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					                                                                               THE NATION’S NEWSPAPER                                            BS2004-01


World of politics,
comedy converge
By Peter Johnson                                                4-6
                                                                               Media's Influence
                                                                                on Pop Culture
By year's end, regular                                                    The media play a critical role in informing citizens, influencing attitudes and
size will have to do                                                      even touting the latest trends. Candidates who run for office are well aware
                                                                          of the impact the media have on the public opinion and, ultimately, how
By Bruce Horovitz                                               7-8
                                                                          citizens choose to vote. Political candidates' success is not based solely on
                                                                          their stance on the major issues, nor their ability to generate enough
                                                                          revenue to mount a formidable campaign — though both are critical aspects
Geek chic                                                                 of a campaign. Without the media, most people would know little about the
By Susan Wloszczyna and                                                   people who run for office, much less those who are actually elected.
Ann Oldenburg                                                   9-11
                                                                          Just as the media influence opinions about candidates, they also help shape
                                                                          the latest trends in fashion, music, entertainment, nutrition and other facets
Pepsi, Apple team to tout                                                 of daily life. The media's role in our everyday lives is critical because often
music downloads                                                           the information they provide shapes public opinion and influences our
                                                                          choices — from what music we choose to purchase to the candidates we
By Jefferson Graham                                              12       elect. This case study will explore the media and the impact on American
                                                                          pop culture.

Stewart's image is                                                                                   Cover Story
tarnished, but for how
By Maria Puente                                                13-14      'Everything is so
USA TODAY Snapshots®
 Students’ TV habits
 Percentage of secondary school students who say
                                                                          5 minutes ago'
 they watch three or more hours of television on an
                                                                                                                   edgy haunts as Williamsburg, a
 average school day:                                                      Suddenly, the heat's on                  Brooklyn neighborhood.
         9th graders
        10th graders
                                                39.2%                     to stay cool
        11th graders                         34.7%                                                                  Now, Ashton Kutcher, the kind of
        12th graders                        31.3%                         By Olivia Barker                         guy who graces the cover of YM
                                                                          USA TODAY                                magazine, wears them.

                                                                            A year or so ago, mesh trucker caps,     In other words, now they're not
                                                                          the kind with the peaked foam facade     exactly cool.
                                                                          screaming "John Deere" and other
 Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Youth
 Risk Behavior Surveillance, 2001”                                        never-in-New York logos, perched on        "As soon as Ashton Kutcher adopts
                                            By Keith Simmons, USA TODAY
                                                                          the pates of intrepid hipsters in such   a trend, that's when you know it's

                                                          Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

over," says Robert Lanham,                 cycles keep churning and churning,"           huge, historically mainstream
Williamsburg denizen and author of         faster and faster, until the suburbs can      companies feel they need to tap into
the recently published Hipster             almost catch up to the cities.                an edgy aesthetic in order to sell their
Handbook. Ditto Kutcher's female                                                         product, with sometimes disastrous
counterpoint, Avril Lavigne, she of the      Soon the formerly subversive —              results. Witness Levi's: Targeting
erstwhile-edgy studded leather cuffs.      tattoos, belly piercings and fauxhawks        hipsters has cost the jeans giant 50% of
                                           — turn up at the prom.                        its market share over the past five
   Out in a mall store in Massapequa,                                                    years, according to the Zandl Group, a
N.Y., a mere 30 miles from his                "The very nature of cool is that not       New York-based trend-analysis firm.
neighborhood, Lanham spies a succinct      everybody's in on it, so once people          Instead of promoting their tried-and-
illustration of his point: a red-and-      know about it, it's hard to stay cool,"       true styles, Levi's pushed belly-baring
white trucker hat with "Dork" slapped      Hein says. "The shelf life shrinks."          cuts that few of their traditional
across the front in fuzzy black letters.   Consider The Osbournes, which                 customers could pull off.
When it makes it out to Massapequa         returned Tuesday for its third season.
— Jerry Seinfeld says it's Indian for      Sure, it's on MTV, but originally it held       Another example is Ford, which
"near the mall" — the irony of             all the trappings of a hipster hit: a self-   launched the Focus four years ago with
appropriating something so anti-           parodying patriarch named Ozzy                an eye toward the scenesters. "I don't
fashion as a scratchy nylon hat gets       Osbourne who happened to have been            know of a single young teen or young
lost along the Long Island Expressway.     the lead singer of Black Sabbath, the         adult who finds that aspirational,"
                                           bedrock of many a hipster music               sniffs Irma Zandl, president of Zandl
  And guess who becomes the                library. And it riffs on '50s kitsch, with    Group. "What self-respecting DJ would
real dork.                                 its Ozzie and Harriet vs. Ozzy and            want to drive a Focus? Please!" The PT
                                           Sharon dichotomy.                             Cruiser had early cool buzz until
  The cool continuum — that twisty                                                       Chrysler capitalized on it — and Cher
trajectory that traces pop culture from      But then came Kelly's album, the            bought one.
cultish to trendy to mainstream to so-     Pepsi Twist ads and Sharon's imminent
over-it's-embarrassing to, finally,        talk show. "When it becomes so mass-             "If you have to tell someone it's cool,
kitsch — is being compressed. What         marketed, it loses something," Hein           it's not," Hein says.
used to require years to migrate to the    says. "It reeks, and things go downhill
mall, MTV and, yes, USA TODAY now          from there."                                    The mainstream success of trucker
takes only a matter of months.                                                           hats notwithstanding, Zandl says it's
                                             When the original Matrix was                "very, very hard" to find examples
  Which is making hipsters nervous:        released in 1999, it proved that rare         where cool has translated to corporate
How can they stay ahead when the           crossover hit: innovative action              cash. A couple of exceptions: M.A.C.
Massapequa knockoff is as predictable      sequences hooked the heartland; sleek         cosmetics were a West Village secret
as an episode of Punk'd?                   black outfits and a postmodern                during the early '90s; now they're in
                                           structure appealed to those with              stores from Arkansas to Arizona. Red
  "The way culture is these days,          alternative tastes.                           Bull was a curious European elixir a
everything is so five minutes ago," says                                                 few years ago; now it's as common
Jon Hein, creator of        Now with The Matrix Reloaded, those         as Corona.
and author of the book by the same         stunts look stale, and the tag line, "Free
name, which refers to an actual, utterly   your mind," sounds trite. Hein had a            And then there's the trickle-up
hokey moment in the long life of the       feeling the franchise had jumped the          phenomenon. Just as runways and
TV show Happy Days when fans knew          shark "when you saw everyone in the           fashion magazines stole the safety-
Fonzie had growled his last "Ayyy!"        neighborhood wearing those Keanu              pinned look from late-'70s punks, posh
with any dignity.                          shades." Not that a sequel spells             stores from Barneys New York to Fred
                                           inevitable doom: At least a couple of         Segal in Los Angeles are peddling
  "There's a lot more available to us in   the Star Wars movies held up to, if not       pricey versions of such heretofore
a much shorter period of time," Hein       surpassed, the original.                      hipster chestnuts as plastic floral
says, from scores of cable channels to                                                   mules, Vans slip-on sneakers and, yes,
thousands of Web sites. "So these            But part of what's changing is that         trucker hats.

