Things You Are Wrong About & Why I’m Punishing Myself With Politics
This is all over the place because I am all over the place these days.
The pandemic is one thing. It is a huge thing. Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s death and the dread of the coming Republican power grab is another thing. Tonight’s Presidential debates can only make all of this worse. Of course, I am going to watch it but I have a good reason. I’m live-responding with Gen Mag, here on Medium. I have not promised to be sober.
I generally watch these political debates as spectacle:
Guy Debord’s (1931–1994) best-known work, La société du spectacle (The Society of the Spectacle) (1967), is a polemical and prescient indictment of our image-saturated consumer culture. The book examines the “Spectacle,” Debord’s term for the everyday manifestation of capitalist-driven phenomena; advertising, television, film, and celebrity. — An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’
Political spectacles have a lot in common with a Kardashian. They happen for reasons that are related to the market but divorced from clear ideas about power and publics. The political-celebrities are judged by how well they entertain us through a carefully scripted performance. We all pretend that performance is natural and unscripted. Sometimes, if we are lucky, there is a good outfit to judge.
The politics of this whole election may be serious but debates rarely are. I will be listening for dog whistles (both sides), new fascist slogans (Trump, naturally), and performative arcs that tell us how the spectacle understands us, the audience: what we value, who we are, and how we can be moved.
Did I mention that I will be drinking?
I have needed a lot of escapism lately. I am not the only one. I asked for some good, mostly mindless entertainment to drown my sorrows. Here is an unscientific but absolutely authoritative account of the recommendations that were wrong.
- What the hell are y’all thinking with Outlander? This show is not good. I spent five long hours waiting for Claire to die. She. Never. Dies. But she should. Dear god, someone should put me out of my misery by putting Claire out of hers. I have never met a less engaging, less sympathetic, less interesting protaganist. She isn’t just insufferable. She is flat. Her entire character arc is being very pale while also quivering. I understand that women like the show for its soft porn elements. I feel like I should tell you that there are easier, better ways to enjoy pornography. You don’t have to subject yourself to this.
- Selling Sunset is not good. I love real estate pop culture. I follow accounts that snark on architecture, Live Love Laugh signs, and gentrification font. I should enjoy this show. I do not enjoy this show. I do not know who any of the C-list Los Angeles people are that are so critical to the drama. What is One Tree Hill? Is This is Us still on the air? How can I be expected to know these things? Also, I have blonde blindness. I do not think blonde people look different. For all I know, there are only three blonde people and they just…show up everywhere. I cannot keep these blonde people straight long enough to figure out who hates who.
- Love, Guaranteed is not good. You recomended this one because I watch Hallmark Movies, which is fair. People in fake reality snowglobes cannot throw stones. You thought the Black guy (Damon Wayans, Jr.) would be a bonus! That is reasonable, if wrong. Damon is only sexy to white women. Sorry, but these are facts. There is a reason he is cast as a racy diversity love interest in white rom-coms but you have never seen him cast opposite Regina King. Ain’t gonna happen. His absolute absence of all Black cool is a black hole for mindless entertainment. Your attention goes in but no baseline dopamine comes out.
You were wrong about these shows. You are absolutely correct about The Umbrella Academy, What We Do In The Shadows, and Indian Matchmaking.
Speaking of spectacle, you can check out a lightning talk I did for my academic home about research and teaching.
You can also keep an eye out for two upcoming pieces, one in Dissent magazine on the future of work and a roundtable on democracy for Virginia Quarterly Review.
- I love it when they make me a doodle!