Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Are Mean Girls Getting Meaner?

Why is it that every book that my 7th grade daughter picks up has a stereotypical mean girl as one of the main characters? I know that they exist; girls who target peers whom they can overpower and then feed off of their hurt feelings and insecurities. But are they really as prevalent as the Young Adult section of my library would lead me to believe? Aren't most teenage girls three dimensional? I'd like to see teen lit do a better job reflecting their inherent goodness rather than absolute meanness. I grow weary of the mean girl as the stock character in young adult books. She's become an over-used cliche much like the sidekick with a different ethnicity and the gay guy friend. It's played and it's lazy writing, as far as I'm concerned.

But, the audience seems to eat it up. And it's not just teens. Today's parents aren't as hands-off about their children's social lives as their parents used to be. They devour books that promise to help them teach their children how to survive the popularity wars of middle school. They attend lectures and workshops conducted by experts who give advice on how best to deal with cliques. And in the process they have earned the reputation as micromanagers of their children's social lives.

I wonder, is there a chance that all the attention they are investing is actually backfiring? By paying the mean girl so much attention, are parents giving the impression (to their impressionable teens) that these short-term social anxieties and fleeting allegiances to a queen bee are more significant and consequential than they actually are?

Some middle schools offer classes designed to help female students deal with mean girls. I don't know, a part of me thinks that my 12-year-old self would have found it a bit unnerving if my middle school offered a class on how to deal with relational aggression. Wait, that wouldn't have happened since the term "relational aggression" was coined in 1995, long after I graduated from college, much less middle school. I guess back then it was still called bullying. Actually, back then it was called "being a middle-schooler". But, even without any formal training or parental supervision, I think I knew that I wouldn't have to navigate through cliques my entire life. At 12 years old, I probably couldn't have put words to it, but I believe I was aware of the fact that adults didn't play by the same immutable and bizarre rules as teenagers.

And yes, I realize that there are children who truly have horrible social experiences in school and need all the adult help that they can get. It's been awhile since I roamed a middle school hallway, but I watch Glee, I know how it works. Kids can be vicious.

I was talking to my older sister about mean girls last week and she believes that things were different when she was in middle school; she believes everybody was accepted. I think she's rewriting history, but I'm glad she (thinks) she attended Shangri-La Middle School. I wonder if it's gotten worse, but I certainly don't think it's a new phenomena. Mean girls have been around since the first one-room schoolhouse - just ask Laura Ingalls and she'll tell you how Nelly Olson wreaked havoc in Walnut Grove.

So, is the mean girl thing really worse today or are we just more focused on it? I don't know. And since this is my blog and not a NY Times article, I can wonder all I want and not have to back anything up with facts. I was at the library today (getting some books for my daughter) and stumbled upon Rosalind Wiseman's "Queen Bees & Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence". Coincidence? Perhaps, but I felt like it was a sign and so I checked it out. Maybe after reading it, I'll actually have some facts to go along with my opinions (stay tuned).

The description on the book's dust jacket promises that it "will equip you with all the tools you need to build the right foundation to help your daughter make smarter choices and empower her during this baffling, tumultuous time of life." Baffling and tumultuous are big words. Big, dramatic words. It's a nonfiction book, but in 2003 Tina Fey wrote a screenplay based on the book. With a satirical spin, like only Fey can do, she turned it into the movie Mean Girls staring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams. Loved the movie, so I'm going to give the book a try. For the next few days I'm going into "Girl World to analyze teasing, gossip, and reputations; beauty and fashion; alcohol and drugs; boys and sex; and more, and how cliques play a role in every situation."

And then I'm going to thank god that I'm 46 and made it out alive...

Monday, January 18, 2010

The 67th Annual Golden Globes

I've got to make this short and sweet for a couple of reasons: A) I feel like a Monday morning quarterback as the award show wrapped up over for 14 hours ago and B) I just came back from yoga and feel at peace with myself and my fellow man; not sure that it's good karma to start ripping on people and C) my daughter needs the computer to do her homework. But, she'll have to wait because the Golden Globes trumps Social Studies any day of the week.

