At the beginning of the month my 11-year-old daughter wanted to watch her favorite celebrities perform on Nickelodeon's Kid's Choice Awards, an annual mash-up of pop fluff and green slime courtesy of the marketing people at Viacom. She happened to mention that, in addition to sweet young things such as Miley Cyrus, iCarly's Miranda Cosgrove and the squeaky clean Jonas Brothers, the "puddytat dolls" would be performing. This sort of glanced off my consciousness, and I briefly imagined that it was some send-up of the famous Warner Bros. cartoon characters Sylvester and Tweety.
Alas, no. The "dolls" in question were indeed the PussyCat Dolls, the rotating cast of marginally-talented burlesque dancers, fronted by a publicity-philic "singer". They're a pretty big-selling act. Having recently finished up their-- no-doubt ironically-named-- "World Domination Tour", they are currently filling out the roster for Britney Spears'"Circus" excursion. They've also been nominated for (and in some cases won) a slew of self-admiring prizes like the MTV and Billboard Music Awards. So they've been around for a while but appear to be gaining steam right now. They've got a multi-front assault on the culture, selling everything from concert tickets to lingerie to hot pink t-shirts that proclaim "When I Grow Up, I Wanna Be a PussyCat Doll".
But gee, don't they seem an odd choice for the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Award Show? Not only were the Dolls performing, they were nominated for an award in the Favorite Group Category. Really. So I thought I'd investigate a little further.
Here I was treated to a taste of their superbly lyrical and elegiac prose; to wit: From "Whatchamacallit", a celebration of mindless consumption:
OK, let's try again. How about a paean to true love in "Don't Cha":
There's much more, but-- you get the picture. Well, maybe Nickelodeon thinks these are the feminist role models we want for our daughters. They did say 90 million votes were cast for this award show-- though they didn't break down exactly how many voters that represented. But curiously, when I checked the website that Nick has specifically dedicated to the Kid's Choice Awards, NOWHERE does it mention anything to do with the Dolls' nomination or their two performances. Not a word. For these very well-promoted performers, this is more than a little odd.
I did notice that their costumes were a trifle toned down for this venue-- the Dolls looked more "sporty/sleazy" than the usual platformed stripper look. But isn't that part of the problem here? Why are these women being slipped in under the radar on a kids' programming awards show? Well, here's a theory. Nick is part of the Viacom conglomerate that also owns MTV, VH1 et al. In other words, they are part of the marketing group that has been dining out on sleaze and self-promoting fame lovers for quite some time. You could say they are perfecting the art. And in this case, they are cuing up the next generation of consumers for this junk.
I had a similar reaction years ago when Sesame Street featured Dr. Ruth Westheimer, the safe and bland "sexpert" known for her ringing endorsement of "Good Sex!"-- her tagline. Were the kiddies so enamored of her beaming visage and Teutonic tones that they clamored to see her yukking it up with Elmo? Doubt it. Say what you will about her approach, she did have a certain utilitarian perspective on sex, which really didn't reflect a religious or moral view. But it fit right in with the progressive sensibilities of the Sesame Street producers, whose motto seems to be "Tolerance Above All". Adults could take her or leave her as they chose. But by putting Dr. Ruth on Sesame Street and serving her up with the same pabulum, it ensures that as those kids grow, they react to her with the same unquestioned acceptance and admiration as they do the rest of the Street's characters. The same principal appears to be at work here with the "Kids Choice" awards.
Does anyone else object to this?