                                 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                         Page 2
                      Pop Culture Case Study

   Being cool means being the first to       and that's a big no-no: Hipsters taking          Clad in black cowboy boots, tight
yank something out of context and            an arch look at icons from their               blue jeans and the studiously shaggy
layer on the contradictions. Having          childhoods would insist on authentic           haircut Lanham dubs the Casablanca,
money, for instance, is OK if you cloak      relics from the era, not mass-marketed         Davis is "more classic," says his friend
it in Salvation Army apparel and a shift     reproductions.                                 Roz Dunn, 24, a real estate agent/party
waiting tables at the local (non-                                                           promoter/bartender who lives in
Starbucks) coffee shop. Desk jobs are          But cool is also "about finding              nearby Fort Greene. "I'm crazier."
verboten. The goal? A career in              something extremely underground,
dilettantism.                                like, I don't know, Thundercats,"                Dunn's uniform includes black
                                             Lanham says, referring to the '80s             motorcycle boots, light blue jeans
  Cool is to style yourself as a burly       animated TV show.                              secured by a ribbon belt and a white
blue-collar working man with a                                                              acrylic sweater capped by puffy
penchant for Pabst Blue Ribbon when            To Diana Kramer, wandering the               sleeves and lace trim — the kind your
your only calluses come courtesy of          mall in dark-rimmed eyes and a belly-          mother forced you to wear in
joystick jockeying — with the so-low-        baring tank, cool is more elusive. "You        fourth grade.
tech-it's-camp Atari 2600, naturally.        can't define it. It's what you like. It runs
                                             differently in everyone's mind," she             In Williamsburg, separated from
  But then the masses discover a             says. "You can be trendy or you can            Manhattan by the East River, those
hipster staple — as they did bluegrass       choose to have your own style." The            who dwell north of 42nd Street are
music, thanks to the movie O Brother,        rapper 50 Cent, the clothing line Phat         frowned upon as B and T (bridge and
Where Art Thou? — and the cool refrain       Farm and the rock group Good                   tunnel) opportunists.
becomes, "Yeah, but I've been listening      Charlotte? Trendy. "They're what's in,
to that since (insert long-ago date)."       what people want to believe is in,"              Lanham has an epithet to describe
                                             says Diana, 14.                                this completely uncool crowd:
  At Wet Seal, a chain store in                                                             midtown.
Massapequa's Sunrise Mall, the '80s             Her friend, Allison Monfort, bemoans
new-wave look trotted out by hipsters        "all that preppy stuff" at H&M and               And Bianca Casady is the antithesis
over the past few years is in full revival   Abercrombie & Fitch, precisely because         of midtown. Strolling cellphone in
mode: low-slung belts, black rubber          it's contrived cool. Hot Topic, too, is        hand along Bedford Avenue,
bracelets and silver-dollar-size             patronized largely by "poseurs," says          Williamsburg's main catwalk — er,
hoop earrings.                               Allison, 13, a padlocked chain around          street — she's wearing a houndstooth
                                             her neck and chipped red polish on her         jacket over a tunic that looks like it
  Lanham shakes his subtly                   fingernails. She's partial to thrift stores    was swiped from a candy striper (a
sideburned head. "That should tell you       in the East Village.                           friend made it), piled on top of some
something," he says, pointing to the                                                        blue sweatpants featuring a faint
stacks of Teen People and Rolling Stone        She should check out Beacon's Closet         camouflage print. On her feet: white
positioned by the register.                  in Williamsburg, a hipster emporium            sneakers from the Air Jordans heyday.
                                             of Johnny Cash records, ratty roller
  Oh, how the mighty have famously           skates and shrunken polyester shirts.            "My influence is really tacky street
fallen: Once an arbiter of edge, Rolling                                                    fashion. I'm really into gold, cheap
Stone has devolved into the Tiger Beat         "Ooh, this is cool. This is rad,"            gold," says Casady, 21, a writer/
for the 18- to 30-year-old set,              marvels Jordon Davis, holding up a             clothing designer/singer/filmmaker.
according to some sneering types.            crimson leather jacket with a healthy
What's taken its place? Arty titles like     pair of lapels. Lanham's internal                "Oh, and I cut hair, too," including
Black Book and The Fader.                    hipster barometer detects little trace         the bleached blond electromullet
                                             of irony.                                      (Lanham's term) she's currently
  At a store called Tees Me, T-shirts                                                       sporting.
emblazoned with shiny (read: not               Davis, 19, an aspiring model and
vintage) Rainbow Brite and Teenage           artist, is an Angeleno on his inaugural         Lanham just beams.
Mutant Ninja Turtles decals hang on          visit to New York. "I get a Silver Lake
the racks. A few doors away, Hot Topic       vibe out here," he says, referring to
features a Strawberry Shortcake beach        L.A.'s Williamsburg analog.
towel in the window. Again, it's new —
                                   Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                         Page 3

