At first glance, I Was a Teenage TV Terrorist, the first movie shown on the January 14, 1989 episode of USA Up All Night appears to be an unfunny hodgepodge of nonsense, but as I’ve begun to discover about the films on Up All Night there’s much more going on here than meets the eye.
To the untrained observer this is the story of Paul Pierce (not THAT Paul Pierce) and Donna Rose, two teenagers who move to New York when Paul’s mother gets finished exercising. She yells at Paul about some stuff, but as none of it makes any sense, the best I can figure is she sent him off to New York to live with his father so she could exercise some more. And Paul, because he has Donna’s phone number it seems, takes her with him.
Paul’s father is the VP of marketing for a television station and immediately gives them both non-descript jobs sorting things and writing other things on a notepad while getting yelled at by their boss. A lady boss. He also gives them a room in a condemned building where they can live.
Through a series of events that aren’t worth remembering, much less explaining, Paul and Donna become fake terrorists, leaving fake bombs made of tampons at the TV station, causing power outages, reversing the vacuum cleaners, and generally causing havoc. This is mostly to get back at their lady boss and at Paul’s dad, largely for being adults, and a little bit for sexual harassment.
Until they are discovered by one of the station’s news anchors, who threatens to turn them into the police as fake terrorists, unless they become real terrorists and do as he says. They kidnap the president of the network, as well as the anchor, on live TV and take them both to the next stage over to decry the media and lay out their demands.
It’s a great way to get caught and arrested, except, Paul had recorded the anchor, and when he played that recording back, the anchor flipped on the real power behind the terrorist plots, Paul’s dad, the VP of Marketing.
Now, on its face, none of this makes any sense at all. Paul’s dad had nothing to do with the tampon bomb plot, or in the pawn shop thievery Paul had been involved in that I didn’t bother to tell you about because it makes less sense than the fake-terrorist-tampon-bomb plot, but it seems Paul’s dad was really running all of this just to get rid of his boss, Mr. Frank Romance. There were a few plot threads about workplace sexual harassment with their first boss, and then with Mr. Romance and Donna, but those turn out to be red herrings.
The key to unlocking the secret to I Was a Teenage TV Terrorist is in listening to the statement the anchor claimed came from the leader of the terrorist organization, The White Glove.
“They call themselves the Collective for a Clear Channel. They will stop at nothing to destroy what they see as the morally corrupt powers that control the entertainment industry. They see Romance Company as one of the most blatant examples of the corruption.”
You get it right?
This film was pure propaganda. Put out by the one company in 1985 who had already glimpsed the future of media deregulation that would begin in seven years. By making this all seem like the deranged work of two teenagers whose strings were being pulled by the sonsofbitches in the marketing department, and using those characters to decry the “morally corrupt powers that control the entertainment industry”…
Hold on. I think I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit here. I think a brief history lesson might be helpful here.
Up until 1992 there were rules in place which limited ownership of radio and tv stations. Under the law one company could not own more than two stations in any given market, and there was, I believe, a cap on total station ownership nationwide, as well as limits to ownership of both the production, distribution, and broadcast sides of the business. And by the business, I mean the industry.
To hear them tell it, the goal of this type of government overreach was to keep a balance in the media and not allow exclusive control of information, news, and entertainment to fall into the hands of a few select corporations.
These were relaxed in 1992 and in 1996, the aptly named Telecommunications Act of 1996 almost completely deregulated media ownership.
But in 1985, the time of I Was a Teenage TV Terrorist, the draconian rules of the morally corrupt government in Washington, D.C. were still in effect. Paul and Donna were just the mouth piece of a movement. A very subtle corporate campaign to get this type of regulation overturned.
Seen as either misguided teenagers, props of corporate interests, or rebels against the media landscape that was raising our children as both parents went to work and left their children at home, alone, Paul and Donna delivered their message. The media is bad. And the people running it are turning your children into mindless terrorists.
And those zombie-creating media-controllers are the senators and congressmen responsible for these laws.
Is it any wonder, that ten years after Paul and Donna kidnapped Mr. Romance and called for a “Clear Channel” that Clear Channel Communications went from owning four stations in Texas and Oklahoma to owning over 70 media companies across the country?
And just in case you missed all the signs that this was the beginning of a coordinated effort at consolidating control of the media under the control of Clear Channel Communications, in 2014 Clear Channel Communications changed their name to iHeartRadio.
Don’t you see!!!!!
You disguise the real message inside 85 minutes of pure idiocy. Cast Walt Wiley, All My Children‘s Jackson Montgomery, as the TV Anchor, and John A. MacKay, Dean from Krush Groove, as Paul’s dad, to add some near-legitimacy. And confuse the issue with sexual harassment overtones.
And suddenly, you’ve planted the seeds of a media deregulation REVOLUTION!
If you can’t see that, you’re either blind, or looking the other way to cash your dividend checks from iHeartMedia.