Jan 23, 2013

Marvin/Fred: Lucas Cruikshank's Secret

Having not been a teenager for a few years, I sometimes have trouble figuring out what modern teens like.  What's the attraction to Lucas Cruikshank, for instance?

Other than the obvious -- his shirt comes off a lot.

In 2008, he was a 15-year old kid in Columbus, Nebraska, posting youtube videos about an annoying 6-year old named Fred.

They "went viral."  Millions of hits.

In 2009 he appeared as himself on Nickelodeon's ICarly, about teens hosting a webshow.

Then came Fred: The Movie (2010), which kept the high-pitched voice but turned Fred into an oddball teenager.  I didn't watch due to the heterosexist plotline (Fred tries to win the girl of his dreams), but I noticed the muscular John Cena playing Fred's "real dad."

I didn't see Fred 2: Night of the Living Fred (2011), which immerses Fred into a parody of teen horror movies.

Or Camp Fred (2012), a parody of teen summer camp movies.

But I did switch channels during these movies enough to notice a lot of shirtless and semi-nude shots of Lucas, Jake Weary (the bully, left), and sundry minor characters, but not a lot of girls in bikinis.

Teenagers apparently couldn't get enough of the squeaky-voiced oddball kid, so he got his own tv show in 2012, with the same bully (Jake Weary) and girlfriend (Daniella Monet).  There were only 12 episodes.  I watched a few.

1. A refreshing lack of girl-craziness for Nickelodeon.  Ok, heterosexism required that Fred have a "girl of his dreams," but she seemed more of a buddy than someone walking in slow motion across the schoolyard.

2. Buddy-bonding. The bully, for all of his blathering, seemed to actually like Fred.

3. A frenetic, campy energy that skewered gender pretensions along with every other cliche of teen life.

Lucas's latest project, Marvin Marvin (2012-13), was a "my secret" sitcom about an alien boy living with a human family: a hunky dad (Pat Finn), mom, older sister, younger brother, and feisty grandpa (Casey Saunder).

 I watched a few episodes. No beefcake shots, but Marvin does favor rather tight jeans.  Plots involve the standard crazy powers and misunderstandings of human norms, with the gay symbolism of the outsider trying to fit in.  And this time there's no question: Marvin is not interested in girls (except for an episode where he wants to date a girl in order to fit in).

Lucas is gay in real life.  No doubt that's a big part of his character's gay symbolism, although significantly he didn't make any public announcements until after he left Nickelodeon.

Also see: Six Degrees of Separation, Lucas Cruikshank to John Cena.