Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Build a Best Friend: Iconoclastic Girls Part the Second

Part II of my attempts to befriend cool, hip new girls from fiction.



Sweet kid, but I'm still coming down off that week I spent with her. It got to the point where I was taking speed and spending hours rehearsing my material during the Apollo's amateur hour before I could have so much as a simple conversation with her. She'd make a reference to her hamburger phone. I'd top it by spending hours in Virgin Megastore hunting down a Hello Kitty pager. She'd fire off some pseudo witty remark like, "Honest to blog," and I'd spend the whole weekend hunting down an obscure but hilarious George Carlin or Lenny Bruce remark.

Plus, every time we tried to watch Big Bang, she did not appreciate my "Hey, wanna collect a sperm sample?" remarks. (Is it my fault the girl has a habit of getting knocked up by socially awkward man-boys?)

Angela Chase, My So Called Life


We got along okay initially. I turned her on to tunic tops at H&M and she got me into practical but stylish flannel plaid. She was warm for Jordan Catalano's form, and I nodded and was supportive while constantly reminding her of how unsexy illiteracy is. And then as soon as he set his puppy dog eyes on me, my new flannel panties were be on the floor (hey, who could pass up the chance to get with Jared "Angel Face" Leto?). On the plus side, I got to commiserate big time with Rayanne in the girls' bathroom, and that girl's got a killer sense of style.

Dawon's Creek gang


I know, they're beautiful people, but since they're all supposed to be black sheep in Capeside, I figured I'd try hanging with them. It didn't work out so well when I refused to toe the party line.

Strike one. "Little Joey Potter, for an outcast from the wrong side of the tracks, you sport more new merchandise from the Gap and J. Crew in one year than I've owned in my entire life. Maybe my dad should start dealing hashish on the side." Strike two. "Hey guys, my newest Youtube video got twice as many hits as Creek Daze!" Strike three. "Spielberg's great and all, but didn't you guys get a weird Lewis Carroll/R. Kelly/Roman Polanski vibe from E.T.?"

I was on a bus out of Capeside faster than than Katie Holmes could say "L. Ron is my homeboy." But hey, I wasn't alone. Andie McPhee and I had a blast trading Tic Tacs for E tablets.

Dawn Schafer, BSC

The self proclaimed individual of the Babysitters Club, Dawn enjoyed eating healthy food, referring to cheeseburgers as "cow carcasses," and long walks on the beach. As a child, I thought the idea of being Mary Anne and getting to be best friends and stepsibs with Dawn was awesome. So I decided to send MA off to creepy Grandma Verna's in Iowa for a few weeks while Dawn and I bonded.


Me: "Why the fuck are you gagging over a burger when there's fresh bok choy in the fridge?"

Dawn: "Um, I've got a date with a guy who thinks vegetarians are losers, and I want him to think I'm cool. I'm practicing on a non vegan veggie burger, working up to salmon burger, and should be on turkey by tonight. Don't tell my local teen chapter of PETA about this--I'm up for re-election this year!"

Me: "Um...er..."

Dawn: "Why are you hanging out with me, anyway? Don't you have any friends your own age? If you don't get out of here, I'll tell Ann M. you dropped an F bomb."

Oh my whockety, even my fantasies are depressing.

Lindsay Weir, Freaks and Geeks


I was eager to hang out with Lindsay because of her cute guy heavy group of friends. But James Franco was off limits because I did not want to go a round with Busy Phillips. And lovely Jason Segal had eyes only for Linds and disco dancing Janis Ian. Even Seth Rogen passed me up in favor of a tuba playing she-male. Things got even worse during our screening of Pink Floyd's The Wall, when I showed the gang my impression of Syd "I wish I were Brian Wilson" Barrett (it's remarkably close to my impressions of the love child of the Crypt-Keeper and Terry Schiavo).

In the New Year, I'm thinking of doing some more BSC books. And perhaps some BSC related contests--that is, I'll hold nominations for the best BSC book of all time. And maybe best BSC ghostwriter, best BSC member, and of course, lamest member.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Build a Best Friend: Iconoclastic Girls Part I

What with many of my friends living in other states and such, I decided to branch out. Meet a new social circle. And then I got real and turned to my real love--TV, books, and movies. Here's how attempting to befriend fictional outcast/iconoclastic girls went.