In a nutshell: the show was a bit boring and straight laced, but...Ricky Gervais was the best host I've seen in years. Maybe ever. Somebody needs to sign him on for the Oscars. His best line was, "It's an honor to be here in a room full of what I consider to be the most important people on the planet...actors." He went on to add, "They're just better than ordinary people, aren't they?" Hysterical. The man is funny, acerbic and spot on.

And no sooner had he uttered those words when Mo'Nique graced the stage to accept her award. I believe she thought the award was given to her for solving world peace or curing cancer and not for Best Supporting Actress. But let me assure you, it was for Best Supporting Actress. Supporting actress. We're not even talking Best Actress. And so with all of her drama and emotion and tears and breathiness, she played right into Ricky Gervais' hand...they really do think they are the most important people on the planet.

Now, if you are a frequent reader of this blog, you know that I love actors and movies and good TV. My idea of heaven is a comfy seat, a bag of popcorn, a box of Milkduds, a jug of Diet Coke and a big movie screen that plays movie after movie after movie (and maybe an occasional TV show). But when James Cameron waxes poetic about how he and his fellow guests in the Beverly Hills Hilton should be proud of the entertainment they provide the whole world makes me laugh. James, honey, despite what you believe, the rest of us do not think that you are The King of the World. I'd take a cure for cancer over an animated movie any day of the week. And what is up with that old lady wig you are sporting? From the looks of it, I don't think he got himself a decent haircut the whole time he was making Avatar. Nasty.

On second thought, I guess I'm not really like a Monday morning quarterback, because I don't remember many great moments from last night. Hmm. I do remember thinking that somebody should check Harrison Ford for a pulse. Seriously, what is wrong with that man? He is beyond strange and it's very awkward to watch him on stage. I remember thinking that Toni Collett looked beautiful and even though I didn't know what show she stars in, I was glad that she won the Best Actress in a TV Series over that ridiculous Courtney Cox and that idiotic Cougar Town show.

I was delighted to see Julianna Margulies win for The Good Wife. I didn't want to like that show, but I have become a huge fan. She is incredible in the role and it's one of my favorite TV hours. (again, I will stress that with a DVR you can watch it in about 38 minutes).

It was no surprise that Meryl Streep won Best Actress in a Motion Picture. Julie and Julia was very entertaining and Meryl Streep's performance was top notch. So what else is new? What did surprise me was that her acceptance speech wasn't impossible to follow. She actually made sense and touched on Ricky Gervais' theme of not taking herself too seriously. Still, she bugs me.

I'll tell you who didn't make sense...Drew Barrymore. Her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Miniseries may just as well have been spoken in Greek, because I didn't understand a word of it. She made a point of saying that she has been in the business for years, so one might assume that she'd have the acceptance speech thing down pat. Yeah, not so much.

I haven't seen Up in The Air yet, but I must admit to having a wild crush on Justin Reitman who won Best Screenplay. It's hard when you are not recognizable like the actors, but I thought his speech was clever and entertaining and, well, he's fantastic with words. (Loved when Ricky Gervais was introducing another category and warned, "it's a little bit of a downer, actually: It's for writing." Hysterical.)

I'll tell you who is weird..Chloe Sevigny. She thanked somebody for casting her in the role; insinuating that she is the furthest thing from a conservative Mormon. I don't know, I don't think it's that much of a stretch. Anybody who would marry a man who already has two wives is pretty strange, a little off. Well, when I think of Chloe Sevigny I think of somebody who is pretty strange and a little off. Not sure that took a leap of faith, Chloe. I hated her dress and was secretly pleased when her escort tore the abnormally long train. (This is what I mean! An hour of yoga wasted as soon as I start blogging about actresses. Damn.)

Ok, I've got to wrap this thing up....
  • Love me some Martin Scorsese and he is very deserving of the Cecil B. Demille Award, but he practically, ok, not practically, he put me to sleep with that long winded acceptance speech.
  • Huge smile on my face when Glee won (loved the comment about the make-believe teenage cast). But I have to admit...Modern Family is more deserving.
  • The Hangover was a bit of a surprise, but again, I was pleased. Not sure if it's necessary to make a sequel, but apparently it's in the works. If Mike Tyson is in, I'm out.
  • Not a fan of Sandra Bullock's, but I will agree she was fantastic in The Blind Side, so I will give her her props (Randy Jackson would be proud of me).
  • Why did Jeff Bridges get a standing O? Can somebody clarify that for me? I'm assuming it was because he's been overlooked in the past? Or maybe he solved world peace and I just haven't read about it yet? Maybe he and Mo'Nique were co-solvers? Do tell.
The award for best acceptance speech goes to Robert Downey, Jr. Love him. Love. Him. He is an actor who can laugh at himself. He heard Ricky Gervais loud and clear and delivered a speech for the record books. He is talented, he is hot, he is hysterical and I can't wait to see the next Sherlock Holmes adventure.

