Sunday, January 08, 2006


"Corny trash, vulgar clichés, Philistinism in all its phases, imitations of imitations, bogus profundities, crude, moronic, and dishonest pseudo–these are obvious examples. Now, if we want to pin down poshlost' in contemporary writing, we must look for it in Freudian symbolism, mothmythologies, social comment, humanistic messages, political allegories, overconcern with class or race, and the journalistic generalities we all know..."

Vladimir Nabokov

King Kong. Baudrillard. Shopping Malls. Disney Land. MTV. Dave Eggers. *

On some level one cannot help but recognize the sheer dominance of these forces. Speaking generally, they are the air we breath. This does not mean that they are natural. Liberals (the politicians, not the ideals of any philosophy - which for many reasons, such as Capitalism, do not exist) would have more nuanced cooking shows, a slightly better quality of life for slightly more people for a slightly longer time. A stronger, more gentle war on various emotional states. Their prospects, of course, hinge on a fundamental delusion of sorts – namely a world where conservatives (at their current stage on the several-decades-developing road to fascism) simply do not exist. Indeed, much of the liberal delusion consists of an elaborate maintainence of this snobbery.** (And, to be fair, much of the conservative machine depends on exploiting the resentment springing from this impression.) But those are all familiar enough complaints, to be sure. And like everywhere, such generalizations are perhaps only useful up to a certain point.

But if it is even worth mentioning (and I'm not convinced it is), this realm is where a stupid film like Team America hits hardest. It "hits" in the sense that it literally performs a kind of violence on its audience (for which we have few words yet, really – apart from the usual phrases, "beating over the head," "insulting the intelligence," etc.) Lenny Bruce's form of satire comes to mind (and yet, is it funny? Really?). That it panders equally to liberals and conservatives is perhaps worth a chuckle. It's also very much of Zizekian topicality, in fact. I wonder if he's seen it.

Having so warned against generalizations, I will now proceed to generalize rather grossly. I do think there is some wisdom in making an effort not to speak of the banal, or at least carefully, and not in a manner that treats it with any more dignity than that with which it may handles us. But faced with such wanton excess (itself a symptom, or a kind of virus, yes of course, if one that also seems now like a sort of pre-requisite for writers of all stripes to catch, and especially if one is to be such a thing as the voice of one's generation – and what alternatives for "success" are there, really?) - faced with such wanton excess (and now it's merely reactionary cousin, cuteness or "the new sincerity"),.....actually, you know what? I'm not at all sure we even understand the original context of this "new sincerity" enough to comment, and certainly not enough to...what's the word for such lazy dismissive gestures, albeit founded on a bedrock of initial intelligence, anyway? Maybe before denying it of any and all potential for future good, we should take another look. (Then again, maybe not.)

Ah, but if only these problems were simple.

*This list is dangerously unfair. One order not to be taken as a t-rist, one should probably be more precise.

** Unwilling as they are to confront their own embeddedness in the class and warfare about which they may not ever philosophically speak, knowing full-well that communism and Jack Kennedy are long dead and of course underground.

Update: This post tries to say far to much in one breath, and should probably be destroyed entirely, discreetly and quietly.

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