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Tucson Weekly Spice Island

Girl Power meets Gilligan & Co.

By Stacey Richter

FEBRUARY 2, 1998:  WHAT IS SPICE? Many people believe spice to be a sort of condiment, or an odor, but this is blatantly wrong. "Spice" is in fact either a prefix or a suffix that can be used to modify any noun: Spice Bus, Baby Spice, Spice World and Spice Think are examples. If this doesn't seem completely obvious to you, you are without a doubt over age 13, and hopelessly square. Get over yourself, girl. Buy some giant shoes and a ticket to Spice World, the new Spice Movie, flecked with Spice Girls.

It's funny, but the brand "Spice Island" also comes to mind when I think of Spice. Not that anything actually has to make sense in Spice World, which is a world containing five Spice Girls who change their clothes so often that the idea of counting the costume changes will be quickly abandoned by any fool who tries (silly me). It's just that Spice World, like life, is so much like Gilligan's Island that it's freaking me out. The only difference is that Spice World only has five inmates, and they're all half-dressed and babes. Other than that, it's exactly like Gilligan's Island.

For example, Gilligan's Island contains seven stranded castaways cut off from the society of others. Spice World stars five vixens isolated on the island of their fame, who are unable to leave or make any decisions for themselves, except for things like "deciding to jump on a boat." The inmates of Gilligan's Island were doomed to endless repetition, fulfilling the destiny engraved in the narrow grooves of their characters, and it's the same with the Spice Girls! And not only that, they have the same characters!

You see, Baby Spice is just like Mary Ann--cute and infantile and obsessed with her lollipop the way Mary Ann was deeply fixated on coconut creme pies. Posh Spice (who, from her wardrobe, could also be called "Call-Girl Spice") corresponds perfectly to the sultry, self-loving starlet Ginger, with a bit of Lovey thrown in for bite. Ginger Spice (Ginger!) is the Professor, because she's knows all sorts of information, for example that the manta ray is a fish. Sporty Spice is Gilligan himself--she's agile, and seems to be at the center of the group, maybe because she's the only one who can actually sing. Scary Spice is the Skipper, because she's bossy.

Just how trapped they are on their personal three-hour tour (three-city tour?) becomes clear when the girls play dress-up for a photo shoot, and they all just end up dressing up like some other Spice Girl that they are not. At least fame is fun, even when you can't escape it. They get to sing while holding cordless microphones and dancing the way teenage girls dance when they're alone in front of a mirror. As an engineer comments during one of their sessions, they're "perfect without actually being any good."

Of course, evil is afoot, and there's some bad guy with a saliva condition who would like to take down the Spice Girls and their philosophy of life, Girl Power. I was hoping he wouldn't win, because I knew it might be painful for the little girls sitting behind me singing along loudly with the hits--even though I was annoyed by their singing. But God knows adolescence is already painful enough without evil triumphing over good.

Luckily, Girl Power is a tough power to take down. Girl Power, in case you're wondering, is feminism for little girls who might be a bit scared at the prospect of being independent adults. It's about being sexy and in charge of your life and commanding respect even while being a Spice Girl who doesn't have sex (Baby Spice says she has too many stuffed animals in her bed to make room for a man), who lives in a big house along with all the other Spice Girls (but with her own bedroom), who is never alone, and who never makes decisions that aren't instantly corroborated by the other four righteous Spice Girls. Plus, they have a sort of big daddy (Roger Moore) who is like Charlie from Charlie's Angels or Boss from Fantasy Island (another island!) who engineers their lives and careers so they don't have to. What a relief!

It's sort of cool, because they're like the female versions of teen idols, in that they hint at grown-up things like sex and independence without actually voyaging into the scary reality of it--but they're girls, and spicy ones at that! They know what they want. They want to have fun, Spicy Fun, and they want it now. They want it yesterday.

Now everybody dance.


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