Remember when Jane Lane unfriended Daria and blocked her Twitter messages after Daria kissed Jane's beau, Tom? Well, that's what would have happened today. Anyway, I inserted myself into the picture as Daria's friend when Jane was off entertaining bunny boiling fantasies. Daria and I had a blast at our first slumber party, watching Sick Sad World marathons and having book club discussions on The Beauty Myth. She snarked on Kevin and Brittany (the QB and cheerleader) and I snarked on Kevin and Britney (the trailer trash and the aging Miley Cyrus). But I couldn't escape the disdainful looks when I broke out my six tiered eyeliner container.

Lisa Simpson


The age difference wasn't as odd as you'd think. She got tired of playing Malibu Stacey adopts children from Malawi while becoming a UN Goodwill Ambassador and heading N.O.W. long before I did. And we both enjoyed dressing Snowball II up as a baby. However, Lisa doubted my commitment to both sparkle motion and left wing political causes after a while. (I got a little mixed up--turns out we're supposed to hate the Taliban and Ahmadinejad and love peace and sustainability.) And no, showing her my vast collection of Obama buttons and Livestrong bracelets weren't enough to bring her back.

Andrea Zuckerman, Vintage 90210


"Hi, new best buddy. Let's trade glasses frames and copy edit late into the night. So, Andrea--"

"Sorry, it's Ahndrea."

"Right. Andrea."



"This isn't going to work out."

Plus, being friends with me is a pretty big commitment, and I really would have interfered with her stalking of ole Caterpillar Brow.

Enid, Ghost World


I've always loved Enid. She has the "I don't give a shit" punk rock attitude of Joan Jett, the vulnerability of a young Marilyn Monroe, and the artistic ability of a young Sophie Crumb. She gets points off for being best friends with Scarlett "Flat Affect is the New Black" Johanssen but no one's perfect. I mentally inserted myself into Ghost World, sending Scar-Jo off to try to get into the pants of Alien Autopsy frontman at the local Battle of the Bands.

Enid and I giggled over Scar-Jo ("Yeah, she's bringing curves back?" "And crisco fried marshmallows!") and pretended to be hot supermodels interested in e-mailing nebbishy middle aged guys frequenting the Missed Connections section of Craig's List. Of course, the fun all came to a crashing halt when she discovered my copy of We Are the World and refused to take my phone calls. I tried renting Sid and Nancy to meet her musical tastes halfway, but then she went away forever and I never saw her again.

Hope you enjoyed this. I'm posting part the second in a few days.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Award Time


I received this blog from Heather Taylor at the Dream Machine--thanks so much!

Here are the rules that came with the award:
1) Thank the person who nominated me for this award.
2) Copy the award & place it on my blog.
3) Link to the person who nominated me for this award.
4) Tell us 7 interesting things about yourself.
5) Nominate 7 bloggers.
6) Post links to the 7 blogs I nominate.

The interesting facts:

1. I used to live in Abu Dhabi when I was a little kid. And before you ask, yes. Yes, I did run into Nermal, and I refused to believe that it was a dude. Nermal is a GIRL cat.


2. One time one of my best friends (you know who you are!) and I waited outside a theatre (twice!) to get John Stamos's autograph. One time even in very cold weather. What can I say? I love my Uncle Jesse.

3. Peter Lerangis is one of my Twitter followers. And R.L. Stine tweeted something at me last week. (The fact that I'm this proud of this stuff is kind of weird, I know, but I don't care.)

4. I have the biggest evil eye collection of anyone in my building. (I'm guessing.)

5. Sometimes I don't wear underwear to the gym.

6. One day I want to start a charitable organization for baby birds who are having trouble flying. I'd call it Go, Bird, Go!

7. I have a near encyclopedic knowledge of the girl group sound of the early sixties.


Now to give it to seven other blogs who are worthy.

1. Travel Ramblings. The next best thing to traveling! (So, will this AWARD butter you up at all and increase my chances at a certain PEPPERPMINT PIG?)

2. Not That Kind of Girl. The next best thing to singing karaoke, talking to strange people, or interacting with people. (Truly, the socially awkward introvert's blog.)