Worlds of politics, comedy converge
                                         politicians and entertainers are            Shelley Ross, producer of ABC's
Candidates and                           finding that when they join forces,       Good Morning America, says the
entertainers 'don't                      people love it: Politics and              success of cable's Fox News Channel
                                         comedy sell.                              might have something to do with a
compete; they                                                                      general drift toward a more
complement'                                The most recent example came last       lighthearted look at politics. "Fox
                                         week, when Democratic presidential        came along and said news can be fun
                                         hopeful Howard Dean practiced             and it doesn't have to be cookie-
By Peter Johnson                         damage control after virtually every      cutter commentary."
USA TODAY                                TV outlet in the nation had turned
                                         him into a poster child for an               With comedy outlets, "you're really
  It's no coincidence that when          imploding campaign following his          reaching people in a more relaxed
comedian Dennis Miller kicks off his     ranting, post-Iowa speech.                setting, when they're more open to
CNBC talk show tonight (9 ET/6 PT),                                                liking what you have to present," HBO
his three guests will be Republican        In a nod to traditional media, Dean     executive Craig Minassian told CNN's
politicians: California Gov. Arnold      talked first to a broadcast journalist,   Wolf Blitzer during a discussion on
Schwarzenegger, Arizona Sen. John        ABC's Diane Sawyer on PrimeTime           the topic last week. "If a candidate can
McCain and former New York mayor         Thursday, bringing along a no-show in     go on the show and successfully poke
Rudy Giuliani.                           his campaign so far: his media- and       fun at himself, people tend to like
                                         campaign-shy physician wife,              that person."
  There are serious problems facing      Judith Steinberg.
us, but Miller, who is a conservative,                                               Let's be clear: Despite their
says viewers need breaks from              Yet within a half hour, Dean was        increasing clout, entertainers are
"avuncular newscasters and their         doing a self-deprecatory "Top Ten"        hardly close to replacing hard-news
steely demeanors."                       list on David Letterman's Late Show       journalists in the political process.
                                         on CBS. "The former news-
  So he'll kick around issues with       magazine cover boy ate crow," New           "These comedy shows don't
three men he admires — with the          York Times columnist Maureen Dowd         compete with what I do; they
accent on laughs.                        wrote Sunday.                             complement," NBC Meet the Press host
                                                                                   Tim Russert says. "But the
   "These days people are sitting in       But it was a smart move, most           information spectrum is exploding,
their living rooms thinking, 'The        observers agreed, and a funny video       and politicians are in the business of
world has gone mad,' " Miller says.      clip of it was featured on many           reaching people and using any
"I'm not Edward R. Murrow on a roof      morning shows the next day.               available outlet."
in London."
                                           For presidential candidates, comedy       The convergence of politics and
  Politics and politicians have been     shows "have become the proving            comedy has its pluses and minuses,
comic fodder since long before Will      ground and also a place of                Wiener says. "The good part is it's a
Rogers was born. But as the line         forgiveness," says Jon Wiener, a          break from the patriotic cliches — the
between news and entertainment           history professor at the University of    boilerplate. The bad part is we still
blurs, and with younger viewers          California-Irvine.                        have serious issues and problems to
drifting away from traditional news                                                be addressed. If comedy gives
coverage, the two worlds are moving        "If you can show that you can make      politicians a way of avoiding or
closer together.                         fun of yourself, have a sense of humor    ignoring those issues, then that's bad."
                                         and be a regular guy, you can
  Nowhere is this clearer than in this   be president."                             Russert sees nothing wrong with
election year. More than ever,                                                     politicians hitting the comedy circuit.

                               Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                    Page 4
                     Pop Culture Case Study

Comedy can help a candidate                                                           Politics at the touch of
                                                                                      a remote
repair or improve image
                                                                                      THE DENNIS MILLER SHOW
"I want a candidate for president with     process. That's why so many people         v Premiere: 9 ET/6 PT tonight,
a sense of humor. I want somebody          who are qualified don't do it."            CNBC
who can laugh at himself. I think it's                                                v Format: News, interviews and
healthy. But I also want somebody            The latest round of mutual               panel discussions
who can go beyond the Henny                infatuation started in August, when        v Miller's resume: Saturday Night
Youngman shtick and talk about             action hero Schwarzenegger                 Live (Weekend Update), 1985-91;
Social Security and Medicare."             announced his candidacy not at a           Dennis Miller Live, HBO weekly
                                           rally, but on NBC's Tonight Show,          series, 1994-2002; ABC Monday
  There has long been a connection         hosted by Jay Leno.                        Night Football, 2000-2002.
between pop culture and politics: To
get elected, candidates routinely            Robert Lichter, who in 1989              THE DAILY SHOW
make nice to entertainers, often to        pioneered the study of late-night          v Host: Jon Stewart, 1999-present
make themselves look hipper than           political humor on TV, credits Leno        (Craig Kilborn, 1996-99)
they really are.                           with making it hip: The 983 political      v Airs: Comedy Central, Monday-
                                           jokes Leno did between 1989 and            Thursday, 11 p.m. ET/PT
  That's why John F. Kennedy               1991 rose to 1,733 between 2001 and        v Format: Newscast satire
appeared on The Tonight Show in the        2003 — far ahead of any competitors.       v Notable guests: Bob Dole, Sen.
'60s. Likewise Richard Nixon's "sock it                                               John Edwards; Sen. Hillary Rodham
to me" cameo on Laugh-In. Bill               That has not been lost on politicians,   Clinton
Clinton famously played his                Lichter notes. "For at least a decade,     v Average viewers: 900,000
saxophone on Arsenio Hall in 1992.         they have been trying to find ways
                                           around traditional journalists to get      REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER
   But it's also why Democratic            their message out. They see                v Airs: HBO, Fridays, 11:30 ET/PT;
contender Wesley Clark hasn't turned       comedians as an alternative. And if        premiered February 2003
down endorsements by Madonna or            they're going to beat up on you            v Format: Live L.A. talk show with
filmmaker Michael Moore: If people         anyway, you might as well                  a rotating panel
like her music or his flicks, maybe        join them."                                v Notable guests: Gen. Wesley
they'll follow their lead and support                                                 Clark; former Calif. governor Gray
Clark. Similarly, if you're a devout         "We throw softballs," Leno says.         Davis; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; for-
Letterman fan and you see him joking       "Politicians get to show their lighter     mer CIA director R. James Woolsey
around with Dean, perhaps you'll           side, and we have a big audience."         v Average viewers: 2.9 million
rethink Dean's antics in Iowa. Don't
rule out Miller's clout, either: He's a      In November, Leno's 6 million
big fan of President Bush.                 Tonight Show viewers saw                   Schwarzenegger's announcement,
                                           Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry,             North Carolina Sen. John Edwards
  Bill Maher, the HBO talk show host       fighting a perception at the time that     announced        his    Democratic
and political pundit, says that            he was a bit stiff, ride a motorcycle      presidential run on Jon Stewart's The
politicians are increasingly gravitating   onto the set. "I think it's all about      Daily Show on cable's Comedy Central.
toward comedy shows, not because           numbers, isn't it?" Leno asks.             Stewart may only reach 900,000
they enjoy them but because "they                                                     viewers, but he beats programming
have to, just like they have to sling        Sure, but it's also about politicians    on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC among
pancakes and milk cows. Doing a 'Top       reaching a traditionally hard-to-reach     young adults.
Ten' list has nothing to do with being     audience: young people.
qualified to be commander in chief.                                                     A recent Pew poll of 1,506 adults
Running for office is a horrible            That's    why     a   month      after    found that one in five young people

