Vanilla Ice Caps: My Super Sweet G20

Perhaps environmental awareness campaigners should stop modeling themselves on church sermons and start watching more MTV. Wealth-fantasy is a fact of life. Still, this wealth needn’t be pecuniary

This weekend the newspapers were bursting with opinions and coverage of the G20 summit. Newspapers that my friends and I quickly flicked through before stacking into a tidy pile and tuning in to MTV to watch a squeaky clean batch of My Super Sweet 16 repeats.

It’s this show that helped me stop taking sugar with my tea. Just watching the high-energy buzz of these sickeningly spoilt American kids can energise me for hours. You can almost get a suntan from the shine on their foreheads. I particularly love the episode where Rihanna is hired to arrive at the party on a camel, while inside Fat Man Scoop performs to the claps of a suffocatingly satin-strapped pack of teenagers, making his lyric “you gotta twen’y dolla’ bill put ya hand up” come across as some sort of sick joke.

It is understandable why critics bang on about how such shows “lead our children down the excessive paths of consumerism”, when instead we younguns should be focusing hard on the problems that will plague their lives, like climate change. Problems that these same critics blissfully ignored in their youths while they danced around their front rooms to Tina Turner.

The well-known journalist Charlie Brooker is one individual who loves complaining about My Super Sweet 16, how it epitomises everything that is wrong with young people today, how messed up the world is, blah blah blah. Yet, Brooker was born in 1971, the same year that Mariah Carey was born, who last month put in an offer for Fleur de Lys (the famous Beverley Hills estate) at $125 million. So is our generation really that alone in its materialistic fever?

Most people who follow My Super Sweet 16 actually watch it from a self-consciously ironic perspective. The show teaches youngsters the perils and sheer ridicule of wealth. It does not present a benchmark for success and there is no talk of how the families on the show have come to be so wealthy. We are simply presented with an isolated cartoonised pantomime, glossed over with glitter so many times that it becomes fiction, no different to children in the 1950s reading Cinderella. Although Cinderella of course has an unrealistic fairytale ending, where as My Super Sweet 16 highlights the tears, the stress, the negative energy and usually ends on a crass note.

The Guardian’s Jackie Ashley wrote a brilliant piece about climate change this morning and how “the west is condemned to a period of new frugality and greater modesty”. She handed politicians the responsibility for being the impetus of this change. Yet I believe young people really will wake up and make a considerable societal effort to manage the problems that our parents’ generation has sat by and watched.

Instead of condemning My Super Sweet 16, we should realise just why it is such compulsive viewing, so we can then apply these techniques to ‘serious’ issues in an attempt to help “our children” have headstrong priorities and environmental interests.

Firstly, MTV is second to none in terms of brilliant editing and production. My Super Sweet 16 is effectively a string of short, snappy, attention grabbing clips. It’s fast-moving, colourful, noisy and emphatic. It repeats micro-clips over and over, helping the whole program to saturate. It uses popular motifs – pop music, references to pop stars, catchphrases, popular jargon, percussion, sound effects...

Perhaps environmental awareness campaigners should stop modeling themselves on church sermons and start watching more MTV. Wealth-fantasy is a fact of life. Still, this wealth needn’t be pecuniary. The world has its own wealth of natural phenomena and colossal material around which we need to start building not an antithesis to pop culture, but a counterpart.

There you go, that's The Jack of Hearts preachiness over for a while!

Words: Jack Cullen

Art Vile: Cindy Sherman Is Back

"enforcing the sheer disposability of the rich against their vain attempts to pitch themselves somewhere above mortality: that impossible Shelleyian dream to be on a par with nature"

Cindy Sherman’s latest work is finally coming to London and will be on show from 16 April to 27 May at Sprüth Magers.

A grotesque obsession with money is evidently at the heart of these pieces that seem to follow on from Sherman’s 2002 collection HAMPTON HOLLYWOOD TYPES, satirising the obliviousness of the wealthy classes to their tastelessness, and documenting the fatigue of these delusional women who have achieved some sort of wealth-goal fantasy, just in time for old age and death.

Sherman’s self portraits have come a long way since her Untitled Film Stills of the 1970s. Her close artistic engagement with screen presence, celebrity and Hollywood has fascinated critics for decades. The ultimate identity-crisis case study, Sherman was commissioned throughout the 1980s to create fashion photography, including a series that Diane Benson patroned for Interview (The then leading Pop culture Bible established by Warhol in 1969).

It is interesting to see how Cindy Sherman has matured throughout her career too. Of course, since she uses herself as the model of her photographs, a degree of ageing is inevitable, yet this is so highly accentuated and deformed by Sherman. In her latest works we are invited to bask in the horrifying glory of high-status plastic-surgery nightmares. Women who, clad in pearls and dresses of the finest fabrics, have sacrificed their souls for the acquisition of what appeared in their youth to be the American dream.

Through the portraits of these women Cindy Sherman offers us dark insight into marital institution, material possession, power and the Baby Jane-like attempts to uphold youth and beauty.

Still, her trademark placid humour remains, as one woman clutches a tacky ornate fan and another strokes her purely ornamental puppy. I was reminded of her HISTORY PORTRAITS series of the 1990s, where we find Carravaggio's masterpieces recreated with popped-out nipples and blindingly fake plastic grapes.

What I love most about these recent offerings is the haunting activity of the photos’ backgrounds. Untitled #465 (above) depicts a partially blurred stately set of stairs, hinting at the character’s grandeur and nurtured sophistication. We cannot help but think of who she is, where she came from and what her bank account boasts.

