February 28, 2005
So you like the Oscars -- quit apologizing and own up.
The people who strive most vigorously not to be bourgeois are doomed to be the most nakedly bourgeois of all. This universal maxim is never more obvious than when Oscar time rolls around.
Most people are unashamed about their celebrity-worship. But there's always a certain contingent that wouldn't be caught dead with a copy of the Enquirer — oh, no, they're more the New York Times type, thanks. Yet mention a celebrity's name, and they'll blurt out a piece of disapproving, up-to-the-minute dish.
These are the very people who chatter about the Oscars weeks before the show and avidly enter Oscar pools, but insist they're not really going to watch it. Well, maybe they might dip in and out. Because, you know — (this is my favorite) — they "only watch to see how bad they are."
Really? I could save you a few hours: They're really bad. I mean fall-into-a-nihilistic-depression bad. I never watch them, personally, for just this reason: because they're bad. Even the "shocks" are mind-numbingly predictable. And this is why you like them?
I'd like to make a plea to all watchers of televised dreck: Stop being so defensive. No one cares about your low-prole viewing habits. You're only revealing how afraid you are that someone will mistake you for an ordinary American, who watches the show for ordinary reasons, like seeing celebrities in their designer gowns, or watching the entertainment, or some other frightfully middle-class, Jesusland reason. Quelle horreur!
Now, of course, if you watch the exact same thing as those Jesuslanders, and for the exact same length of time, but watch it ironically... well, then you're engaging in a critique of our celeb-centered, consumerist hegemon. (So edgy! And you laughed at Chris Rock's Bush-bashing — you really get it.) And if you spend the next Monday snarking about some actress' gown, or ragging on some singer, hey, that's not trashy middlebrow gossip. No sir. You're doing it ironically, and that makes it cultural critique.
Personally, I'm not ashamed of my own dreck-viewing habits. I watch "World's Wildest Police Chases" about once a week. I've also been known to take in "The Planet's Funniest Animals." Oh, and "Unwrapped" on the Food Network. And I don't watch them "ironically." I watch them because they're stupid, diverting, and distracting, and they don't pretend to be any higher-brow than they are. They don't lecture me, and they certainly don't edify me. All they do is help me relax by whiling away half an hour in a pleasantly brain-dead way. You got a problem with my viewing habits? You think you're gonna judge me? Okay. You pay my mortgage, food, and cable bills, and then we'll talk about how you should be the judge of what I watch on TV. Till then, deal with it. My house, my TV, my eyeballs. Capeesh?
There, see? That's not so hard. Self-conscious Oscar watchers, stand up for yourself. Watch your worthless dreck without apology, and quit bending my ear with hypocritical bombast about how you don't take it seriously, oh, it's so silly — please! who do these stars think they are, they're so vapid and shallow (and did you see that dress on her?), who watches these things, anyway?, etc.
Get over it. Only the bourgeoisie care about being thought bourgeois.
November 16, 2004
"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room!"
WSJ's Opinion Journal has a fascinating article by James Earl Jones about his experiences acting in one of my favorite films, Dr. Strangelove. (His role is fairly small; I didn't even recognize him the first time I saw the movie.) He also offers some insights into George C. Scott's uniquely over-the-top performance.