                                 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                  Page 5
                     Pop Culture Case Study

now turn to comedy shows such as The Daily Show and              Stewart, in typical form after hearing Bush talk about his
NBC's Saturday Night Live for their political news. The poll   push to end performance-enhancing drugs in sports, joked
also found that those who learn from late-night shows          that he wished Bush had gone the next step and come out
don't know much about the current campaign.                    against "instant replay and artificial turf."

  The study also found 23% of 18- to 29-year-olds look to        "We asked him to join us not only because he's funny
broadcast evening news for politics, down from 39% in          but because his comedy is based on a smart and serious
2000. Not a great sign, Stewart recently told TV critics. "I   interest in politics," NBC political chief Mark Lukasiewicz
don't know if you know this, but the children are              says. "He has a healthy skepticism about all of the players
our future."                                                   in the political process — including us. His satire engages a
                                                               large audience that might not otherwise know or care
  Jokes aside, Stewart's emerging clout is clear: Newsweek     about the political process.
featured him on its cover Dec. 29. Last week, after Bush's
State of the Union address, Stewart, who often reminds          "And at the heart of good satire, often, is good sense."
people that he does a fake news show, was a featured
commentator on NBC News.

               Behind the Story: A Reporter's Notebook
                             The reason I decided to do this     One of the surprising things is how much ordinary
                           story is because media and          Americans get their news from late night comics as
                           politics are becoming a big story   opposed to actual newscasters. Various studies have
                           in the media world today and I      shown that viewers, and especially younger viewers, are
                           and my editors thought it would     pretty much getting their news from late night comics.
                           be worth looking into. We think     And, late night comics have never professed that they tell
                           this is possibly one of the         the truth. That is troubling because it shows where young
                           biggest trends to come along in     people are finding out about politics. The place to find out
                           recent years and other papers       about what's going on in politics is in newspapers, prime-
                           have come up with that as well.     time newscasts and on cable TV. I'm sure all of these
                           Clearly comedy and politics         comics would agree since they are all voracious readers of
  Peter Johnson
  Reporter, Life           have merged in the last year -      traditional news. That's where they get their material!"
                           based on Jay leno, David
 Letterman and John Stewart who has become a new cult           Peter has been with USA TODAY since 1983 with
 figure with his barbs about politicians.                      Gannett, Inc., USA TODAY's parent company, since 1976.

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                    Page 6

By year's end, regular size will have to do
McDonald's drops super stuff
By Bruce Horovitz

  Supersizing at McDonald's didn't die from lack of
interest. It died from, well, supersized interest.

  Late Tuesday, McDonald's announced it was eliminating
its lucrative Super Size french fry and soft drink option by       Sizing up the fries
the end of the year. Industry executives say supersizing           McDonald's large fries vs. the Super Size portion:
became too costly for the most critical of reasons — it was
damaging McDonald's image because of:                                                                         Super
                                                                                             Large            Size
  vToo much interest from consumers. One in 10 request
                                                                   Serving size (oz.)        6.2              7.0
the extra-calorie-laden upgrade. The very name became a
pop-culture term for any and all things sized XXL.                 Calories                  540              610
                                                                   Total fat (g)             26               29
  vToo much interest from outspoken nutritionists                  Sodium (mg)               350              390
and doctors. It became a lightning rod for America's               Carbohydrates (g)         68               77
obesity concerns.                                                  Dietary fiber (g)         6                7
                                                                   Protein (g)               8                9
  vToo much interest from advocacy groups and lawyers.
It was being targeted as the fast-food world's near-
                                                                   Source: McDonald's
equivalent of nicotine.