My daughter needs the computer and my son wants lunch. But I need to give my opinion on best dressed. Hang tight, kids....
  • Halle Berry wasn't up for an award, but she presented one and in so doing showed off her back and her breasts. The dress was a bit much, but Halle looked hot. If I looked like Halle, I would wear that dress everywhere. I'd wear it to the gym, to the grocery store, to the bus stop, I'd never take that thing off. Ever.
  • Jennifer Anniston looked gorgeous as well. Like Halle, she wasn't up for an award, but she strutted her stuff on stage revealing her yoga-toned legs (my legs will never look like that and I blame it on the bad karma I get for writing these reviews and not because of the cookies I inhale.)
  • Glenn Close looked beautiful. Loved her sparkly, black dress. It fit her like a glove. Can't wait for Damages to return....
  • I was not all over Sandra Bullock's hair or dress. I wish I could like her, but...I do not.
  • Jennifer Garner looked fabulous. I thought she had one of the best looks of the night. Where, pray tell, was her husband?
  • Drew Barrymore's dress was more like a costume. I did not care for it. I do not care for her. Enough said.
  • If I looked half as good as Sophia sex-kitten Loren I would be happy, but seriously, those rose colored glasses? What? I'm not saying she must wear contacts, but can we go with a more stylish set of specs? Literally...rose colored. What the?
  • Good to know that not much is new with Cher, but I thought Christina Aguilera looked fabulous.
  • The ladies of Mad Men should stick with their 1960's styles...I didn't think any of them looked good.
  • Helen Mirren always looks good. Always.
  • Cameron Diaz always looks like she needs a shower. Always.
  • What was Sir Paul sporting on his jacket? Were those Girl Scout badges?
  • Best Dressed Male = Robert Downey, Jr.
Bring on the Oscars...

Monday, January 11, 2010

It's a Singing Competition

As Ellen DeGeneres prepares for her stint on American Idol, I ponder whether I can stomach another dose of the show. By the end of Season 8, I could barely look at Kara DioGuardi much less listen to her ridiculous commentary on how to become a pop star. How many more times can I listen to "THIS is American Idol" and the other Idol catch phrases: "That was just a'ight for me, dawg", "I don't know, it was kind of pitchy in places", "That song was too big for you", "You made it your own", "That was very karaoke" and my favorite "That was a complete and utter mess".

I realize that it's not only the judges who sound like a broken record. I've been blogging about American Idol for two seasons and I desperately need some new material. So, what do the producers have in store for me this winter? They had better shake it up or I'm afraid I may follow Paula out the door.

If the rumors are true, Simon will be taking Ms. Abdul's lead making this his final season. I've heard that the Wild Card round is history. The producers will abandon the unmanageable Top 36 and instead return to the Top 24 format (12 men, 12 women). That will make the audition part of the show a bit easier to swallow, especially since Ellen DeGeneres is not due to sit at the judge's table until Hollywood Week.

From what I can gather, guest judges will fill the vacant fourth seat until Ellen joins us at the Nokia Theater. Guest judges will include Joe Jonas (is he the one that got married?), Victoria Beckham (in all her Spice Girl loveliness), Kristen Chenowith (she was fantastic on Glee this season), Shania Twain, Katy Perry, Mary J. Blige and Neil Patrick Harris. Not sure any of them will fill the void left by Paula, but only time will tell.

And what about Ellen? Will she be able to boost the ratings that have eroded in recent years? Apparently some Idol watchers are doubting that she'll be effective because she doesn't have a musical background. Hmm. Paula and Randy were both musicians and record producers before Idol and yet I'm not sure how many aspiring musicians they've actually inspired with their musical prowess over the years. But I am fairly certain that the only person Kara DioGuiardi impressed last season was...Kara DioGuiardi.

