Monday, April 30, 2007

It Both Blows And Sucks, Dept.

Y'know, your sobsister tries to guide you, the reader, to sites and sounds (thank goodness for that hot magenta Motorola Razr, for example) that I hope will please and delight you.

Occasionally, however, it falls to me to steer you to webpages that are so preternaturally sucktastic that words, images, sounds fail me even as they're employed with ill intent by the creators and operators of the pages in question.

One such affront to human decency and Western civilization in general is the Bazooka Joe website. Bazooka Joe?!, you ask in shock and disbelief. Not that lovable one-eyed scamp whose awesomely-unfunny adventures have been followed by generations of gum-chewing, filling-losing, dentist-profiting children?!

Yes, much as it pains me to say it, yes.

Because the Joe you knew is no more, you see. Along with Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, the Great Bear Auto bear, and so many other iconic figures of our racist, sexist, speciesist childhoods, Bazooka Joe has been "updated". He has been made "relevant" and "contemporary". His old pals--Mort, Herman, Pesty, Toughie--have been mostly swept away. No more these last few survivors of the ubiquitous "kid gangs" of popular culture from the first half of the storied century that gave birth to the Greatest Fucking Generation Ever™.

Do you remember that Simpsons episode where "Poochie" the surfer dog is forced into the cast of "Itchy & Scratchy" by cynical network suits who want to introduce an "in your face" dog character "who gets 'biz-zay'"? The new cast of the 'Zook is ever-so just like that.

This 2006 New Yorker article tells the tale of how Joe and his pals fell like so much clear-cut timber before the utter cluelessness of some Canuck motherfucker and soi-disant Bazooka-lover who, as managing director of Topps, Joe's parent company, focus-tested for new characters with gum-addled children and came up with, gosh!, a veritable Rainbow Coalition of the Chewing. There's a tomboy, a "slouchy music snob", an environmentalist, an "excitable German", and, of course, a Black "science geek".

Wow. The comedic possibilities are...finite. Severely limited. Few in number. Scant.

But it's not enough to have taken "Bazooka Joe", beloved three-second reading material of generations, and skull-fucked it.
Topps then built a website to feature the new Joe, the new focus-group-friendly Joe.

How can I begin to describe it?
I know! What if I start with the unbearably-crap a cappella song-cum-schoolyard-chant offered by "Tha Heights", an African-American foursome who do everything in their power to disabuse White America of the notion that all Black people can rap. Here's are the first two stanzas:
"My Mom
She gave me a dollar
She told me to buy a collar
But I didn't buy no collar
Instead I bought some bubblegum
Bazooka, zooka bubble gum

My Mom
She gave me a quarter
She told me to tip the porter
But I didn't tip no porter
Instead I bought some bubblegum
Bazooka, zooka bubble gum

Yeah, it's just that good. And so timely too! Why, it was just last week that I went to buy a collar, in fact. A nice celluloid one. Attended a function at the White House hosted by President McKinley, you understand. And on my way, I even had the opportunity to tip a porter. Colored fellow, very respectful of his betters. So, I can totally see why Topps wanted to update ol' Joe. These new "rhymez" are "da bomb"!

After listening to this musical abortion, you can then learn to do the "Bazooka Zooka Dance" which is very Even-White-People-Can-Do-It. And you can see this song performed by "Tha Heights" in both "Music Video" and "R&B Video" versions, the latter a Take 6-ish version and unfortunately not an R.Kelly nymphette-banging XXX-travaganza. Though if watching barely-pubescent girls get their freak on shake their budding charms is your barely-legal thang, you can watch videos which young ladies from Canada and the U.S. have made and submitted. There's even one from Brazil featuring four young women who are disconcertingly precocious in both appearance and movement. These are available for viewing at the Bazooka Dance Blog.

So, wow! Uploaded viewer videos! A "blog"! Cycle-consuming streams of crap music! Is there a wheezy Internet device that Topps has not exploited in pursuit of its coveted, fickle, orally-fixated target demo?

And yet...what about Joe? We began with a discussion of that half-blind li'l bugger's renovation. Where on this audiovisual atrocity can we find ol' Joe? Well, buried three levels beneath the busy graphics and relentless "Bazooka Zooka" is our opportunity to "meet the gang".

There is, of course, Joe himself, "A.K.A. Bazooka Juan...a cool guy, so it's no wonder he's got lots of friends - boys and girls." Courting Latinos and bi-sexuals in one smooooth move. Love ya, Topps! "And the eye patch? Don't worry, it's just his style." Oh yeah, stylin' with the lazy-eye look. Very 1950s-medical-care chic. Next, we have Mort, the only holdover from the Classic Gang. Then Jake the dog who's "got a unique dog's point of view on life, and loves to make wisecracks (and make us laugh)", apparently to the point of writing run-on sentences. Then DJ Chen who is the Yellow Peril's contribution to this ensemble and "our favorite mixmaster". Then Kevin Griffin, "the ultimate nerd's nerd". You can tell he's Black despite his inexplicable aptitude for the hard sciences because his skin is a few tones darker than Joe's. 'Cause otherwise he has just the cutest button nose and non-existent lips. Then Cindy Lewis, "the ultimate treehugger...Recycling? It's her favorite sport!" No, seriously, an environmentalist? That tests really well with kids? Better than, say, a kid pundit? Or a child accountant? Then Casey McGavin, "your classic tomboy - and totally allergic to anything that's considered girly", i.e., flannel-wearing bulldagger. Then Wolfgang Spreckels, "from Germany...Wolfgang loves America and heavy metal - and can't stand disco (and disco dancing)". Oh, man, that is so fucking today! Oh, I can see "Wolfgang" taking these John Travolta-wannabes down a peg! Particularly given that they're in their early-50s! Ha ha! Disco sux! Disco sux!! Ha ha!

So, there you have it. The new Bazooka Joe.
Another lukewarm childhood memory enrobed in goldflecked shit.
Thanks, Topps.
Hope you don't go out of business and have to trick for crack or anything.


orderfire said...

I wish I hadn't followed that link before I went to bed; I couldn't get that damned idiotic pseudo-rap bubblegum jingle out of my head all night. Thanks a lot, pal.

the sobsister said...

it's a happy li'l mind-worm, isn't it?
just the way its extraterrestrial composers intended...
(cue violin stabs)

Anonymous said...

i just stumbled upon this when i searched "bazooka gum + sexism" and wanted to say i got a damn good laugh. i'm actually doing a piece on sexism using bubble gum, slightly altered bazooka wrappers, playboys, and a school desk. i guess i just wanted to say mad props for being as angrily opinionated as myself on such trivial things as bazooka joe :)

the sobsister said...

thanks for reading and writing. I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

let me know if you post your bazooka joe piece online; I'd love to see your take on it.