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Pin the tail on the whoring sea donkey! From "Pussycat Dolls" to "The Agency," a new generation of aspiring hoochies is mentored by their hoochie mama hens.


Heather Havrilesky
March 18, 2007 3:00PM (UTC)

"I think the Pussycat Dolls have had a large influence on my generation, and that's why I think I've gravitated towards their music." -- Natascha, 19

Every so often, a cultural groundswell crashes down on us with a force so strong, it knocks us off our feet and grinds our faces into the sand. Whether Natascha is referring to the Pussycat Dolls' seminal hit "Don't Cha" (as in "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?") or to the inspirational message that the Pussycat Dolls have to share with aspiring hoochie mamas nationwide, one thing is for certain: A new generation of ladies has risen up to shake its collective ass in the face of mankind, and to take its God-given place on the drool-spattered strip-club stage of history.

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Sure, we could point to the early precursors of this movement, the dadaist forefathers to their surreal rise to power: Madonna, wet T-shirt contests, "Dirty Dancing," "Baywatch," the neo-feminist insistence that dressing like a slut was a form of empowerment, the Spice Girls, Victoria's Secret, Maxim, the rise of high-end strip clubs, Hugh Hefner's kitschy but effective "Meet my five hot-slut girlfriends" publicity campaign, "Girls Gone Wild," Christina Aguilera's insistence on describing just how nasty she could be, Hooters, Britney Spears' transformation from winsome Lolita to "Slave 4 U"... The cultural precedents are countless, so countless that most of us can take at least part of the blame for the ass-shaking revolutionaries we created. Whether we purchased a Wonder Bra or proclaimed our right to wear short shorts to high school or hummed a few strains of Prince's "Dirty Mind" way back when, we were inadvertently sowing the seeds of a whole new generation of filthy 'ho flowers, little ladies who dress like Godless whores and talk like drunken sailors and swing their hips like wanton harlots, honeys who are not only dirty and shallow, but who proclaim their right to be dirty and shallow like they're engaged in a vital and important grass-roots struggle to safeguard the enduring freedoms of womankind henceforth.

Hell, maybe they are. All I can see are their bubble asses shaking in my face. And strangely enough, Generation Whoring Sea Donkey wouldn't have it any other way!

Sighs and dolls
Yes, yes, I know. Those nasty, filthy little sluts, who do they think they are, etc., etc. But isn't that the desired response for any generational uprising? When a generation stomps its 7-inch stiletto heel and says, "I'm here, damn it!" aren't we supposed to cringe and wince at the fact that their butt cheeks are falling out of their short shorts? When we avert our eyes but we still can't help noticing that their boobs are propped up so high that one of their nipples is showing, doesn't that mean, for them, that freedom is still on the march?

But, just to be clear, while we all sang along with dirty lyrics when we were 12 years old, these girls make Prince look like Bing Crosby. They don't dream of being Madonna or even Britney Spears, they dream of squatting on the floor of a shower stall for a photographer from Maxim. Wanting fame for fame's sake is perfectly fine to them, and Paris Hilton or Anna Nicole Smith or Nicole Richie aren't punch lines, and no amount of scary bootleg porn videos or crotch flashes or driving the wrong way down a freeway, high on Vicodin, can change that. When card-carrying whoring sea donkeys are interviewed, they don't talk about their love of acting or singing or dancing or fashion, they talk about turning men on -- as if that's a difficult thing to do!

Fascinating, isn't it? Even though men think about sex so much that a glimpse of a bare toe will make them go wild, even though it's not actually necessary for a girl to take off half of her clothes and get on all fours to get a man's attention, these little dears seem downright anxious to do just that!