  v Too much interest from filmmakers. A comic                   More impressed is Morgan Spurlock, the 33-year-old
documentary to open in May, Super Size Me, is about a guy      New York resident who produced and stars in the
whose health deteriorates as he gains 24 pounds while          upcoming documentary Super Size Me. "I applaud
eating all of his meals at McDonald's for an entire month.     McDonald's — this is a tremendous achievement,"
                                                               Spurlock says. He believes that McDonald's fear of public
  vToo much interest from the media. They've published         humiliation from his film was a key motivation.
reams of articles about the ill effects of overeating by the
nation's youth.                                                  McDonald's officials scoff at that. And they are
                                                               downplaying the action. It was part of a "menu
  "The target was right on (McDonald's) chest," says Ron       simplification" process, says Walt Riker, a McDonald's
Paul, president of Technomic, a restaurant consulting firm.    spokesman. But, he adds, "It certainly is consistent with
"Now, there's one less argument that the other side can        and on a parallel path with our ongoing commitment to a
use against McDonald's. The company has just put itself        balanced lifestyle."
ahead of the curve."
                                                                 Welcome to the brave new world of fast food. Following
  Even some longtime critics of McDonald's are giving          Wendy's lead, McDonald's added entree salads — which
begrudging approval to the move.                               have been a huge hit. It changed the content of its Chicken
                                                               McNuggets from various chicken parts to all white meat.
  John Banzhaf III, the George Washington University law       And it's in the process of adding Happy Meal options to
professor who has played a key role in consumer lawsuits       include vegetables and juice in place of fries and
against McDonald's, calls it "a small step in the              soft drinks.
right direction."

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                  Page 7
                     Pop Culture Case Study

  Officials at Wendy's and Burger King say they have no
immediate plans to change their extra-large meals. But        USA TODAY Snapshots®
industry executives say they'll almost have to follow
McDonald's lead.                                               Food for thought at Daytona 500
                                                               Fans in attendance for Sunday’s Daytona 500
                                                               will have their choice of snacks to munch on
  "They don't want to be seen as less responsive,"             while watching NASCAR’s premier race.
Paul says.                                                     Amount of food and drinks
                                                               being consumed:
  Banzhaf says the effect could spread well beyond                                8,000 pounds
                                                                                  of hot dogs
fast food.
                                                                                 5,000 pounds
                                                                                 of burgers                      7,100 gallons
  By seeing a reduction in the size of fast-food meals,                                                          of soda
many consumers may ultimately reduce the size of the
meals they eat at home. "People got used to 7 oz. fries
being normal," Banzhaf says.                                                             30,000         200 tons
                                                                                 slices of pizza        of ice
  Spurlock, whose film is almost certain to get a PR boost                  2,500 pounds
                                                                            of french fries             21,900
from McDonald's latest action, can hardly contain his glee.                                             brownies
                                                               Source: Americrown Service Corporation
"Is this incredible?" he asks. "Or what?"                                            By Ellen J. Horrow and Marcy E. Mullins, USA TODAY

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                                    Page 8

Geek chic
Nerd is the word                            even -- they pulled ahead of the rest        v Page-turner. Who has made
                                            of us. And they didn't even have to        reading cool? Wizard geek Harry
for popularity in                           stop wearing flood pants to do it.         Potter, whose books have sold 200
                                                                                       million copies worldwide.
a wired world                                 "It has a lot to do with the computer
                                            revolution, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs,"      v Cult scares. What's the No. 1
By Susan Wloszczyna and                     says Lynn Bartholome of the Popular        movie? The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,
Ann Oldenburg                               Culture Association. "Those guys were      a remake of the horror-geek cult
USA TODAY                                   quote-unquote geeks, and for baby          classic from 1974 that almost took in
                                            boomers, they've now got what's            as much in its first weekend ($28.1
  We used to shun them, mock them,          important:         prestige,     money     million) as the original has made in
give them wedgies and snicker when          and power."                                29 years.
they played Dungeons & Dragons.
Those loser days, however, are as over        She defines a geek as "someone             "We never thought we were
as Dumb and Dumber prequels.                who is inquisitive, thinks on his or her   making a low-budget horror film that
                                            own, who is a little bit off-center, who   could be cool," says Jessica Biel, star of
  Knowledge is power and geek is            doesn't follow the crowd." The             the new Massacre, who acknowledges
chic. If you're a cyber whiz who is         Internet, with its personalized sites      being a geek. "I was kind of nerdy in
plugged into the pop-culture world of       and chat forums, is the geek's best        school, and I loved horror films. "
sci-fi, fantasy, comic books and cult       friend. "It has promoted geekdom
horror, maybe even the master of a          because people are expressing                v High note. Who has the No. 1
Web shrine devoted to such once-            themselves        more       so     than   album this week? American Idol's Clay
arcane matters, you don't just rule.        ever before."                              Aiken, a self-proclaimed nerd and
You rock.                                                                              proud of it.
                                              The entertainment industry has
   Consider a scene in the hit movie        simply wised up and pushed geek-             v Prime timer. Who is one of the
School of Rock when a geeky fifth-          friendly fare into the mainstream.         most popular characters on Fox's hot
grader who can tickle the ivories like                                                 teen-aimed soap? Seth on The O.C.,
a one-man Ferrante & Teicher says he          v The monsters of genre. What are        the high school misfit who
can't join his class rock band because      the big movie franchises of the new        attends the geek summit known as
"I'm not cool. . . . Nobody ever talks to   century? The sci-fi of The Matrix, the     Comic-Con.
me." Counters his teacher, played by        fantasy of The Lord of the Rings and
that fount of rock geek trivia known        comic-book-spun Spider-Man, which            "There are a lot of kids who feel like
as Jack Black: "Those days are over,        have pulled in a total $1.5 billion at     Seth," O.C. creator Josh Schwartz says.
buddy. 'Cause you could be the ugliest      the box office.                            "When you're not accepted,
sad sack on the planet, but if you're in                                               that doesn't mean you do what
a rocking band, you're the cat's              "Irony is over, feeling is in," says     everyone wants."
pajamas, man."                              Dave Poland of Web site Movie City
                                            News and offshoot Movie City Geek.           Actually, what everyone wants
 What was once the obsessive                "The geek stuff that has been              these days is a geek of his very own to
domain of geek fans has achieved            successful allows audiences to             explain The Matrix or share rare
mass-media popularity.                      connect personally."                       Marvel comics. Don't be surprised if
                                                                                       some enterprising Bill Gates type
   Let's put it this way: If 1984's           v Digital doodling. Hot animation?       opens a Date-a-Geek agency. Online,
Revenge of the Nerds was made today,        The 3-D creations from Pixar (Finding      of course.
it would have to be titled Triumph of       Nemo), led by 'toon geek supreme
the Geeks. They haven't just gotten         John Lasseter.

