Sunday, March 18, 2007

Life Lessons from the Pussycat Dolls

I've been trying to ignore this new reality show called Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll which premiered on CW earlier this month...hopefully for obvious reasons. It seems, however, that I was one of the few of my demographic who did - MediaLife magazine reports that the show has averaged a 3.2 rating among women aged 18-34. More importantly (to me anyway), is the fact that it averaged 4.3 among teenage girls ages 12-17. The article offers a few theories about why that might be--aside from the obvious, that the Pussycat Dolls are a pretty wildly popular group right now, especially among teen demos. Or the enumerable similarities this new show shares with teen/cult favourite America's Next Top Model--it even repeated directly following ANTM a couple of weeks ago. No, MediaLife thinks that the show is popular because of its "empowering" qualities - an absolutely chilling possibility. They write [and I've inserted my own comments in brackets like this one]:
"There are several likely reasons [why the show is so popular among teen girls], and the first is that the show is aspirational, in the way that magazines like Fitness and Seventeen are [!]. They see in the group and the wannabes fit bodies [the majority of the contestants have professional dance training] and the latest look [more on this later]. They see the latest dance steps [hmmm - for strippers perhaps]. And they see their self-confidence, which is hugely impressive for girls at an age when self-doubt is the norm [see below]. They see role models."

Intrigued and disgusted, I sat down this afternoon to watch a repeat of last week's episode. This particular episode was, fittingly, all about confidence--how some girls have too much of it (and are therefore doomed to fail), and how some girls are seriously lacking in it (and therefore malleable to the show's objectives of "empowering female sexuality" - hmmm). The judges decided to teach the candidates about "confidence" during a night out at a Hollywood restaurant by giving them a surprise challenge after (perhaps during?) dinner--to put on lingerie and stripper dance (sans actually removing any clothing--not that there was much to remove) in boudoir-styled window boxes in front of the entire restaurant. Surprise! It looked like something out of a red light district in Amsterdam, and was particularly painful to watch after hearing the contestants' initial shock at even being IN a restaurant with, to paraphrase one of the girls, "half-naked ladies dancing above the bar".

The show ended with the elimination of the girl with "too much confidence"--it was getting in the way of her performance in that the judges thought she danced and looked "too much" like a stripper, and not enough like a sophisticated Pussycat Doll. Yikes! This show comes from the same IP that wanted to market Pussycat Dolls dolls to 6-year-olds (they backed off after major public outcry). And while MediaLife doesn't report on the tween demographic, these past initiatives make me seriously wonder how much spill-over there is into younger female audience segments. The show is a must-see, unfortunately, for those of you interested in girls' culture, though on the bright side it does provide PLENTY of fodder for academic analysis.

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