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
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."
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.]
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.
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
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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