- Teen Media: Hollywood and the Youth Market in the Digital Age by Valerie Wee
With her first monograph, valerie wee crafts a timely and useful account of the late 1990s resurgence of teen media in the United States, attentive to the ways in which previously accepted boundaries between media formats are increasingly blurred by new technologies and new modes of reception. Scholars of teen media have traditionally explored the politics of representation and reception as well as the shifting generic conventions specific to particular formats, often exclusively discussing television, film, or new media. Teen Media: Hollywood and the Youth Market in the Digital Age takes a broader perspective on media for teens. Here, Wee illuminates Hollywood’s attempts to exploit the growing demographic of the “millennial teen” through the production and cross-promotion of pop music, film, television programming, and web content from 1997 to 2009.
In the first two chapters, Wee provides thorough historical and discursive contextualization for subsequent arguments regarding the construction of the millennial teen consumer and the ways in which media industries in the United States have attempted to harness teens’ attention(s). Wee locates contemporary teen culture in relation to the culture of teenagers of the 1950s and 1960s, citing the two eras’ similar surges in youth population. She notes that each era also saw economic shifts that led to teens’ greater access to disposable income and to a general increase in availability of media and consumer products. The growth of a teen consumer market both resulted from and fueled the construction and perpetuation of a distinctive identity for each teen cohort—marked, for millennial teens, by an active interest in consumer culture, a postmodern aesthetic sensibility, and technological savvy. Also referred to as the “echo boom” or “Generation Y,” millennial teens are defined as those who have entered their teen years in an era of increased reliance on and experimentation with digital technologies, from the mid-1990s to 2010, when the book was published. [End Page 70]
Wee traces the resurgence of the US teen market to late twentieth-century media conglomeration and diversification and the rise of digital technologies, distinguishing early on between the work of marketing firms on Madison Avenue and Hollywood, as both a multifaceted site for media production and an amalgam of ad-supported enterprises. The author cites the success of the first installment in Dimension Films’ Scream franchise, the popularity of teen boy bands, and Warner Bros.’ decision to revive its television network, the WB, by targeting teens—all in 1997—as proof of the sudden significance of teen audiences to industries that had neglected them since the mid-1980s. These and related case studies are the focus of chapters 3 through 6.
The core of the book is an examination of the ways in which media production firms—several owned by or otherwise involved with Warner Bros.—used various media holdings in the late 1990s to simultaneously promote music, film, and television content and providers. Wee also lists five characteristics apparent in millennial teen media culture, which she pursues in greater detail throughout the body of the book. Her broad textual analyses of programs, films, and aesthetic trends support an argument for the significance of the contemporary youth market to the economic and creative functions of US media industries. In addition to discussing the use of new and expanded synergistic marketing and distribution strategies, Wee finds that the need to define and appeal to the “media-obsessed millennial teen” resulted in the creation of “quality” broadcast television for teens alongside a hyper-postmodern aesthetic also apparent in teen-oriented cable television and film.
For Wee, MTV’s Total Request Live (TLR) exemplifies a hyperactive aesthetic aimed at continually grabbing teens’ attention. The show attempted to be an all-encompassing resource for teens’ interactive viewing while keeping them up-to-date on the latest music and fashion trends. Wee likewise identifies aspects of a hyper-postmodern aesthetic evident in the Scream films and their promotion, which made the films...