But the women I find the most heroic and courageous are the hoochie-mama hens, the slightly older, Gen-X, whoring sea donkey mentors who believe wholeheartedly that they're instilling strength and confidence in their charges when they instruct them on how to bend over a pool table. Take Robin Antin, creator of the Pussycat Dolls and a central character in "Pussycat Dolls Presents: The Search for the Next Doll," (9 p.m. Tuesdays on CW), the latest television show to suggest that the whoring sea donkeys are storming the gates, ready to rape and pillage and take what's rightfully theirs -- namely, lots of skin-tight T-shirts that say "Daddy's Girl" on them in hot-pink glitter.

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Now, as you may recall, the Pussycat Dolls started as a group of not-quite-famous L.A. hotties who wanted an excuse to wear sexy lingerie onstage, but didn't necessarily want to get naked, girls who wanted to, like, perform and stuff, but they couldn't, like, sing or anything. In order to avoid singing, they lip-synched, and in order to make the whole thing seem vaguely dignified, they called it burlesque, and they performed at super-classy venues like "The Viper Room" and "Caesar's Palace." (Yes, in L.A. and Vegas, such places are actually considered classy, just so you understand the particular species of sea donkey we're talking about here.)

Even if you don't find a whole generation of aspiring sea donkeys all that scary a concept, that doesn't change the fact that a handful of glorified strippers transformed, rather seamlessly, into a Grammy-nominated pop group, and now that pop group has its very own one-hour infomercial running on the CW.

But since you don't care about such terrible shows, you probably don't care to know that, in the second hour of aforementioned infomercial, Pussycat founder Antin (sister of "Blow Out's" weepy, temperamental hair stylist Jonathan Antin) takes the girls out to a bar where women in lingerie are posing in lighted boxes, boxes that are strategically located behind the bar so that men will gather around and end up spending way too much cash on drinks while drooling over the goods on display. Soon after the group has arrived, Antin points to the embellished mannequins and says, "One of the ways to understand what confidence is all about is [by] doing things like that."

At first, some of the girls gasp in horror. After all, generational repercussions aside, many of them actually have good singing voices or they're trained dancers or both, and perhaps they only know the Pussycat Dolls from their hit songs and remain unaware of their exalted-stripper roots. Would it really be appropriate to dance like common whores, providing cheap eye candy for the middle-aged horndogs boozing it up around the bar?

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But then Antin and some of the more "confident" girls make it crystal clear that it's not only acceptable but positively cool to pose and pout for randy strangers, and suddenly all the girls are ooing and ahing over the microscopic push-up bras and metalic thongs waiting for them in the dressing room. Oh my gosh, this silver butt floss has my name on it and everything!, they gush to each other, feeling very honored and special, and everyone happily climbs into the lighted boxes and then, afterwards, takes turns marveling at how much dignity and self-esteem this girl or that girl demonstrated when she kicked up her long legs or straddled the little chair or got on all fours and made porno faces.

But look, let's not jump to conclusions. Maybe these girls are just exercising their power by strutting their stuff. Maybe some of them are post-feminist scholars and they're subverting the dominant paradigm of objectification by taking ownership of the terms and symbols of the whore and repurposing those terms and symbols in deeply empowering ways... you know, like by imitating the storefront prostitutes of Amsterdam.

Even so, it's hard not to want to grab a big coat and cover up those mostly nude teenagers and take them out to a diner and buy them a nice, hot reuben and some chicken soup and explain to them that, even when you're "confident" or you're subverting the dominant paradigm, even when you're talented and extremely nice and you can do whatever you want and who cares what anyone thinks anyway, it's still not ultimately great for your self-respect to wear butt floss and make porno faces in public.

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But I know you don't want to think about this awful show, so you especially don't even want to hear about the part where the sea donkeys' mentors and tutors draw very fine lines between what's acceptable and what's not acceptable in the sea donkey world. Take choreographer Mikey Minden, who shouts at one girl while she's dancing, "Don't be cheesy! Don't be cheesy! Don't bob your head like that!" as if it's possible to put on ass pants and sing a reimagineered, vastly inferior version of Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" without being cheesy.