I won't listen to the naysayers, I think Ellen DeGeneres will be great. She can think on her feet, she's original, she's entertaining, she's got her finger on the pulse of pop culture and she will be a fantastic addition to the judges table. She will be similar to Paula in that she will be the Queen of Nice, but will be the polar opposite of Paula in that she will be eloquent, insightful and coherent. That will be a nice change.

I've been watching AI since 2002 when Kelly Clarkson auditioned for the role. Back then, the median age of the viewers was 29.5 years old. I was, ah-hem, a bit older and watched the show by myself after I put the kids to bed. By the time last year rolled around, the median age was up to 40.3 (I was still, ah-hem, a bit older than the average viewer) but I was watching American Idol with my whole family (and with a few more crows feet and gray hairs to boot.) According to the powers that be, Ellen DeGeneres attracts a median age of 51.8 (old people) but the network is hoping that her loyal following will offset the steady ratings decline.

Hmm. Maybe I will give it one more season. It might be fun watching this year as one of the younger audience members, right?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside....

I'm done with the cold weather. I am sick of layering, I am sick of shivering and I am sick of telling my son that he can't wear shorts to school. And if it's going to be this flippin' cold for so freaking long, there should at least be moisture in this arctic air. My lips are beyond chapped, my skin is dying of thirst and my nasal passages feel as if they are lined with scabs (and they very well could be...last week I was doing a handstand at my sister's house which resulted in a nosebleed...all over her rug. Pretty.)

My routine for the past few nights has been as follows: clean up the kitchen after dinner (hot, hot, very hot soup), put on a few more layers (silk underwear, turtle neck, sweat pants, socks) and crawl into bed with a good book (under two down comforters). I realize I am a freak, but my hands, feet and nose get so cold that I'm afraid they are going to snap off. Yes, our heat is on, but our 90 year old house is not up to snuff in the insulation department (proof: walk by any of the windows in the front of the house and feel the north wind whipping through).

So last night I decided to bundle up in my Snuggie and hang out in the den (the warmest room in the back of the house) to watch some TV for a change. Can I tell you what a disappointment that piece of crap Snuggie is? When I wrap myself in a blanket, I expect to feel the weight of said blanket. Not possible with the Snuggie, as it is lighter than a bed sheet. You've seen the ads showing the family wearing Snuggies at the outdoor sporting event? Suffice it to say that those people froze their respective asses off during the game. The beauty of the Snuggie, so they say, is that it gives you the freedom to use your hands. Well, unless you have monkey arms - and when I say monkey arms, I'm talking King Kong - you will not see your hands, your wrists or your elbows unless you roll the thing up at least 3 times. One size fits all is how they advertise...but I think they mean one Snuggie will fit everybody in your household. And the thing sheds like you read about, but don't think about throwing it in the washing machine because it will disintegrate after two washes. Enough with my ranting, I will save my thoughts about the book light (FREE bonus with purchase) for another time.

So, the People's Choice Awards. Really? I love me an awards show extravaganza, but last night's performance was an embarrassment. It was simply painful to watch and so I fast-forwarded through much of the ridiculousness. I can't imagine writing the material for the presenters; it's not easy making unfunny people sound funny, and really, I don't see the reason to make unfunny people sound funny. It comes across as awkward and unbearable as exemplified in that Twilight spoof with Queen Latifah. Ouch.

They lost me right at the beginning of the show when The Proposal won for Best Comedy Movie (over The Hangover) and Mariah Carey won for Best R&B Artist (beating out Beyonce and Alicia Keyes). Not sure who voted, but clearly this is not the show for me. During her acceptance speech, Mariah Carey oozed sex appeal while oozing out of her dress. That woman puts on weight and takes it back off faster than I can get in an out of my Snuggie. Right now, she's sporting a few extra lbs and most of the weight is being carried in her breasts. And she picked the perfect dress to highlight her good fortune. Holy guacamole.

Fast forward, fast forward, fast forward.

It didn't take me long to realize that the show was more like an advertisement than an awards show. We were shown several movie previews and at one point a woman took us inside a CVS to promote beauty products. Weird. Not sure why Maybelline and Clairol couldn't buy some commercial time (probably because they knew I'd fast-forward my way through it).

