THE MERCHANTS OF COOL
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(continued)

the mook

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So what happens to all the careful research and money spent by companies like MTV in marketing and targeting teens, and trying to learn who they really are? What kind of portrait emerges of the American teenage male?

The Mook is what critics call the crude, loud, obnoxious, in-your-face character that can be found almost any hour of day or night somewhere on MTV. He's a teen frozen in permanent adolescence. There's MTV's Tom Green of the "Tom Green Show"

And the daredevils on "Jackass" who indulge in dignity-defying feats like poo diving. The Mook is also found in the frat boys on MTV's ubiquitous "Spring Break" specials. And, the Mook has migrated to MTV's sister network, Comedy Central, where he's the cartoon cutouts of "South Park," or the lads on the "Man Show."

In FRONTLINE's report, media analyst and correspondent Douglas Rushkoff says that there's no Mook in nature, "He' s a creation of marketers, designed to capitalize on the testosterone-driven madness of adolescence. He grabs them below the belt and then reaches for their wallets."

wrestling

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This FRONTLINE report looks at how the most advanced form of marketing today comes in the form of a 300-pound body slam. Wrestling is currently the hottest thing among males 18-24 and among teenage boys. And it's been propagated across the entire spectrum of teen media. It's broadcast 15 hours a week on five different networks and is seen by 15 million people.

The World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling have seen their ratings soar the past few years. And its led the WWF's Vince McMahon to start the XFL, a more mookish version of pro football.

[For a more in depth look at the sport from the fans' perspective, ProWrestling.com is a wrestling news page, that also offers editorials, match results, and archived wrestling pics.]

the midriff

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Along with the Mook, the media machine has spit out a second caricature in teen marketing. It's a stereotype that could be called the Midriff. The Midriff is no more true to life than the Mook. If the Mook is arrested in adolescence, the Midriff is prematurely adult. If the Mook doesn't care what people think of him, the Midriff is consumed by appearances. If his thing is crudeness, hers is sex. The Midriff is really a collection of the same old sexual cliches, but repackaged as a new kind of female empowerment.

The midriff archetype is undoubtedly teenage mega-star Britney Spears, whose latest album, "Oops I Did it Again," has sold over eight million copies. At the 2000 Video Music Awards, when Britney famously came out of her clothes, she wasn't just pleasing eager young boys; she was delivering a powerful message to girls: your body is your best asset, flaunt your sexuality even if you don't understand it. And that's a key message, because Britney's most loyal fans are teenage girls.

imta

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The Midriff stereotype is clearly evident at the International Model and Talent Association's annual convention. IMTA is the largest organization of modeling schools and training centers. Its annual gathering attracts hundreds young girls who pay up to $4000 for a chance to be seen by hundreds of agents and talent scouts.

There have always been starry-eyed girls, but what's new is their sophistication--even those as young as 13. They've learned how a Midriff should talk, move, and sell herself. And IMTA is a bounty for Hollywood talent agents, who have more vacancies for new Midriffs every day. The young girls hope to make it big, just like IMTA winner Katie Holmes of "Dawson's Creek" fame.

the WB

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The WB network was launched in 1995 with family-friendly shows. But WB soon discovered its cable tv programs couldn't compete against racy Fox programs like "Beverly Hills 90210."

WB's course changed was signalled by "Dawson's Creek," a new show WB started airing in what had always been network TV's 8:00 pm family hour. It was about a group of sex-obsessed high school friends in an idyllic Cape Cod town. "Dawson's Creek" made headlines. In its very first episode it included a sexual affair between a teacher and her 14-year old student.

The web site of "Dawson's Creek" includes a show guide with episode-by-episode summaries, and video clips.

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