In Untitled #469 (below) Cindy Sherman hovers ghost-like above a forest backdrop, no doubt mocking the style of cliché commissioned portraits, but also enforcing the sheer disposability of the rich against their vain attempts to pitch themselves somewhere above mortality: that impossible Shelleyian dream to be on a par with nature.

As always, Sherman intelligently re-invents herself through colour photography to establish an inconceivably brilliant liminal space. A space that sends a cold chill down the spine while still managing to interest and entertain. A wildly funny fiction that draws harrowingly close to truth, with this new exhibition Cindy Sherman maintains her reputation as one of the world’s greatest living artists.

Words: Jack Cullen

Macaulay: Business as Usual

There is a festering painting of Macaulay Culkin hidden in Michael Jackon's attic, each painterly attribute twisting and deforming itself with perversity everytime he appears at an awards ceremony looking ten still

In case you’re still unaware, Norwich Union have launched their name change to Aviva with a flashy television advert starring Bruce Willis, Macaulay Culkin, Ringo Starr, Elle Macpherson and other celebrities… a bargain campaign at only £9million. The melancholy and moving trailer orientates around various scenes of urban decay and dystopia, while the aforementioned A-listers stand about making wistful tear-jerking quips that are remotely related to their individual careers.

It is Culkin I want to focus on today though. When he softly begs to the camera - “remember me” - it left me in a state of blissful ambivalence. Remember him for what exactly? For blinding a caricatured burglar through a letterbox with some pepper spray?
I thought he was fantastic as Michael Alig in 2003’s underground masterpiece Party Monster. The role of a gay, drugs-addicted 1980s club-kid murderer was clearly a deliberate choice to build a contrast from Culkin’s type-cast and pave the way for a career as an adult actor. Still, despite this and his string of Hollywood girlfriends (including wife of two years Rachel Miner), it seems Culkin will never be able to shake off the magnitude of his child stardom.

The public still see Macaulay Culkin as a child, even though he will turn 30 next year! The Macaulay Culkin Wikipedia page depicts a grinning image of him looking six. Perhaps the inevitable 90s comeback of the forthcoming 2010s is just the thing Culkin needs to take centre-stage once more and put him in good stead; he can lead the way with millions of dollars, white t-shirts and those blond curtains… who better personifies the 90s American dream?
This year Culkin is set to guest-star in four episodes of Kings, a present-day adaptation of the David and Goliath story, playing a.. wait for it... abducted Nephew. It seems his type-cast role is really going to stick, or will we be pleasantly surprised? IMDB has no news of any 2010 movie work for Culkin which is a shame. I'd really like to see him truly embrace the status of a respected adult actor. We'll just have to wait a while yet.
The Jack of Hearts is written by Jack Cullen

Does he even have body hair?
Below: Mia Kirshner, Macaulay Culkin and Chloe Sevigny in Party Monster.

Burger Princess

To you and me (and everyone born post 87) the name Fergie means the popstar. As in, the fox-faced ex-Black Eyed Peas singer whose album The Duchess boasted such infectious hits as ‘London Bridge’, ‘Glamorous’ and the Cure-copy-cat number ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’. It is this Fergie who springs up everywhere when you Google ‘Fergie’. It is the same Fergie who chirps away merrily about Dolce & Gabbana all over the Sex and the City movie soundtrack.

However, to our parents, the slightly rodent-like word ‘Fergie’ means Sarah Ferguson, as in someone who married Prince Andrew (in 1986 when our Fergie was 11 years old... I don't mean to patronise but one of my younger readers asked me who 'the other Fergie' is). In contrast to the popstar, Sarah Ferguson is an actual Duchess, but not that glamorous, and as Rebecca Camber revealed in the Daily Mail today – Sarah Ferguson is a big girl who does cry.

She told the Mail how Diana effectively destroyed her confidence, and so consequently where Diana had Versace dresses for comfort, Fergie turned to food as her accomplice. Never mind the clothes though, for me it’s Fergie’s philosophy that doesn’t fit. Do beautiful friends make us comfort eat? I don’t know about you, but whenever I go out partying with my better-looking sets of friends I find myself ordering salads and drinking water at the end of the night, whereas when I socialise with a group of lads I find beers thrust in my hands and the taxi home always takes a lurid kebab pit-stop.

Eating obsessions aside though, it’s a bit mean to blame the late Princess Di for all this. Diet plays an important part in the way we look, but there’s only so far we can go with this. We all have friends who are slimmer than us, but Diana wasn't just gym-fit, she was genuinely stunning and flirted with fashion more dedicatedly than anyone to ever set foot in Buckingham Palace.

But if Diana’s presence did lead Fergie’s fingers to the fridge door, and we ignore the fact that Fergie is an official world ambassador for Ronald McDonald, does this in turn mean that Chelsy Davy is responsible for Princess Beatrice’s blue-veined curves?

It must be hard to resist all the ubiquitous cakes and lavish meals that come with the job of being royalty, but the sad truth is, those that do resist the calories seem to be chain smokers or propped up on coke. The only real shapely role models are Prince William with his towering physique, and the Queen herself (although admittedly she had the advantage of kick-starting her physical identity with a few years of rations).

Fergie laments over her tabloid nicknames like ‘Frumpy Fergie’ and ‘The Duchess of Pork’. Perhaps we should stop history repeating itself before Beatrice becomes ‘Meatrice’.

(read Rebecca Camber’s piece from the Daily Mail at

Words: Jack Cullen