3. Unprofessional Critic. Great blog--where I go to get my fix on today's culture.

4. Psyched on the Prairie. Even more fun than reading the Little House books.

5. Awful Library Books. Wunderbahr book snark.

6. Living in the 80s and 90s. Nostalgia galore!

7. Children of the 90s. More great nostalgia.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don't Make Me Over: the Animated Edition

First off, just want to remind everyone to check out this awesome contest at my friend Ali's blog, Travel Ramblings. You could win a PEPPERMINT PIG! Or a book on traveling. Okay, on with the post.

In our culture, everything has to be made pretty, and in the Ooh Oohs, this has been taken to an extreme. Everything and anything, from heterosexual men to dolls to household pets gets made over. And yes, that includes cartoon characters.

I decided to recreate some of the interviews that must have taken place behind the scenes of these makeovers.

The Sun Maid Raisin Girl.


Executive: "Okay, well, what we want to do here is make you a little sexier without getting rid of your girl next door charm. We're thinking less Kimmy Gibbler and more season five Joey Potter. Now, hon, your arms are a little meaty--"

Sun Maid Raisin Girl: "But I pick grapes all day."

Executive: "Well...no offense but our surveys found that the one thing holding back Michelle Obama is her arms. Amazons are out. We're going to skinny up your arms, tuck in your waist, broaden the chest, tighten your t-shirt, and lighten your hair color."


Goodbye, Apollonia Corleone. Hello, Uncanny Valley!

Rainbow Brite


Executive: "I've got one word for you: plastics. Let's smooth out those wrinkles and get Starlite into lipo at the equine clinic this Saturday. Oh, and I want you wearing those new knee high stiletto boots at all times to get you to look a little leggier. Let's get the 38% of kindergartners who hate their thighs up to an even 40% by next quarter!"


Strawberry Shortcake.


Executive: "Have a seat, Strawberry. Hope you received the Dexedrine laced shortcakes--just our way of saying welcome to the team. First order, how do we justify the tighter skirt to parents?"

Image consultant: "If anyone asks, we'll say that Strawberry's original outfit shows her frilly bloomers and we don't want to send the wrong message to pedophiles."

Executive: "Great cover. Now where are we on making Strawberry the gal that the 6-10 male demographic goes wild for?"

Image consultant: "Blake Lively's stylist is coming up to do the hair extensions this afternoon and the face lift is tomorrow morning. As for the photo shoot, Strawberry, open your mouth when you smile to evoke sexy face--think Megan Fox! The Pussycat Dolls! And show us a little shoulder as you toss your head. Perfect! She's so Farrah for the fruit roll ups set!"


Dora the Explorer.


Executive: "We love the cuteness factor. We love that we want to give you a hug and tickle your belly till you giggle. But you're in danger of becoming the ethnic Pillsbury Doughboy.

"So we're going to give you hair extensions and get rid of the baby fat. Now let's hear from our fashion consultant."


Naomi Wolf: "High heels might get protest from the feminist groups and Converse high tops would be a little counter cultural. Let's keep her stylish but practical in ballet flats. Let her sport a tunic and leggings so she can climb trees but still look flirty and feminine."

Executive: "How do we feel about the blue contact lenses?"

Namoi Wolf: "Bad idea--we don't want people to think Dora's ashamed of her heritage. We need to fall back on her Mexican background in case anyone complains about a girl her age wearing earrings--we'll say it's a Hispanic tradition. Oh, and we got the go ahead to release the Isaac Mizrahi designed Boots by Boots at Target this fall."



Executive: "We love the message of this book, Arthur, we do. We love that you can be yourself. It's just that big noses aren't in anymore. Do you think that after we publish the feel good, it's what's on the inside book, you could stop by Tom's Rhinoplasty?


From his interview Living with Arthur Read several years later with Martin Bashir: "No, that's ignorant. I've had one minor operation so I could speak more clearly. If you want to know why I look like I do, you gotta ask God and Marc Brown. It's got nothing to do with me."


Makeovers to come.

Troll dolls.

Actually, I think this one's already been done. Good-bye, adorable tummy, ethnic hair, and winsome smile. Hello relaxed locks and kohl eyes!





My Little Pony Dolls.