Using the appropriated terms of his fellow mentors, Minden explains to the camera, "Brittany is a really confident girl, but unfortunately her confidence makes her dance like a Stripperella!"

Brittany, in turn, explains her well-considered approach to the Pussycat mystique: "You know, I'm a confident dancer, I've been a go-go dancer, and if that style looks trashy or stripper-like to Mikey then ... whatever." There it is: Whatever! The whoring sea donkey's call to arms!

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You and the sea donkeys have something in common, then, since you say "Whatever!" to such apocalyptic bits of TV programming, and therefore aren't in the slightest bit interested in hearing that half of the girls get some kind of a virus or terrible stomach flu before their first big audition, so that they're all lying around on the ground next to the stage with IVs going into their arms and Antin is telling them that sickness better not stop them from performing since the actual Pussycat Dolls have to perform sick all the time. And since you'd rather not know how sadistic and strange that scene was, you probably don't want to know that the Irish Times Weekly reported that a panel discussion at South by Southwest revealed that the Dolls are actually paid employees of their label and don't have any say in what they do or how they do it, like normal artists might.

Despite the starry-eyed teenagers lining up to be the skankiest showgirls of all, there's almost nothing normal or artistic about the Pussycat Dolls -- which is why they're so obviously destined to rule the known universe.

Scolding oldies
But let's move on to something far more wholesome and worthwhile: VH1's "The Agency" (check listings), a show that stands on the shoulders of giants like "America's Next Top Model" and "The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency" and says, "We can be even uglier and nastier than sea donkey mentors Tyra and Janice combined!"

Enter Becky, the world's most irritating person (this year, anyway). Becky works for Wilhelmina Modeling Agency's women's high-end board, which seems to mean that her job is to fly all over the country, telling beautiful women that they're not nearly beautiful enough to be models. In fact, to hear Becky tell it, the long, slender, gorgeous girls she spots on the street or at the beach are hideously deformed mutants, with big soft asses and huge noses and squinty eyes and scraggly hair and enormous chins and terrible, pockmarked skin. The way Becky frowns and groans and slumps over her desk, these seemingly lovely, long-limbed ladies are downright painful to behold, plus they need to shut up and follow her instructions and most importantly, stop eating!

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When sea donkey role model Becky isn't convincing pretty people that they're desperately ugly, she's apparently getting wasted with her co-worker Lola and complaining about her boss, a big pink man named Pink. Yes, based on the footage we see, Becky seems to spend a lot of time drinking and bitching, and then the next morning she shows up late to work, looking ill, and somehow she manages not to get fired, because someone somewhere decided that she was just the sort of sadist that belongs in a masochistic industry like modeling -- or, at the very least, belongs on a show about modeling.

Other than complaining about how ugly everyone is, the employees of "The Agency" like to talk up their models in completely nonsensical ways to clients looking for subjects for their national ad campaigns. In one scene, Tommy Hilfiger says he's looking for "rugged" male models, so Wilhelmina's employees send him a guy who looks like a cross between Giselle and Little Lord Fauntleroy. Apparently assuming that Hilfiger's people are highly suggestible to the point of being utter morons, they coach the guy to say that he plays rugby, since that's a very rugged sport.

In short, if you love watching successful professionals lying, boozing it up and gossiping like teenagers, I would still avoid this very irritating show, since listening to Becky whine is about as enjoyable as getting your corns filed down.

But you don't have corns! What am I saying? You're beautiful and young and therefore still free to shake your perky ass on the strip-club stage of life for Aqualung and his friends, enjoying that deep satisfaction that comes from knowing that stinky old guys want to have sex with you!

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Next week: The stinky old guys of "Rome" and "Battlestar" bring us finales aimed at knocking us off our corn-riddled feet.


Heather Havrilesky

Heather Havrilesky is a regular contributor to the New York Times Magazine, The Awl and Bookforum, and is the author of the memoir "Disaster Preparedness." You can also follow her on Twitter at @hhavrilesky.

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