Four reporters share their choices for the best and worst of this year in four categories: TV shows, ads, music, and protests.
Best TV Show
“Who’s that girl? It’s Jess!” sings heroine Jessica Day, who embraces awkwardness on New Girl, a fall series that adds a touch of clever quirkiness to the otherwise homogeneous TV lineup.
The show revolves around Jess, an offbeat, but easily relateable elementary school teacher played by indie princess Zooey Deschanel. After a bad breakup, Deschanel’s character moves into a new apartment, complete with three single and moody male roommates. Together, the four twenty-somethings form a charmingly dysfunctional family.
While viewers may find themselves chuckling at the characters’ comical misfortunes ––such as when the roommates attempt to defrost a frozen turkey in the clothes dryer –– part of the affectionate humor is that their awkward situations may mirror their own real-life blunders. New Girl fans may cringe at Jess’s random spurts of bad dancing or cry tears of laughter while she hopelessly attempts to pick up guys. New Girl never fails to portray the inner gawkiness of our teen years.
Worst TV Show
What show involves tantrum-spouting individuals pursuing beauty by getting their bodies spray-tanned, eyelashes tinted, teeth bleached and hair highlighted? If you thought it was Jersey Shore, think again. The answer is Toddlers and Tiaras, which follows the lives of child beauty pageant contestants ranging from eight months to ten years old. The toddler beauty queens are accompanied by egocentric stage moms, who breed their girls to look like living baby dolls and act like divas. Toddlers and Tiaras earns the title of being one of the worst –– and trashiest –– shows on TV for exploiting child beauty queens and hosting an array of annoying kids and attention-seeking parents.
The reality show portrays the mini pageant contestants singing, dancing and strutting their stuff in two-piece bikinis and flashy costumes in hope of taking home a tiara and trophy to display next to their Barbie collection. One mom even went as far as dressing her three-year-old up as Julia Roberts’ character in Pretty Woman (yes, the prostitute) during the costume portion of a competition. All the pageant mothers glam up their princesses by giving the girls fake teeth, hairpieces and colored contacts. Next they hop their little divas up on Pixi-Stix for a kick of pre-competition energy. Toddlers and Tiaras encompasses what some may consider preschoolers on the road to stardom while others may hold that it is near child abuse.
The show joins a new generation of sleazy reality shows like The Bad Girl’s Club and The Real Housewives, but lacks the “I can’t stop watching this” train-wreck appeal. Even if you do make it through five minutes of the show, it is hard not to think about what Toddlers and Tiaras symbolizes is everything wrong with our culture.
— By Campbell Gee
Do you feel nostalgia for the free speech movements of the early 60s, an era you’ve read about but never experienced? Do you feel that our elected officials’ only concern is getting your vote? With chant of “we are the 99 percent,” average citizens have marched through streets and camped out in plazas to call attention to their sense of disenfranchisement from America’s political and economic system.
On Sept 17, hundreds gathered at Liberty Square in Manhattan’s financial district to expose the undemocratic phenomena of the ultra-rich getting richer and everyone else getting poorer. Inspired by revolutions in Egypt and Libya, the protestors said they were going to take back the country from the corporate millionaires and return it to the rest of us.
With ideas and strategies virally linked, these protests have been spread throughout the country by people who want more say in politics. In San Francisco’s Embarcadero, a diverse group has spent the last few months demonstrating in hopes of changing the trajectory of our country back to the egalitarian ideals of our founding fathers. Average citizens — from punked up teens to fed-up businessmen — are forming a new era in capitalist history. “There’s a great energy surrounding their protests and the communal goal of social change should lead the country in a positive direction,” junior Mari Galicer said.
Without a central leadership or specific demands, the Occupy Wall Street protestors will most likely achieve a merely symbolic demonstration against the top one percent, instead of the dreamed-of permanent reform for the 99 percent. At the camp by the bay, few participants at Occupy San Francisco expressed specific knowledge of politics, most asserted they primarily wanted to get the attention of those in office. “I don’t know much at all
about the bills in politics and neither do most people here,” said one middle-aged protestor who was seated at a table covered with pamphlets in the middle of a scattered cluster of tents. “We just want to be heard and then hopefully someone in power will make changes based on our problems.”
What is more, in many cities these protests include people who appear to be using the actions as an excuse for a public campout. This situation has lead to disruptions, even episodes of violence. In Oakland, protestors blocked the 880 freeway, resulting in a shut-down of the Port of Oakland. That night, as the police attempted to shut down, a pitched battle broke out between the police and the protestors. Unfortunately, incidents like these tarnish the entire movement and undermine the push for positive change.