Executive: "I love that you guys have the ability and willingness to apply eyeliner and fake lashes every single day despite a severe lack of opposable thumbs. And I do adore the sexual playfulness, that whimsical fusion of JonBenet and Shirley Temple. Now, what needs work?"

Tyra Banks: "Ponies, I'll tell you what I tell my shorter models. You've really gotta work it. I tell my girls on America's Next Top Model about the secret of Barbie Toe and Manolo Tips--point those hooves so far out that no one can even tell in photographs that you're a pony and not a horse. Also, David Kirsch's Victoria's Secret boot camp--ponies, those asses and thighs are sagging faster than my mama's face when I stumbled at my first Yves Saint Laurent show."

All I can say, guys, is if you touch Blossom, Bubbles, or Buttercup, you're so dead.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Pop Culture Musings: Sexually Inappropriate Children's Fiction

Let's admit it. We all watch TV shows from our childhood and snicker at the stuff that looks bizarre by today's standards. We especially like the stuff that looks sexually perverse. There's a little Chris Hansen in all of us (no, not like THAT!). So here's my list of unintentionally creepy characters.


Kids, if a gruff and hairy, deep voiced guy who wears more fake eyelashes than Alex DeLarge comes up to you and talks to you but only when you're alone, run. Run fast. Especially if no one believes you when you tell them about him.


And no, I don't buy that retcon crap about Snuffy really being Big Bird's age. His name is Mister Snuffleuppagus. Sending him to Snufflegarten and giving him an adorable little sister don't make him a cute little kid. Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining, Jim Henson.

The Man in the Yellow Hat.

The Man in the Yellow Hat takes George away from Africa and puts him in a feces encrusted zoo enclosure with some hostile orangutans. Later he relents and lets George sleep in a small room under the stairs in his house. George repays him by developing Stockholm Syndrome. In Curious George Learns About Stranger Danger, George is told that going off with strangers who aren't the Man in the Yellow Hat is bad but going off with strangers who are the Man in the Yellow Hat is good. About eight well worn copies of this book were found strewn across Jaycee Duggard's dungeon.

The Generous Old Lady in Babar.


Babar thought he was out of the jungle when he left the wilds of Africa for the streets of Paris as a supple young orphaned elephant. He was wrong. The nice old lady who gave you your own car and some nice clothes? The word is cougar, Babar, and those gifts are going to dry up when you introduce her to Celeste. And one more thing. A is for Arthur, B is for Babar, C is for Celeste, Z is for Zephir, and G is for gigolo.

Uncle Jesse.


"I'd love to get married and start a family with you, Becky. But the thought of spending a night apart from my five year old niece gives me hives. Let's move into a windowless attic, so I can gyrate and pout like the King to her every night, let her comb my glorious mullet when I'm stressed, and continue to give her kisses on the mouth long after it's appropriate."



One count of getting a minor plastered (which resulted in said minor sexually harassing another minor). Two counts of encouraging kids to fly bicycles helmet-less. One count of cross dressing. Over a thousand counts of exhibitionism. (Does this guy have a cultural aversion to pants?) By leaving her kids unsupervised with E.T., Elliott's mom exhibits the worst parenting I've seen since Janet Arvizo put "Jesus Juice" and Peter Pan themed condoms on her grocery list.

I can't believe Spielberg thought that making E.T. more PC meant turning the guns into walkie talkies. Steve, you so much as think of making an E.T. sequel, and Gloria Allred will slap you with so much litigation that your grandkids are going to need attorneys.

To Catch a Predator!

Mr. Mortman.


Short of being Brian Peppers, you can't look more like the dictionary definition of Pedophile than Mr. Mortman. He's a librarian who transforms into a monster in the Goosebumps book and episode, The Girl Who Cried Monster. After Lucy figures out his dirty little secret, he follows her home and tries to get her to let him in when no one's home. He also fulfills most of the fictional pedo criteria on my list: he's bald, wears sweater-vests, owns pet tarantulas, and has sweaty little hands. The only thing that could make Mr. Mortman more skeevy would be a big white van, a mucous problem, and a penchant for watching frilly panties. Hey Aqualung!

Whipping Father.