                                  Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                      Page 9
                    Pop Culture Case Study

                       These geeks are at their peak
 The geeks may not inherit the Earth, but they definitely are infiltrating mainstream entertainment.
       USA TODAY's Ann Oldenburg and Susan Wloszczyna check out the geek class of 2003.

BLUE-COLLAR GEEKS                        be a sub at a prep school and trans-
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner           forms his fifth-grade class into kick-
                                         butt rock musicians.
Who are they? He's a nebbishy
Clevelander who finds unlikely fame      Why he's a cool geek: Black has been
by turning his mundane life into a       painted as heir to the John Belushi-
popular comic book titled American       Chris Farley slob school of comedy.
Splendor. His wife is his eccentric      But Black is more than a beer-guz-
female equal.                            zling, good-time dude as he tutors
                                         his charges in the ABC's of rock. He's
Why they're cool geeks: Pekar is not     a true Einstein when it comes to '70s
just a comic-book hero anymore.          power chords.
Now his curmudgeonly worldview
has been celebrated in the film ver-
                                                                                                            By Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY
sion of American Splendor. And on-
screen, Joyce (played by Hope Davis)                                                      opening ever ($22.1 million). Even
is the essence of a feminist geek.                                                        more impressive, he didn't have to
                                                                                          compromise his excesses to draw a
HUNK GEEK                                                                                 mass audience.
George Clooney
                                                                                          WEB GEEK
Who is he? Cagey divorce lawyer                                                           Harry Knowles
Miles Massey in Intolerable Cruelty.
The Coen brothers turn their dashing                                                      Who is he? Since '96, the Buddha-
leading man into a goofball with a                                                        sized, red-haired founder of the
fetish for teeth cleaning — in other                                                      influential genre-heavy Web site
words, a geek.                                           By Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY   Ain't It Cool News has built a sizable
                                                                                          following with early film buzz and
Why he's a cool geek: Clooney is fin-    B-MOVIE GEEK                                     juicy scoops.
ger-snappingly swell in such classy      Quentin Tarantino
capers as Ocean's Eleven. But team                                                        Why he's a cool geek: Knowles began
him with the Coens, film giants to the   Who is he? Video-store clerk turned              as a Texas-based outlaw who's fast
geek faithful, and he is one of them.    twitchy auteur (Pulp Fiction) who                on the keyboard when it comes to
Cruelty has earned him some of his       has concocted some tasty, violent                zinging studios. But Hollywood soon
best notices as the architect of an      hash out of cinematic fast food:                 courted the big guy, and it was just
ironclad pre-nup who drops Trivial       crime thrillers, pulp noir, kung fu,             announced he will work as a produc-
Pursuit-worthy names like mountain       blaxploitation, gangster kitsch and              er at Joe Roth's Revolution Studios.
climber Tenzing Norgay.                  spaghetti     Westerns.     Namely,
                                         geek fiction.                                    SENSITIVE SINGER/SONGWRITER
HEADBANGER GEEK                                                                           GEEK
Jack Black                               Why he's a cool geek: After a six-               John Mayer
                                         year break, Tarantino strikes back in
Who is he? In School of Rock, he's a     fine blood-drenched form with Kill               Who is he? Soulful, pop-rock music
guitar-god wannabe who pretends to       Bill Vol. 1, collecting his biggest              darling, who burst on the scene in

                               Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                          Page 10
                    Pop Culture Case Study

2001 with triple-platinum album          RICH-KID GEEK
Room for Squares. His second album,      Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) on Fox's
Heavier Things, entered charts at No.    hit The O.C.
1 in September.
                                         Who is he? Buddy and new "brother"
Why he's a cool geek: Mayer says he      to the cool lead character, Ryan, and
was too nerdy to go to his prom. And     never intended as the hot guy on
now look at him. When he sings           the show.
"your body is a wonderland," you
want to take it personally. Mayer        Why he's a cool geek: He's a little bit
beat out Elton John, Sting and James     goofy and a little too outspoken. Cool
Taylor for the male pop performance      guys are usually men of few words.
Grammy this year.                        But when Seth tells his dad he's
                                         going to the geek-hot Comic-Con
IDOL GEEK                                gathering and instead drives all the
Clay Aiken                               popular kids to Tijuana to party,
                                         that's totally cool. For once, the nerd
Who is he? No. 2 in the American         is the sexy guy in an ultra-hip, prime-
Idol contest; No. 1 in our hearts, and   time soap. As Newsweek observed,
on the charts.                           he's just plain "adorkable."

Why he's a cool geek: Aiken says         SECRET-AGENT GEEK
he's proud to carry the banner for all   Jake Foley (Christopher Gorham) on
nerds. But that only makes him cool-     UPN's Jake 2.0
er — true to himself, not ashamed to
declare he's a virgin. Since Idol, he    Who is he? An endearing spy who
has gotten all spiffed up but has        constantly doubts himself on a new
remained loyal to his mom and his        show aimed at a young audience.
fans. And his records are selling like
geek-fried griddle cakes.                Why he's a cool geek: Just as Clark
                                         Kent was nerdy until he slipped on
MAGICAL GEEK                             the Superman suit, Jake Foley is a
Harry Potter (actor Daniel Radcliffe)    nerdy computer technician until he
                                         slips into being a secret agent. The
Who is he? Bespectacled book boy         appeal comes from the fact that he's
turned movie hero, selling millions of   still geeky. He can't believe he has
copies in the publishing world and       super powers, and he's sure he isn't
millions of tickets at the box office.   suave enough to score.

Why he's a cool geek: He may be a
misfit, with Muggle foster parents
and the gift of wizardry making him
not quite of either world. But he's
smart, he's brave and he has turned
kids on to reading in a big way. Now,
round black glasses and, well, think-
ing are really cool, thanks to him.

