Wednesday, September 19, 2007

If I'd Wanted A Shallow Misogynistic Culture, I'd Have . . . Oh, Wait, Nevermind

It's, like, one of the core principles of American civilization: people should be allowed to make free choices based on their own self-interest, pleasure, and preference.

So far I'd say this is working out Medium-OK. Not great, but not awful.

I sometimes worry that we're only saved from awful by a kind of lingering shadow of some less freedom-obsessed culture. I hope not, because I love freedom-obsessed culture. I mean, I love it. Nobody loves it more than I do. But sometimes when it gets on a roll, you can get a little worried.

I had a little frisson of worry, as Captain Colossal did, with those crazy Tom Ford ads. OK, I know, sex in advertising, it's a free country, but still. Perfume bottles in naked women's pussies? The Boing-Boing post about this noted the similarity to an ad for Vulva perfume, which no one seems to know for sure whether it's a joke or serious.

In last month's GQ, and in a new book he has out -- The Braindead Megaphone -- George Saunders gets a little worried too. He's worried that "our cultural discourse is being dumbed down by mass-media prose" -- prose that is written quickly, ill-thought out, and, well, stupid.

Ironically, I got that quote from the blog that Saunder has going on Amazon. OK, I'm exaggerating; he's only posted twice. And he's aware, very aware, of the irony.

In the GQ piece, he is bitter and angry about TV news, about how dumb it is. Reading along, I kept waiting for the expected money-shot: a moral imperative, please, readers, please, don't watch TV news, don't read crap, use your minds, for heaven's sake!

It never came. Or, at least, I didn't notice if it did. It almost seemed like the plea to the individual was passe, boring, impossible. The plea could only be expressed as a rant of unhappiness about what we've ended up with.

Is it not even relevant anymore to ask people to reflect and change what they do? Jezebel yesterday had a post summing up all the ways TV critics and other media types have been justifying their deep desire to watch TMZ TV. Jezebel even came up with one of their own: it's better than watching Tucker Carlson on MSNBC!

As it happens, the exchange they quoted from Tucker Carlson's show to prove their point had Tucker railing against state-sponsored health care on grounds that if he wanted to make a free choice based on his own self-interest and pleasure not to have health insurance, by God, that was his fundamental right!

It's going to be a long century.


Captain Colossal said...

I was not a big fan of that George Saunders essay. I did not like his theory that good writing causes us to think of other people as like us. I also didn't like that he took pages and pages to make a pretty punchy point. I guess what I'm saying is that Tom Ford and George Saunders are, as far as I'm concerned, some kind of Scylla and Charybdis of modern culture. And Tom Ford at least caught me by surprise.

But I'm with you about the tension between my generally pro-freedom-obsessed culture stance and some of the results of that culture. I finished the Marilyn Manson book, and my primary take-away from that is that Marilyn Manson likes his girls pretty and clean. Which I guess we knew already.

Noko Marie said...

Hey. I wasn't sure it was the same essay... but maybe I wasn't reading carefully? "Pretty and clean"? Actually this is news to me. I thought those gothy guys were, I don't know, into less obvious girl-things.

Anyway, yeah, freedom. Let's hope it all works out one way or another.