Ideas about feminine beauty are bust. The sublime 1350 B.C. bust of Queen Nefertiti showcases her fine cheekbones and graceful neck. Her Western contemporary look-a-like, down to the perfectly shaped dainty face, was Audrey Hepburn. Catherine Deneuve embodied the French ideal of female beauty, immortalized in the bust of Marianne.
But forget these regal beauties; they, apparently, have nothing on the double-chinned, large, flat expanses that make up Britney Spears’ crude mug. Nefertiti, Hepburn, Deneuve—your patrician pulchritude no longer excites the “porn generation”; the sly, weasel-like looks of a Paris Hilton do.
The culture’s aesthetic preferences are now shaped by the basest of instincts. I call it the porn aesthetic, another example of which is Hue Hefner’s harem of hos. The three kept creatures are currently starring in a reality show called “The Girls Next Door.”
According to Wikipedia, “The prototype of the girl next door is often invoked in American contexts to indicate wholesome, unassuming, or ‘average’ femininity.” Like Ali MacGraw in “Love Story,” perhaps? Hef’s hos have bleached, cotton-candy hair, augmented by extensions, silicone breasts, and demented, syphilitic grins. But according to an entirely new sensibility, they are the girls next door.
Still, these Jenna-Jameson clones are benign compared to, say, the aspiring publisher of O.J. Simpson’s manual for murder. Judith Regan stood for the latest low in American publishing, although her confidence in the salability of such a how-to instructional was not entirely unfounded. Market indicators were on her side.
Regan claimed she was seeking “closure, not money.” Since when is every self-appointed proxy of pain in a position to seek closure (whatever that means) for suffering she has not endured? The only two people who have the moral authority to close this case (or forgive the perpetrator) have been dead for a decade, their throats slit from ear to ear. Closure, like grief, is a personal, not a communal, affair.
Americans rejected the Regan project; they might have embraced the porn aesthetic, but they drew the line at peddling murder. That the market would seem to support an endeavor is no reason to always pursue it—a lesson Regan learned quickly when she got her comeuppance and was fired by HarperCollins for an “unrelated,” but convenient, affront.
Michael Richards’ worst offence was to have sent Paula Zahn scuttling to ferret out the racists of America. Richards’ second worst offence (besides his role as Kramer in the crappy series “Seinfeld”) was what set Zahn off. He assailed the blacks in his audience with racial slurs, after they heckled him (way too mildly) for being unfunny. Subsequently, the busybody CNN anchor launched a series of programs to expose the prototypical, wicked, Inner Racist of white America. (Come now, you know you too have one of those, don’t you?).
As I see it, the unwarranted verbal aggression Richards unleashed was far less disturbing than his gutter manners and lack of inhibitions in voicing this foul repertoire. Richards, who should have been banished forthwith from polite company (that excludes the pulp press and TV), was beamed via satellite into David Letterman’s “Late Show,” where he gruffly proclaimed: “For me to be at a comedy club and flip out and say this crap, I’m deeply, deeply sorry…I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”
No, what’s “so insane” about these regular installments from celebrity sewer rats is the apology ritual that ensues, and the notion that saying sorry is somehow redemptive. What’s “so insane” about these events is the public’s readiness to buy the bifurcation the uncouth celebrity will offer up—that somehow an entity other than himself possessed him for the duration of the tirade. That’s what’s so insane.
Oprah’s Obama, now there’s another emblem of fin-de-siècle America. Barack Obama mania was started by no other than the Queen of Kitsch. So swept up in it has everyone become, that we clean forgot who was responsible for this debutant’s vertiginous rise.
The Democrat’s beau ideal and his artful “ideas” represent the Oprah-ization of American life, down to his exotic multicultural names. Mind you, had he been christened “Barak,” Obama’d be the namesake of an impressive “military general in the Book of Judges.” Alas, if this indeed is the genesis of his name, his mother misspelled “Barak.” His middle name—”Hussein”—Obama shares with Saddam and many millions of Muslims. Whatever.
More material, Obama’s thinking on the defining issue of the day—Iraq—is quintessentially Obamacentric, and is in keeping with his party’s dereliction of duty. In the words of contrarian Fred Reed, “Democrats don’t want to do anything drastic about the war…In other words, they care more about their electoral prospects in 2008 than they do about the lives of GIs.”
And that’s way worse than Paris and Britney’s most offending body parts (their faces), or Richards’ and Regan’s vulgarities.
;2006 Ilana Mercer