File:Hans Trapp.jpeg

I just found out that in the old days, old Saint Nick wasn't as warm and fuzzy as he seemed. Good kids got presents and bad kids got a paddlin'. Santa farmed out the whippings to someone called Le Pere Fouettard in France, or the Whipping Father, who accompanied him on his yearly Christmas ride. There would never be such a well paid perv--well, not until James Spader, Esquire hired Maggie Gyellenhaal for some secretarial work.

The Coppertone Dog.


The Coppertone dog spent a year in prison for sexual abuse of a minor and has since been adopted out. He registers every time he and his new family move. Though he knows what he did was wrong, from time to time he slips up--mostly when he steals g-strings and bikini bottoms from the laundry basket to chew on. He's taking it one day at a time.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Where Are They Now: BSC Ghostwriters: Part II

Nola Thacker. Nola is the closest thing the BSC writers have to a hip young trendster. I noted earlier that she wrote a Real Laguna Beach book that started with the phrase, "Head-banging sex." She also wrote an autobio of Christina Aguilera and a book called The Complete Petrosexual about trends for dogs. Think of Nola as the bad girl among the writers. She's the reason why Claudia has a pair of Converse high tops for every color of the rainbow. I see her with a few too many earrings and hairstyles that range from Bettie Page bangs one minute to a dyed red cropped 'do the next, living in Park Slope.

So what would Nola write if she were given free rein? Well, one of my favorite books of hers was Maid Mary Anne where she writes what I'm convinced is a satirical masterpiece parodying old ladies everywhere. (You just know that if Ann or Ellen had penned Maid Mary Anne, it would have ended with a reprise of We love you, Mrs. Towne, oh yes we do.) I like to think that Nola's kind of resentful of the fact that she never got the chance to work for Bust or Bitch. That she has a degree from a small liberal arts college and yet spends her days fact checking and obsessively cross referencing the BSC. That more of her income comes from Ann M. and Scholastic than from her sporadic photo shoots with SuicideGirls.

Nola wishes she wrote Grey Gardens to send up Ann M. and Ellen. Old biddies cackling and sniping at each other on Broadway. It's gold!


Suzanne Weyn. She thinks she knows about ballet because she's heard of Baryshnikov (though she still can't spell it) and has been to Lincoln Center one time. This, and the fact that she's written the No Way Ballet series, apparently qualifies her to write a lot of the dance/Jessi heavy books.

What else can I say about her? Based on the fact that she wrote Mallory Hates Boys (and Gym), and Dawn and the School Spirit War, I get the sense that she was one of the awkward but whip smart girls growing up. The type of girl who during volleyball would put out her arm, smirking rather than risk an injury. The kind of girl who makes comparisons to Leni Riefenstahl films at the pep rally.

And unlike Peter Lerangis, Suzanne is the kind of girl who doesn't believes in the power of a good makeover, a nice haircut, and a hot off the shoulder outfit. Reading Dawn's Big Date made me realize that she believes that being yourself is the right thing to do when you meet a boy you like. And that working on your personality and knowing about current events is a better way to prep for a date rather than hitting up the Clinique counter. (Suzanne's more than a bit batty, but I like her.)


I bet Suzanne wishes she were really writing for MTV's Daria. She could do dialogue for a character who's cynical but not a dorky malcontent (read: Mal), and best of all, write about an artsy girl who knows about Georgia O'Keeffe and yet isn't best friends with Quinn-lite. (You just know that Claudia would never stay BFF with Stacey for long, not after her first art colony experience.)

Jahanna Beechem and Malcolm Hillgartner. Based on googling, I found out that sometimes they use the pseudonym Jahanna N. Malcolm. Apparently they're married. But the Sadako theory is that they're really siblings in that creepy Jack and Meg White way. And that actually Malcolm's dead in the cellar and that Jahanna collects his residuals while telling herself that he's still alive, and impersonating his voice in a Norman Bates/Senor Fuentes type deal.

What are the marks of a Jahanna book? Books that are fact-checked less thoroughly than Going Rogue and so many WTF moments that you could have drinking games based on them. Think Skylar Korman being referred to as a "he" (yeah sex change!) or two thirteen year old girls in Dawn's Family Feud never having heard of the Boston Tea Party (duh, Jahanna, it's called American Girl and her name is Felicity!). Well, if you were as insane as her wouldn't you be tripping up a lot, too?


