a multi-generational ploy to separate teens from their allowances.

I am given to understand that the latest rage among the teen crowd is something called “High School Musical”.  From what I can see, HSM is about a bunch of high school friends, each more talented and more attractive than 99.9% of students at any real-life high school.  They also break out into song at the slightest provocation, and the cast is a carefully balanced blend of ethnicities and genders, with just the right amount of minority representation.

I’d say something cynical about the insidiousness of youth-targeted marketing, and the tendency of teenagers to worship their idols uncritically…but I can’t really start casting stones here.  After all, my generation’s own uncritical teenage worship (and merchandising dollars) are responsible for inflicting New Kids on the Block on the world, and every one of the prior generations of high schoolers has a similar crime against good taste on their conscience.

It seems that each generation of high school kids has their corresponding generation of music producers who re-apply the same, time-tested formula to extract bushels of sweet cash from the pockets of the Clearasil crowd: put together a youth group that’s carefully designed to meet a certain formula, market the hell out of them, and then let the teens “discover” them.  It’s such a reliable formula that the bands/groups/casts in question have member slots defined by archetypes–there’s the heartthrob, the rebel, the older guy, the cutie, and so on.

Marketing and merchandising–the real reason behind the fall of communism.  All the ideological sugar in the world can’t make kids prefer Bulgarian corduroy pants over Levi’s, and “class-appropriate” East German pop music over Menudo, New Kids on the Block, or the freakin’ Rolling Stones.

Which manufactured boy band/TV/movie cast has your generation inflicted on our cultural legacy?


22 thoughts on “a multi-generational ploy to separate teens from their allowances.

  1. Kilgor says:

    Spice girls, NSync, 98 degrees…

    On the positive side, we also produced Nirvana, Sublime, and Disturbed.

  2. Kilgor says:

    Rereading my comment, I noticed that the three good bands that came immediately to mind were all named after emotional states. That’s kind of odd.

  3. Tam says:

    Sadly, my generation hit its teenage money-spending years right about the time that the Baby Boomers were gearing up to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their college throwing-up years. You could listen to a rock’n’roll station for hours and not hear anything but the Beatles, The Who, the Doors, Led Zep, et cetera, and you could go see the Grateful Dead on tour.

    On the other hand, I am happy about the cinematic legacy we left behind: Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off… Hollywood in my high school days redefined the genre of teen movie.

  4. crankylitprof says:

    Duran Duran, Culture Club and…Depeche Mode.

    Oh, and the Cure.

    I shall go hang my head in abject shame now.

  5. I’m right with Tam and CLP. I know exactly what they were doing in 1986. It’s what we all were doing in 1986. Ah, age.

    But yes, the movies were iconic. From “I hate Illinois Nazis” to “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller…”

  6. Uhhh… Dave Clark Five? Nah- they were OK.
    I know- The 5th Dimension and/or The Archies.
    Big time suckage…

  7. -shaking off the cobwebs of time-

    combining teevee, fanmags, and total studio control, “the monkees” were assembled by casting call and tightly directed and controlled by their creators…little did any of them know just how successful their manipulation would be, probably laying the foundation for all of the fabricated groups mentioned above.


  8. Lissa says:

    I am very proud that, unlike all my friends, I did NOT like New Kids on the Block. Unfortunately, that means that I nearly drove my car off the road several times during the summer as I frantically pawed at the radio to shut off their new song. I cannot BELIEVE they’re coming back (retch).

  9. Tam says:


    Duran Duran, Culture Club and…Depeche Mode.

    Oh, and the Cure.

    I shall go hang my head in abject shame now.

    Ewwww! Culture Club?!?


  10. Tam says:

    (I had to turn down the volume on my .mp3 of “Hungry Like The Wolf” to type that, BTW.) 😀

  11. I’d also like to point out Voltron, ThunderCats, SilverHawks, RoboTech, etc.

  12. Jay G. says:

    Anthrax, Iron Maiden, Metallica (pre-sellout), Megadeth, Judas Priest, Slayer…

    Methinks I’m the wrong demographic…

    Of course, it also spawned Poison, Winger, and Firehouse, so I can’t gloat too much…

  13. Jenny says:

    You would ask that – I didn’t have the decency to fall for my own generation’s issue. No, I went and fell for the old ripped off, recycled packaged stuff…

    … I lurved the Monkees. 🙂

    Reruns on Nickelodeon once upon a time.
    But hey! “Daydream Believer” was still a cool song!

    (and Mike, for the the thirteen year olds who’re wondering. )


    A friend’s kid showed us HSM once upon a time up here. It was actually kinda sweet, if I remember right.

  14. Eric says:

    The Partridge Family, the Osmonds…

  15. The Old Man says:

    The Monkees. Maybe the grand-daddy of all the manufactured groups.

  16. El Capitan says:

    I will admit to an inordinate fondness for Cheap Trick and KISS, but they’re not boy bands by any stretch of the imagination.

    ‘Fast Times At Ridgemont High’ and ‘Dazed & Confused’ are pretty close to my high school memories.

  17. Tam says:

    A joke from my high school days:

    “There’s so little new music coming out right now that in twenty years you’ll be watching TV at three in the morning and the Kay-Tel commercial will come on with the voice-over saying ‘Remember remembering the Sixties in the Eighties?‘”

  18. LittleRed1 says:

    Excuse me, I liked Voltron and RoboTech! (OK, I’m a geek).
    Bands? Cindi Lauper, Escape Club, Heart, the Bangles . . . Shudder, cringe.

  19. crankylitprof says:


    That’s all I’m sayin’.

  20. Lissa says:

    Whip it!

  21. I like Voltron & Robotech as well, but the character makeup followed a similar pattern.

  22. Bob says:

    Didn’t Mickey Rooney do a few “”hey kid’s let’s put on a show” High School” Musical type movies in the 1940’s?

    OMG I’ve gotta stop watching late night TV….

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