I stopped at one point to see which actress would win Best Actress in a Comedy TV Show. It wasn't Amy Poehler and it wasn't Tina was somebody named Alyson Hannigan. I don't know her, nor do I know her show. Hmm. Did I mention that I no longer take People Magazine? My BFF, who has been giving me a subsciption for my birthday for the past 10 years, decided I was getting too old for People. I'm staring 50 in the face, folks, and have no business reading about the shenanigans of the cast of the Gossip Girl. But without People Magazine, I no longer have my finger on the pulse of the younger generation...and quite frankly...I did not know a lot of the people who won awards last night. (note to BFF: perhaps you should reconsider).

I found it bizarre that the winners knew that they had won before it was announced on the show. Where's the fun in that? Where is the element of surprise? Sure, I was delighted to see the cast of Glee get up on stage to win their award, but when they announced that they were treating the whole audience to DiGiorno pizza to celebrate their win...and then the wait staff came out serving the pizza...well....I thought that was a little odd. It would have been really cool if the pizza servers were part of the act and the whole bunch of 'em broke out into song and dance like a Glee episode. But that didn't happen. And so I quickly fast-forwarded as I felt my cheeks flush. (not because my Snuggie was warming me up, but because I was so embarrassed for everybody on stage).

I turned the show off at that point and was happy to find that my DVR was also recording Modern Family. Funny, The People's Choice Awards didn't even recognize Modern Family which, in my humble opinion, is one of the best new shows of last year. If you haven't seen it, you need to tune in. Hysterical.

Tonight I'm going to a friend's house for a glass of wine. She hasn't had heat in a few days, so she said to dress warmly. Yeah, I've got the layering thing down pat. I'll bring some wine...and leave the Snuggie.

(By the way...the picture I used for this NOT how the Snuggie looks in real life. I'm just sayin'...)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

It's Time...

January 1st may have marked the start of the new year for most people, but for me it begins tomorrow on January 4th. In my book, the new year must commence on a Monday. Everybody has to be back to school and back to work before I'll even entertain the thought of a New Year's resolution.

The tree is down, the house is clean, the last two bottles of wine were consumed last night. My jeans don't fit, I haven't been to an early class at the gym in 2 weeks, and I'm sick of planning family adventures. This morning we finished the 1000 piece puzzle that Santa brought us which is aptly named Early To Rise...something we as a family have not done since mid-December. But all good things must come to an end and for us it ends tomorrow when the alarm goes off at 6:00 am.

Aside from a few dozen Christmas cookies that remain on the kitchen counter taunting me with their chocolate chips and pecans, I am ready to face tomorrow. Well, almost. I don't know what to do with the Christmas cards. I am not a sentimental person. At all. In fact, I don't save anything. My motto is, "When in doubt, throw it out." But for some reason, I have a hard time parting with the Christmas cards. I think it's the photos that get to me; it seems like a crime to throw them away.

Please don't leave a comment and suggest that I make a delightful handmade gift or craft with my 2009 Christmas cards. I will not make Christmas place mats or tree ornaments using recycled Christmas cards, thank you very much. Don't try to tell me that decoupage is simple and fun because I know better. And while I love the photo frames that my children made in preschool that hang from the tree every year, our tree is certainly not big enough to host the likes of the Smiths, the Jones and the Johnsons.

Each year when the cards arrive in the mail, I hang them from ribbons on the three doors in my kitchen. They are with us the whole holiday season; in fact, I still haven't taken them down. (Note to friends: cards that arrive early in the season get primo spots on the ribbon. Late arrivals are often relegated to the bottom. I'm just saying...) The other night my son and I played a game of Who Isn't Related But Could Be? The object of the game is to spot two people, in two different families, on two different cards...who look alike. (This year's winners were a couple of Portuguese Water Dogs.) We also try to pick our favorite card, but never manage to pick just one...we love them all.

I didn't save the love letters that my husband sent me when we were dating, I didn't save an invitation to our wedding. I didn't save my children's hospital hats or bracelets. I didn't save a photo of my softball team or a birthday card from my grandmother. But I do have stacks of Christmas photos from friends and family for the last couple of years. It's time to add to my collection.