I bet this Faulkner masterpiece (for those of you not in the know, imagine a Southern gentleman writing Weekend at Bernies) is what she wishes she'd written. Why in German? Because that was the best image I could find and because I like to imagine that Jahanna is an obsessive Germanophile with a membership to Sam's Bratwurst Club in her wallet.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where Are They Now: BSC Ghostwriters: Part I

I was inspired by this post when looking up Ann M. Martin books at the library. Turns out Ann M., in addition to all her other books, wrote a foreword to Five Little Peppers and How They Grew-- a sweet book about the wholesome adventures of five kids where the phrase "My whockety!" is considered A Bad Word. This series makes the Brady family look like sex crazed raunch masters. And it is so the book that Ann wishes she wrote.

But Ann wasn't the heart and soul of the BSC--the ghostwriters were! So what do the ghosties wish they were writing?

Peter Lerangis. The most popular of the BSC ghostwriters and the only guy, Peter has a wild streak that I can only assume Ann tolerates because he's the little brother she never had. (Or because he's blackmailing her with a tape recording of that time she drank a few too many schnappes at the Scholastic Christmas Dinner and made the outburst, "J.K. Rowling is a boring old biddy!") Lerangis writes the fun books. Like the Stacey is a dirty slut books (Stacey and the Bad Girls) and the books that mock the "WE LOVE BABIES" thing (Claudia and the World's Cutest Baby) rather than encourage it.

He's got a lot of adventure books out for kids, but that's not what he really wants to write. Check out his snappy dialogue in Stacey vs. the BSC:

Robert: "A Fiesta Burger? What's that?"
Andie: "After you eat it, you fall asleep."
Alex: "That's siesta, not fiesta!"
Andie: "Oh no, there goes my perfect score on today's Spanish quiz!"
Alex: "Very funny."

Lerangis so wishes he were writing a TV series. He can do edutainment (those hilarious Spanish remarks), and he could do gross out humor (he's the one who introduced me to the phrase "toe boogers," after all).

Lerangis is meant for Nickelodeon. Not current day "We need to compete with High School Musical--shovel more beautiful people on" Nick. Old school Nick. Nick with little Pete's dancing sexy lady tattoo, slimed Alanis Morisette, and entire cartoons devoted to flatulence. Can't you see him writing for Pete and Pete or Clarissa Explains It All?


Ellen Miles. Ellen is basically Ann-lite. She writes books like Kristy and the Haunted Mansion and manages to make the high point of the book focus less on a creepy Gothic mansion or ghosts, but rather on (wonder of wonders) a sewing shop. You just know that at Scholastic parties, Ann and Ellen sit together coming up with names for fictional sewing shops and hoping that Bravo will do a reality show for middle aged women who sew stuffed cats. (Hey, they killed their golden goose by 86ing Project Runway--anything's possible.)

In her spare time, Ellen writes a series called the Puppy Place. Ellen's BSC books tend to be the most cutesy wutesy of all. Think Kristy and the Baby Parade. So what does Ellen wish she was writing, apart from BSC and Puppy Place? I briefly considered The Boxcar Children, but rejected that right away. It's a fairly wholesome series and the female characters cook and clean house. But I think Ellen would find parts of it a bit too subversive. While one of the characters, Jessie, does sew (a plus!), she makes her younger brother Benny a toy teddy bear, and Benny requests a bear with a long tail, so he can pull it. I think Ellen would faint dead away at both the offense to sewing and at the stuffed animal abuse.

But then I came upon Mr. Wellington, a rather dark children's book about a cute squirrel who gets separated from his family, written by a gruff Ernest Hemingway doppelganger whom I briefly encountered at this year's Book Expo. I realized that this is what Ellen wishes she wrote. It's got everything she loves: literary appeal, kid friendliness, and baby animals living in shoes.


Stay tuned for the rest this afternoon.

In other news, in a little over a month, it'll be Dibbly Fresh's one year anniversary. In anticipation of this momentous occasion, I've given him his present early. It's a brand new banner. (I hope he gets me a new case of eyeliner or the twenty disc best of Motown series. Hint hint.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Pop Culture Musings: Alternative Cultures

It used to be that being part of an alternative subculture meant something. Today, anyone who's seen Ghost World can call themselves a punk and anyone who hasn't bathed in a few days and has a Hot Topic gift card can be a hipster. Like everything we know and love (Beatles and Stones songs, BDSM wear, homosexuality, etc.) it has fallen under the care of Corporations. Follow my blog and see how The Man(TM) decided to use hip and alternative subcultures to appeal to even the most well respected man about town.

