Penn students love tween stars. I wish we didn’t, because it’s pretty embarrassing. You can pretend this isn’t true, but all it takes is playing “Party in the USA” at Smokes’ to prove: one, everyone knows the words and, two, everyone is happy to be singing along. It’s weird, isn’t it, how these superstars are about the same age as we are, or younger. These are people who, if not for the fortune of stumbling into the right studio at the right moment in America’s history, would probably be just like us: un-famous undergraduates.
Yet there they are, and here we are. Why exactly do we care about them? And, more importantly, should we? Is there something inherently unhealthy about an adult fixation on underage stars?
The “why” is probably this mix of fascination, like the awe people have when seeing a newborn baby (“He’s just so teeny! Look at those little fingers!”) and a twisted sort of jealousy. Surely you get a sinking feeling when you catch a couple whiny, nasal chords of Vanessa Hudgens’ pathetic attempt at a single, “Sneakernight,” or watch Selena Gomez do … whatever it is exactly that Selena Gomez does.
You’re at Penn, hitting the books and the bars with equal vigor, renowned only insofar as everyone knows which shoutouts were about you. Then you see these kids, and they aren’t especially talented or gorgeous. You figure that if you had a hair and makeup team and cranked your voice through an Auto-Tune machine, it could easily be you trading Locust Walk for a red carpet, your smiling face gleaming on every lunchbox in Target.
Understanding why we care about tween phenoms is one thing, but that doesn’t quite get at the bigger issue: should we care? It can seem like we should. Media feeds our hunger for stories about the impossibly successful and annoyingly youthful. You might remember Teen People, a magazine devoted almost entirely to Freddie Prinze Jr. and the cast of Can’t Hardly Wait. When Teen People folded in 2006, People started to cover more teen-centric content. Now hardly an issue of People goes by without mention of at least one Jonas brother. GQ put Robert Pattinson and Zac Efron on back-to-back covers last year. Not that 17 Again wasn’t all kinds of adorable, but Efron is a guy most notable for his starring role in the High School Musical franchise.
Acknowledging that, theoretically, even the weird oldest Jonas is fair game for People (Kevin is, after all, a person) and that Twilight’s death-grip on our collective cultural consciousness shows no signs of loosening, there’s still a disturbing trend. Adults feel the need to devote space in grown-up publications to celebrities who are obviously marketed at their children — their young children.
There is a big world of adult entertainment out there (not like “adult entertainment” … you know what I mean). Even better, there’s entertainment directed right at us, the 20-somethings lingering in post-adolescent, pre-adulthood purgatory. Perfect example: Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s lovely (500) Days of Summer. Yes, the movie looks like the lighting was coordinated by the same guy who photographs the Urban Outfitters catalog. Still, (500) Days of Summer is engaging because it refuses to exist in a tween world. It engages college audiences by focusing on characters whose lives resemble our own.
It’s time to stop marveling at how Kristen Stewart can keep her eyes open when they’re weighted down with that much eyeliner, time to stop staring at Taylor Lautner’s you-could-do-laundry-on-those washboard abs, time to change the channel from the Disney Channel to almost any other station on television.
Well, except for when Miley Cyrus is on. I’m not saying she’s talented; it’s just a really catchy song.
Jessica Goldstein is a College junior from Berkeley Heights, N.J. Her e-mail address is email@example.com.Comments powered by Disqus
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