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.    Page 11

Pepsi, Apple team to tout
music downloads
By Jefferson Graham                       numerical code for a free download in     SoBe. Sony's Connect service this
USA TODAY                                 the bottle caps can type it into the      summer will work with United
                                          iTunes program for a free download.       Airlines to use frequent-flier miles for
 Digital music goes prime time                                                      free songs.
during this weekend's Super Bowl.           Winners        get    immediate
                                          gratification, says Apple CEO Steve         That so many companies are
  Pepsi-Cola's launch Sunday of the       Jobs. "There's nothing to mail in,        interested in online music is a natural,
highest-profile ad campaign yet for       nothing to take back to the store,"       says Dave Burwick, Pepsi's chief
online music is expected to               he says.                                  marketing officer. It's "one of the
dramatically broaden its reach.                                                     most-talked-about subjects in pop
                                           Pepsi expects redemption rates of        culture today," he says.
  "Parents who maybe didn't pay           10% to 20%. Apple and Pepsi would
much attention before will sit up and     not discuss financial details.              Music is what's on the mind of
take notice when they see it on the                                                 young soft-drink consumers, and
Super Bowl," says Phil Leigh,               Analysts expect Apple will reap         Coke has always tried to reach them
an analyst at research firm Inside        huge rewards from the contest.            in the past, via concert tours, radio
Digital Media.                            Analyst Charles Wolf of Wall Street       promotions and music-oriented
                                          research firm Needham & Co.               advertising, says Geoff Cottrill,
  Pepsi is promoting a contest to offer   estimates the firm is selling 2 million   director     of     Coke's    music
100 million free downloads at Apple's     songs per week. "This campaign will       marketing division.
iTunes Music Store.                       get them to 5-10 million per week by
                                          summer, or 200 million songs for the        "This is just another way to get to
  The Super Bowl spot, before an          year," he says.                           them," he says.
expected audience of 90 million, "gets
the subject of digital music to people      The launch of iTunes last April
who haven't considered it before,"        revitalized the digital music business,   USA TODAY Snapshots®
says Ted Cohen, senior vice president     which hadn't found much consumer           1 in 4 have at least 2 computers
at EMI, home of Norah Jones and           success with initial alternatives to       The average number of working computers
                                                                                     Americans have at home:
Janet Jackson.                            unauthorized sites like Kazaa. Apple
                                          has sold 30 million downloads at                  0
  Already, marketers are following        99 cents each. It claims 70%                          29%                   47%
Pepsi. Coca-Cola Wednesday said it        market share.
will join with download service
Musicmatch Jukebox to offer free            Besides Coke, other companies are
songs later this year with Sprite.        joining online music sellers in
                                          marketing deals — although on                               15%

  Pepsi this week shipped 300 million     smaller scales. RealNetworks is                             2
specially marked 20-ounce bottles of      hooking up with Heineken. Roxio's          Source: UCLA Center for Communication Policy;

Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and Sierra Mist to      Napster is linking with Miller             2,000 national households surveyed in 2002
                                                                                                                                         By Sam Ward, USA TODAY

convenience stores and other              Brewing. is associating
retailers. Consumers who find a           with South Beach Beverage, maker of

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                                              Page 12

Stewart's image is tarnished,
but for how long?
Even critics say legacy                   living. Before Stewart, there were no       budget living. "This period of time will
                                          Michael Graves teapots in Target, no        be defined by her visually," Maxwell
will live on                              newsstands stuffed with how-to              says. "She created such an amazing
                                          shelter magazines, no Queer Eye for         aesthetic and packaged it so
By Maria Puente                           the Straight Guy. Who, before Stewart,      beautifully that it is one of the most
USA TODAY                                 could be called a domestic diva?            recognizable aspects of the '90s, the
                                                                                      Aughts and beyond."
  Soon, we won't have Martha                "Her legacy will last for centuries,"
Stewart to kick around anymore.           says Sarah Susanka, an architect and          Natalie Warady, style editor of
                                          best-selling author of the Not So Big       Budget Living, the successful new
  Convicted of lying about a stock        House series of books on home design.       magazine that owes a lot to Stewart,
transaction and almost certainly          "It's going to continue the awareness       says Stewart's influence now
headed for prison, Stewart will be less   of design as critical to quality of life.   percolates through the economy,
ubiquitous for at least a while. But if   She has done things for the home and        especially in the way Target, Sears, J.C.
she's going away, her legacy won't.       how people think about living that          Penney and other retailers are
And don't count her sheets and towels     have been enormously valuable."             imitating her. "The biggest problem
out, either.                                                                          with her empire is that it rested solely
                                            Will Stewart's standard of                on her," Warady says.
  Even her harshest critics               perfection prevail? Laura Newman of
acknowledge that Stewart changed          Bridgeport, Conn., a fan of Stewart's         Will consumers turn away as a
American culture, one of the few          aesthetic — if not of the commitment,       result? "If I like something and the
people in any generation who can say      and money, it takes to realize it —         quality of something, I am going to
that. She made homemaking                 says the desire for domestic                buy it," says Caroline Little of Easton,
worthwhile. She taught the masses         excellence is "entrenched. She's really     Pa., interviewed in a Kmart. Stewart's
about design, made it seem attainable     set a precedent. I don't think it's going   products are good quality, "and they
even on a budget. She set standards of    to go away."                                are adorable." Darlene Webber, who
perfection, for which she was                                                         works in retailing, says Stewart's
resented and admired. She said even         Even Stewart's many heirs apparent,       name doesn't matter to her buying
small things are worth doing well.        who can be expected to benefit from         decisions. "I don't really look to see if
And she built a billion-dollar business   her exit, aren't dancing on her grave.      her name is even on it," she says as
on sheer strength of will and vision.     "She created this whole genre," says        she holds several items from the
                                          Katie Brown, the Stewart-in-waiting         Martha collection at the same Kmart.
  Her federal trial in New York           on cable's A&E. "We all have to pay
magnified long-perceived flaws —          her homage. Without her, there                But there could be an impact on
that she's mean, arrogant, a control      would be no me. She got the ball            sales if Stewart has to don an orange
freak — but it doesn't invalidate what    rolling."                                   jumpsuit, Brown says. " 'Guilty' is
she stands for, observers say.                                                        going to sway some people's
                                            Years from now, when we look back         pocketbooks," Brown says. "But she's
 Before Stewart, discount stores were     on the Stewart era, it will be as           a huge fighter and a smart woman, so
depressing places to buy cheap stuff,     identifiable as art deco or mid-century     I wouldn't count her out yet, or the
not sources of style. Before Stewart,     modern, says Brini Maxwell, the Style       enthusiasm of her fans or the
no one was on TV promoting gracious       network's drag-queen Martha for             movement."