Living Dead Dolls and Living Dead babies

What are they? Relatively small dolls you can buy in Hot Topic or Forbidden Planet that have pale clammy skin, demonic expressions, and axe wounds.

Why does corporate love them? To quote Bob Hoskins' character in Unleashed, "Get 'em young, and the possibilities are endless." For the preteen girl who loves Tim Burton and mutilating Barbie but is a little wary of throwing her out just yet--voila! She can transition from doll loving girlhood to cynical goth adolescent. Think of Living Dead Dolls as the equivalent of a Dora the Explorer training bra.


I must confess to a soft spot for these dolls. I was a dark child, though. Back when I used to pore over the American Girl catalog, I always wondered why Kristen's accessories didn't include a few teensy tiny coffins of the siblings that succumbed to dysentery (too much Oregon Trail, I guess).

Emily the Strange.

What is she? She's a stony faced Wednesday Addams doppleganger, who has been appearing on wallets, buttons, purses, t-shirts, and her own book for years now. In the punk tradition of insulting your audience, Emily is associated with stock phrases like "Get lost."

Why does corporate love her? Emily appeals to the little girl who once loved to collect everything everything Lisa Frank ever put her name on. Today, though, said preteen grows weary of her fuzzy pens and her array of unicorn notebooks. And even though she's still polite and would never dream of doing anything truly transgressive (like wearing an "Down with Homework" or "Up with Miniskirts" tee-shirt courtesy of Mad Magazine), Emily gives her a way to both buy into the system and quietly tell the world she's a Bad Seed...without actually hurting anyone's feelings.


In terms of marketing value, Emily the Strange is just as lucrative as Lisa Frank, if not more, because the age range goes from age twelve to eternity. (Plus, you save overhead costs by not having to produce colors other than black or red.)


For parents who still think Emily's a bit too much for their previously wholesome little girls, don't worry about it. In a few decades, they'll be slaves to yet another fad: collecting Anne Geddes portraits and sighing over Alexis's tendency to carry around an alligator and Aaden's wheat allergy.

Twilight themed make up. What is it? The same old song with the same meaning. Different packaging, though. Brands like DuWop Lip Venom and Volturi slapped a Twilight label on them. They have as much to do with vampires as Barbie and Hot Wheels have to do with McNuggets.

Why does corporate love it? It appeals to girls who are too old for dollies but consider themselves a little too cool to be caught dead reading Anne Rice. Twilight's cool, though.

These products serves two purposes. One, it gets a really shoddy lip plumper product that doesn't work out there.


Two, it appeals to the kind of teenage girl who rolled her eyes when her brother renamed himself Azrael and asked her if she wanted to hitchhike to the Meadowlands to see the Cure open for Bruce. I'm talking about the girl who owns a copy of the Sephora Ultimate Guide (autographed by Bobbi Brown), and who saw First Wives Club and immediately begged Daddy for collagen. Sure, next time she's at Barnes and Noble, she won't pick up a copy of The Fall of the House of Usher or Meat is Murder, but she probably will purchase a Twilight New Moon tote bag. And that's what counts.

Pin Up Girl Merchandise. What is it? Pin up art of the forties and fifties is now festooning all kinds of crap like wallets and mugs.

Why does corporate love it? It's easily marketed to the hipster girl in her late teens and early twenties who doesn't want to admit to herself that while she still buys into the beauty myth, she doesn't quite meet the gold standard. After all, not every girl can be a perfect size six with Pacific blue eyes. For the plus sized princess who doesn't quite fit into the tanned hard body ideal, pin ups appeal.

Sure, pin up girls were long legged, pneumatic beauties who only look big compared to say, Keira Knightly. But throw in some shrewd marketing and these girls will start spouting catch phrases like, "Back in the fifties, they appreciated voluptuous women--Marilyn was a size twelve" and "Pin ups girls were empowered!" (Kudos to the Mad Men producers for riding this tide.) And thus, the merchandising continues. I bet Alberto Vargas is wishing he'd branched out into lunch boxes, t-shirts, candy bar wrappers, and bed sheets.