— By Cecily Montgomery
In 2011, a number of creative artists have achieved popularity, knocking many ill-deserving celebrities from the spotlight. Adele, Florence and the Machine and Foster the People have all proved that there is still room for talent in the weakening music industry. Adele’s soulful voice won the hearts of millions of new fans in 2011 after releasing her sophomore album “21” in February.
All these groups stand out to fans, but not based on their offbeat clothing. For example, Adele wears her usual ensemble of a black sweater and black pants to events, where he simple elegance proves that her talent, and not her attire, gets her recognized as an artist.
Alongside Adele, the American success of Florence and the Machine proves how the Brits have definitely done better this year. Red-haired Florence Welch combines a perfect mixture of rock and soul into her newest album, “Ceremonials.”
In a pop-opposite genre from Adele and Florence, Foster the People brings a unique sound to popular music. Their huge use of synthesizers and incomparable beats stunned fans who welcome the new alternative pop sound with open arms.
In contrast to the aforementioned artists, more than ever this year, pop music became less of a talent contest and more of a competition between dolled-up celebrities who are more likely to kill to be on the front cover of Cosmopolitan than behind a mic. While “Friday” fans praise Rebecca Black for creating a pop anthem, many question if reciting the days of the week in auto-tune can be considered actual music.
Celebrity artists like Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj, who struggled to compete for the most distinct label, ended up sacrificing their music for glamour and gossip. Perry’s song “Last Friday Night” and Minaj’s “Superbass” describe the joys of partying and schoolgirl crushes in tech-artificial voices that differ vastly from talented singing.
Recently, Rihanna hit a new low with her single “Cockiness,” which includes the racy lyrics “Suck my cockiness, lick my persuasion.” Instead of keeping it classy for her younger audience, Rihanna chose to sell sex instead of music.
The principal difference between the big-girl celebrities and Rebecca Black? Black’s recording company could only spend $4,000 of Black’s mother’s money to cover up her lack in vocal talent, while Perry and Minaj’s repairs took millions.
— By Isabel Boutiette
In an industry where wild parties and hot women rule the commercials, one beer company dared to debut a 73-year-old man in its 2006 television ad campaign. Five years later, “The Most Interesting Man in the World” has reached legendary status. The Dos Equis brand has amassed international attention, reaching 1,000,000 views on Youtube, justifying the innovative commercial as “The Most Interesting Ad in the World.”
In each witty commercial, actor Jonathan Goldsmith performs spectacular feats, such as skydiving in a kayak or admonishing his pet cougar for rudely jumping on the kitchen table. Meanwhile, a narrator lists his ridiculous accomplishments, which range from winning trophies for his game face alone, to speaking perfect French…in Russian.
Similar to the success of the topless Old Spice spokesman, “The Most Interesting Man in the World” draws fans on one factor alone: the humor of awesomeness. But do 20 to 30-somethings actually crave a sip of Dos Equis after watching an old man who has taught a horse to read his email? According to Macleans, a news website (www.macleans.ca), Dos Equis sales have gone up 22 percent since the commercial first aired, even though the industry of imported beer has lost four percent in sales overall; quite impressive, though it is all in a day’s work for the internationally renowned advertisement agency, Euro RSCG.
Are you a lazy voter? Don’t care if Obama promises health care reforms, or Herman Cain is involved in a sexual harassment scandal, yet still planning on bubbling in your 2012 presidential ballot? Herman Cain’s uninformative fundraising commercial can help you further neglect knowledge of the political world around you.
In the ad, Herman Cain’s chief of staff Mark Block explains “together we can take this country back.” While he provides no explanation of his powerful cliché, Block proceeds to light a cigarette, blowing smoke into the camera — an act that even Holden Caulfield knew called for an apology. The camera then cuts to an extremely close-up shot of Herman Cain, who concludes the ad with what may be the creepiest smile in commercial history. The eight-second fright-fest that is the Herman Cain grin brings thoughts of “serial killer” or “stalker” to anyone who sees it.
Besides the pointless moments of Block smoking and a zoomed-in, sinister mug shot of Cain, the ad contains virtually no information of his policies and goals. Cain and his supporters created the ad solely to suck in the money of those desperate enough to fall for his, let’s say, charm.
— By Spencer Thirtyacre
A version of this article first appeared in the Dec. 8, 2011 print edition of The Lowell.