                                Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                                     Page 13
                     Pop Culture Case Study

  Still, whatever else Stewart               Oppenheimer says flatly that
spawned, ambivalence would have to         Stewart is finished. "The symbol of the     Public reaction
be at the top of the list.                 domestic icon is now going to be the
                                           symbol of Martha behind bars, Martha        "I don't condone lying, but
  "She changed the culture a lot, not      the convicted felon," he says. "The         we all lie. Martha Stewart's
to say that she actually improved the      image is just so tarnished, it's going to   perfection hurt her."
culture," cracks Dan Ho, editor of         be hard for her to ever make a                                  — Jan Brady
Rescue, the anti-Martha magazine           comeback, even if she should win an                            Fletcher, N.C.
that proclaims itself as "Relief from      appeal."
house, food and garden perfection."
                                             But maybe not, says Rob Stearns,          "She made it by doing some-
  But "she made tending to your            who teaches in the business school at       thing that a man considers
belongings noble," he says. "Until she     Arizona State University and, after a       woman's work. And then
came along, we weren't obsessed to         series of his own entrepreneurial           proceeded to every year
the extent we are now about                setbacks, wrote the book Winning
possessions, and she had the idea that     Smart After Losing Big.
                                                                                       come up with something
you have a house, you make it clean."                                                  fresh. Wow! . . . I admire
                                             "I don't think she's going away, and I    Martha Stewart and I hope
  Jerry Oppenheimer, author of a           think she can win again," Stearns says.     she continues to fight."
critical biography of Stewart, Just        "Americans will forgive high crimes                    — Alexandra Edwards
Desserts, says Stewart changed things      and misdemeanors and impeachable                             Danbury, Conn.
for good and bad. "She introduced          offenses, but they won't forgive
people to style, to gourmet food, to a     arrogance.
way of life they may not have seen
                                                                                       "Like so many prominent
before," he says. "But many people felt      "For her to recover, she has to calm      CEOs, entertainers, athletes,
they couldn't live up to the high bar      down the rhetoric and not be                politicians and celebrities,
that she raised for them."                 arrogant. And being remorseful and          Martha Stewart thought that
                                           contrite wouldn't be a bad idea,            following the rules was
  Now her message may be                   either."Some Stewart fans had other
somewhat diluted. Her magazines and        suggestions. "I admire her for building
                                                                                       beneath her."
books could continue even if she's in      an empire from something that hasn't                       — Debbie Sanville
jail, thanks to her large staff. And her   been given a lot of respect — making                       West Chester, Pa.
products for Kmart could still sell,       a home," says Margaret Morris of
assuming Kmart sticks around. But          Johnstown, Pa. Rather than prison,
she can't do her TV and radio shows        Morris suggests, she should get
from prison, so she'll disappear from      community service. "Running a soup
there for a while.                         kitchen would be appropriate, and I'll
                                           bet it would be the prettiest, most
  Foster Winans, the former Wall           efficient one in history."
Street Journal reporter who went to
jail after being convicted of insider
trading, thinks Stewart's credibility
may be permanently damaged.                Contributing: Olivia Barker, Meghan
"Anyone who goes into a Kmart and          A.T.B. Reese
sees Martha Stewart is going to think
'Liar,' " he says. "It may not mean
they'll stop buying, but it's a pretty
odd mixture of good taste and bad

                                 Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.                               Page 14
                              For discussion
1. Why are politicians willingly putting              5. How has media contributed to the growth and
themselves on the comedy circuit? How can             success of Martha Stewart's company? Has
their appearance on such shows help or hurt their     media contributed to her downfall? What affect
campaign?                                             will Martha Stewart's image as a convicted
                                                      criminal have on her product line and her
2. How will serious political issues be affected if a empire? What advice would you give Martha
candidate is only seen on comedy shows? What Stewart or her company to help her improve her
is the target audience for these political comedy image while she is isolated from the public?
                                                      6. What constitutes geek/nerd status? Who are a
3. Can "too much" interest in a product or idea few famous geeks and why do you think they
have a negative impact on a company? What have brought a new level of appreciation to the
part does image play in whether an idea or term geek?
product continues? What role does the media
play in the successful branding of a product or 7. How can digital downloading of music
company?                                              successfully create a situation that reaches the
                                                      same audience for two different companies?
4. What is motivating McDonald's to change its What two companies would you pair up to
menu to a "healthier" alternative? Has the media promote a successful campaign in this type of
played a role in establishing healthier lifestyles? venture? Outline the strategies these companies
If so, how? Has media contributed in any way to should use to market this idea.
unhealthy lifestyles? If so, how? What
alternative menu options would you suggest to
the fast food franchises?

         About the Expert:                                Future implications
        Terre Carson-Jones
                                                    What is media's role in pop culture? What effects
Terre graduated with a communications               do media have on the future of what is "cool" and
education degree from Ohio University and is        what is passé? What part does media play in
currently finishing her masters in Education at     reviving trends from past decades? Identify the
George Mason University. She has had a variety      different types of media that have an impact on
of teaching experiences in Ohio, California and     pop culture and compare and contrast their
Virginia; and in teaching non-traditional           effectiveness.

As an experienced teacher of high school and
middle school students and as parent of four
teenagers Terre is very familiar with all aspects
of pop culture!

                       For more information, log on to               Page 15

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