If liking pin ups in general is greatly encouraged by the Powers That Be, liking Bettie Page is even better. Unlike Marilyn, she was a brunette, and nothing says depth and intellect like eschewing a blonde. Add to that the BDSM stuff and guys who see you sporting a Bettie t-shirt will think you're liberated and intellectual about sex.


Porn again. What is it? Many corporations have decided to use commercials that emulate the porn aesthetic. Think the, "We shot this in some forty year old bearded creep's basement and he ogled the girls and paid them cash" look.

Why does corporate love it? We're a generation whose anthem is The Internet is for Porn. Of course, everyone likes to think that they're beyond modesty. Corporations are hip to that, too. Many companies have decided that the new "edgy" is shooting ads that look like they're part of the porn subculture. So you get Calvin Klein ads that look like they're in recrooms who look like they're narrated by a creepy guy who's about a roofie away from turning off the camera and pulling a JonBenet Ramsey.

American Apparel CEO Dov Charney also pioneered the art of taking young underfed darlings, hiring the cinematographers from Fiona Apple's Criminal video, and photographing the bobby socked waifs in decor that John Holmes would find dated.


When you combine the girls who adore pin ups with the jaded "Knowing About Porn = Feminism" perspective and subtract a spine, you also get SuicideGirls, a site for girls who think that an ironic Prince tattoo make up for having ever read a single paragraph of Germaine Greer, Simone de Beauvoir, or Gloria Steinem. The models of the site get to post photos of themselves in addition to blogging/live journaling their thoughts for their fans. And yes, people really do care about your opinions about this year's Burning Man and the latest Killers' album. Really.


Tattoos. What is it? The age old phenomenon of body festooned art. Being covered from head to toe in tattoos meant you really were someone at the local Freak Show. It meant that the college boys who came to geek off chicken heads every summer, albino hunchbacked dwarf with no real talents, and the only moderately mustached lady all looked up to you.

Why does corporate love it? If you want to make a TV show about a hot "alterna" chick, and she's got ludicrously square opinions, how else can you make sure the audience knows she's non mainstream? The dyed pink hair only goes so far. That's right! Tattoos.


Today if you look like her, you don't get ostracism from the mainstream and all the hot dogs you can eat at Coney Island. Instead, you get your own TLC TV show and your very own make up line.


Arm Warmers. What are they? Socks with holes on both ends that you put on your arms. Usually they're striped with black and some other color.

Why does corporate love them? Once again, they're designed to appeal to the mainstream kid who wants to look emo but isn't prepared to make all the sacrifices. Want to cut yourself to feel something...but the only problem is that the tempo of your life is more Songs in the Key of Life than How Soon Is Now? Purchase some twenty dollar striped arm warmers and you won't even have to break out the safety razor to gain acceptance into the alternate subculture. You'll be fielding, "Is everything okay at home--wanna rap?" questions your Jeff Rosso esque guidance counselor in no time!


Plaid, polka dots, stripes. What are they? Fairly self explanatory. Judging by Hot Topic and the Hipster Handbook, alternakids love things with stripes and polka dots.


Why does corporate love it? They require very little work to manufacture. And they're great equalizer. Anyone from actual schoolgirls to Gap and Burberry aficionados can pick out a plaid skirt or a polka dotted bra--it's not as daunting as buying thick emo glasses (too thick is Hank Hill, too thin and you start to look like Rachel Leigh Cook--getting that right Elvis Costello/Buddy Holly vibe takes months if not years to perfect).

BDSM wear. What is it? A complex subculture of dominance and submissive relationships, psychology that probably can't be summed up succinctly. For our intents, it means whips, chains, thigh high boots, and corsets galore!


Why does corporate love it? Once again, it's fashion, and that means the outside being more important than any silly little thoughts on the inside. Plus, it's an easy way to push the envelope. Think Madonna's Sex book, or Maggie Gyellenhaal's sassy ass in Secretary.


After all, when the world's most famous virgin wears a three hundred dollar leather daddy get up, you know it's gone Disney.

This post dedicated to all the poseurs (and poseuses) I went to college for four long years with.