A chip off the old Block

By Tim Murphy

We have a lot to worry about these days. According to the Mayan calendar, the world is slated to end in four years, giving the Cubs a little less time to win the World Series and bringing a sense of urgency to whoever enters the White House in November. Meanwhile, a U.S. spy satellite the size of a Chrysler Voyager is out of control and could plummet to Earth within the next few weeks; you’ll probably die. Our imminent demise is literally swirling over our heads, but things aren’t much better on the ground—or in the water, for that matter.

In the Pacific Ocean, what scientists feared for years is finally becoming a reality: Giant jellyfish, coked to the tentacles with lethal toxins and capable of mobilizing en masse during times of crisis (kind of like China), are rapidly expanding their natural habitat as a result of overfishing. Their sting is fatal in three minutes and requires 800 percent more morphine than a broken leg. Their four brains and 24 eyes make them virtually unstoppable in head-to-head combat—the underwater equivalent of that little girl from The Exorcist. It was only a matter of time, I guess, but it looks like nature has finally had enough of civilization.

With so much else on our minds, the upcoming New Kids on the Block reunion tour seems like the least of our worries. The event has received scant media attention—People magazine’s crack investigative team initially reported on it, and, I’m told, Elisabeth Hasselbeck gushed about it on The View. (Note: I have never actually watched The View. Maybe I’d like The View. I don’t know. I kind of doubt it.) But we should care about the comeback. As civilization nears collapse, the return of our generation’s original boy band may seem like the final straw, like Aslan returning at the end of the Chronicles of Narnia to usher us all into the rapture. In fact, it’s the other way around: The New Kids reunion is a reminder that no matter how far we fall, we will always have reality TV shows and trashy movies to prop ourselves back up; the end is anything but nigh.

At the peak of their powers, New Kids on the Block were an unstoppable musical and cultural phenomenon. The biggest thing to come out of Boston since the abolitionist movement, they spawned a whole generation of imitators: Members of ’N Sync and the Backstreet Boys owe their varying degrees of stardom to the efforts of McInytyre, Knight, Wahlberg, and Wood. Heck, even LFO wrote a song about them, to the extent that LFO actually wrote songs.

But because they weren’t very talented, and because their audience was growing up, and because there was just something emasculating about listening to “Step by Step,” they withered away during the ’90s. Donnie Wahlberg tried acting, failed, and kept at it in the hope that people would forget he starred in Southie. Joey McIntyre took a similar route, while still continuing to release albums that I doubt even he listened to (“Meet Joe Mac”? “Talk to Me”?). For all intents and purposes, the New Kids were done.

Last month’s announcement, highlighted by a slick promotional video on the group’s retooled website, was perplexing. What could have prompted such a move? Perhaps it was desperation, an attempt to squeeze whatever was left of their notoriety before their fans reached middle age and the group thus became a total misnomer. Or maybe, as the saying goes, they all just wanted to be Kids again. Whatever the case, the improbable resurrection comes at a time when we need it most.

And so, as the apocalypse likely nears and our new jellyfish overlords encroach upon our shores, we’d do well to take a cue from the Donnie Wahlberg playbook and “Hang Tough.” If New Kids on the Block can come back, then maybe there’s hope for the rest of us, too.

Tim Murphy, a Maroon Viewpoints Editor, is a third-year in the College majoring in history. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays.