a fence out by the pool near The Biggest Party of the Year?  Well, it won't matter if she doesn't want to, see, because Drew Patterson is The Hottest Guy in School.  You might as well fuck him, because he's going to tell all of his buddies that you did anyway, over high-fives on the practice field.

Besides, it's not like he's worried Shih Tzu won't be in the mood to rut.  If he's thought ahead enough to calculate his odds and pick an easy mark, he's surely accounted for the possible derailments and made sure over the course of The Biggest Party of the Year that if she wasn't receptive already, the GHB will surely help quell her objections.

Furthermore . . .

"Only problem she's grounded!"


Your sentence is four words and you still can't manage to punctuate it properly or divide the thoughts in any meaningful way that might convince me that you didn't just let your cat walk around on the keyboard and then hand your boss whatever it came up with?
Present company of course excepted, Mr. Mittensworth.
The copy editor of this ad should be beaten with a tack hammer in full view of his family.

Beyond that . . .

"With the help of her friends…"

Ah, you mean the ones she can't wait to leave behind as she climbs the social strata of teen society after coming home from The Biggest Party of the Year and sneaking into her parents' bathroom for its superior lighting so she can see better to pick gummy streaks of Drew Patterson's baby batter out of her hair?

"…and her new, must-have video phone…"

Neat.  How assured do you have to be of your tech gadget to be the company itching for prominent product placement in the "this is how it was in the hours before I was date-raped" movie?  Whatever the answer is, my immediate rejoinder is, "Cool!  I'll be over here, never buying your product!"

Hopefully the DVD contains the deleted scene where she uses the device to Twitter "OMG DREW PATTERSON JUST GAVE ME THE SECOND BIGGEST PARTY OF THE YEAR, SEE YOU ALL AT THE COOL TABLE AT LUNCH ON MONDAY LOL!" to her friends.

"…she'll have to outsmart her overprotective dad…"

Of course.  That's where they get you, where the real pathos of Shih Tzu's story hits you in the chest and aches.  It's in making us live the fear and paranoia and rightly-placed concerns of her soon-to-be-heartbroken father, whose best efforts to protect his little girl were for naught, as he grits his teeth through telling her that she can't shower until after the nice police lady arrives and takes a few samples.

In the time leading up to The Biggest Party of the Year, though, he'll be cheerily depicted as a humorless scold bent on ruining Shih Tzu's chances of ever being popular, and with no other motive visible around his glowering eyebrow of disapproval.

"…and Drew's ex-girlfriend…"

Well, there you go.  Take what we can all agree to be the bedrock, unassailable fact that Drew Patterson is a by-the-books date rapist in training, and add this little nugget, and it's as if I'm not even joking anymore.  Either-

A) he's fuck-crazy after having been dumped, and is looking for absolutely any outlet he can find to shoot his man-malt into, to get back at his ex and make himself feel worthwhile, or
B) He broke up with his girlfriend, took some shit from his buddies for appearing vulnerable, and is proving a point to them that he can tap any ass in this whole school, doesn't matter who, you can even pick her.

Writing's on the wall.  Poor girl never had a chance.  I'm assuming one of the film's final scenes involves tersely worded corroboration of Drew Patterson's whereabouts on the night in question, voiced to the press by his parents and friends, their eyes telling different stories than their mouths.

"Sir, are you lying or simply re-enacting the event in question?"
"…in a crazy, adventure-filled day that proves that popularity can come and go, but good friends will always be in the picture."

…as long as you believe in yourself, that is.

And that ending line is as disingenuous as they come, to boot.  Three sentences ago she was elated to land a date with a hot guy in order to improve her pathetic social standing, and all it takes is one "crazy, adventure-and-date-rape-but-mostly-just-date-rape-filled day" to teach her that popularity is ephemeral and useless and that it "can come and go"?

Bullshit.  Teenagers – real, actual teenagers not invented in a script by some fifty year old who can't remember their own teen years – don't act or think like that, by a long shot.  There's no way Shih Tzu comes out of this night, even if she manages to thwart Drew Patterson and dodge a thick steaming shot of his gutter butter, with some greater knowledge of the world and the nature of friends.  Even if she did, she won't have time to contemplate it since she'll be quite busy fending off accusations of being The Slut Who Fucked Drew After The Party for weeks to come, regardless of whether she actually did.  Any rumor Drew Patterson doesn't start himself will surely be spread by his ex-girlfriend, to spread the message that he's off-limits at the price of your virtuous reputation.  It is only when Shih Tzu is out of high school and in therapy that she'll truly recognize the lessons she should have taken from those cold, impersonal few minutes with the stick shift of Drew Patterson's car digging into the small of her back.

Then again, she is wearing a fucking TIARA in the picture, so maybe empathy to her plight is a bit much to ask.

My Picture This! Grade: @ $ &  ^  (FOUR random punctuation symbols out of five!)

(originally posted to Myspace July 2008)

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