And so here we are, ingesting our yearly prescription of celebrity pornography, care of a morally questionable doctor with an attractive smile and soothing voice timber, streamlined for easy consumption by having been boiled down to a two-hour brainless extravaganza of shiny dresses, shiny skin, shiny teeth, shiny jewelry and shiny lives — an emulsified Pabulum hosted by the Good Doctor himself, Ryan Seacrest, a smiling nitwit of the highest order, successful only for being able to turn even the dullest celebrity PR bullshit into the slickest ear-warming babble, designed at its soul to cover the brain in a somastatic, intellectually-limiting poison goo that hardens instantly on contact.
And then, finally, we’re ready for the show: the longest public collective group ego wank on the Planet, designed not so much to get off on art, but the idea of art as an abstracted something, as a means, rather than an end. Rather, that is, than a substantive anything. Art that is often so meaningless, that is so much sign and so little signifier that poor old Walter Benjamin himself would likely quite happily bleed from the ears rather than even have to consider such a sad state of replicated affairs. Just a copy of a copy of a copy on into infinity, xeroxed forever in an endless nothingness of Hollywood atavism and bad, stale ideas regurgitated over and over again to young audiences as something new, and marketed equally ham-fistedly to their parents as some kind of bizarre exercise of socially constructed faux nostalgia. Just a one-note song with nowhere to go except louder, for ever and ever.
Here I am. It’s Sunday night and the Oscars shout their glitzy existence from the tinny speakers of my television. Live from Los Angeles, but it might as well be live from the End of the World, for how fucked we all are because of it.
My right arm drops listlessly off the side of the couch and directly into an open jar of Cheez Whiz that I’ve kept especially for the occasion. The more vacuous consumer paste I can fill my body with physically, the less I figure I’ll notice when my brain becomes stuffed with the vapid visual tripe I’m set to consume in the immediate future.
I am plugged into the virtual reality until the end. With any luck when I’m found by a neighbour in a week as a bloated corpse still connected directly into the mainframe of the culture industry my dead lifeless body won’t look too grey. Overdose, the coroner will note, as the orchestra swells.
I suddenly remember something about postmodernist theory – something about how the only subjects that are genuinely worth being photographed are those that are somehow violated by the process, those that are taken by surprise, exposed despite themselves, those that should never have been represented because “they have neither self-image nor self-consciousness.” Well, so much for all of that.
Because here I am, Your Average North American, staring listlessly at a shining frame extolling the virtues of the most corrosive industry this side of Wall Street — the same industry that has lied to me for every minute of my life, ensuring that not only are the preconceived notions that I developed about love and success were so skewed as to be effectively considered devoid of all rationality, but that has also successfully promoted the perception of the physical other in order to commodify even the very skin that is now soaking happily in a jar of industrial grease.
Rather than marvel at the insane cosmic luck and beauty of the fact that I’m even alive at all, the fact that I’m human is now a problem to be solved with material goods. Pile after pile of clothing and creams designed by whole teams of scientists specifically for my consumption are sitting, waiting for me somewhere beyond my apartment wall and on full display at any moment in front of my face. I watch the parade of hairless alien humanoid chameleon robots primed by a team of experts and think of how I am stuck with but one version of myself. They are me as I want to be, apparently. They are anyone.
The first Monday after the Oscars is without a doubt the most perpetually depressing day in the existence of Western civilization, because each one of us — each stupid one of us — sits helplessly trapped in such a boring mediocre existence that seems suddenly in very sharp contrast to the world into which we’ve just finished staring for hours the night before, that it’s all we can do to keep from blowing our brains out for no other reason than to get our name in the paper. Or, at least, a pretty decent funeral soundtrack.
But for now, it’s just shit. Our commute seems suddenly devoid of an emergency break turn into on-coming traffic. Our breakfast cereal lacks the distinct crispy crunch of family strife, our light switch flicks with so much less audible and metaphoric authority, and we noticeably lack a theme song for weighty decisions as we shuffle around in a dimly lit cubicle. We are the grey background colour of the world outside the Oscars. Ours is the world of hopeful extras stuck endlessly in a boring, perpetually unmarketable script of the everyday.
Tomorrow might be bad, I think.
So, thank God for fake tits and botox and viagra and Percocet and codeine and hydromorphone. But most of all, thank God for actors.
Image by David Bueso.