Pop-Culture | Posted by Julie Z on 05/11/2012

The Problem with “Hot Problems”

a still from the video

I would be lying if I said that while watching the recent viral video “Hot Problems” (or, to be accurate, about 45 seconds of “Hot Problems” before I gave up), I didn’t blankly stare in disbelief, then roll my eyes and feel more than a little bit disheartened. And yet, despite comments made by YouTube viewers as well as the mainstream media, the depression I felt after watching the musical attempts of 17-year-olds Drew Garrett and Lauren Willey was not based on the concept of this video representing a generation of conceited, vapid young women. As a teen myself, it’s blatantly apparent that there’s a much more concerning problem at the heart of this video, and, more specifically, the vitriolic response to it.

We live in a society that relentlessly targets young women and indoctrinates them into believing that, above all, their appearance should be their priority, the defining element of their identity. Young women are bombarded with images that glorify unattainable standards of beauty—in fact, by the age of 17 the average woman has received more than 250,000 commercial messages through the media, many featuring photoshopped, idealized and otherwise manipulated images of female beauty. Our televisions stream a version of “reality” in which young women are more preoccupied with their appearance and attracting men than with actually making any kind of substantive contribution to the world. In fact, thanks to this reality TV culture, one in four teen girls now expects to become famous; not famous for doing something, mind you, but famous for being. Being what? I’d bet all my money that such young women expect to be famous for being “hot”—for being a face on the cover of magazines, a body club promoters pay to show up at their clubs.

This is the standard we have set for young women. And yet when young women, like the stars of “Hot Problems,” consume this message and dare to throw it back to us, dare to call themselves hot, we destroy them. The media gleefully snatched the opportunity to tear these two apart. Comments on the YouTube video itself almost unanimously declare that the pair is ugly. Even supposedly reputable media sources like the Huffington Post more subtly questioned the girls’ attractiveness; the article’s title declared that the girls couldn’t get dates to prom, and the first line snidely stated, “These ‘hot’ girls’ problems are now everyone’s problems.” In an appearance on “Good Morning America,” the girls were asked to evaluate their own looks on national television, coaxed to clarify to the world that “we don’t think we’re that hot.”

Yes, I certainly find a video of two of my peers singing about how “hot” they are to be incredibly problematic for many reasons. I may have had a strong urge to futilely yell, “READ A BOOK” at my computer screen after being subjected to their admittedly painfully constructed lyrics. But what I find most problematic about this video is not what many sources seem to have identified as a conceited, over-confident representation of my generation; what I find most problematic is the response. I find it horrifying that we live in a society that can gleefully tear them down, not just effectively enforcing the idea that “hotness” is unattainable—that we’re doomed forever to a cycle of hating ourselves because our desired outcome is impossible—but more broadly that there doesn’t seem to be a way in which young women can win within this societal structure.

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