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I Love You, Let's Meet » 21st century power: bottom on top

21st century power: bottom on top

A friend had forwarded me glamour’s call for puppets to have their dating lives controlled by readers. This gal bit, and the vitriol’s already flowing. The Gawksters’ faux-parodic bitchiness about her make-up, etc., will surely be the least of what she’s got coming to her.

Why would she do this? How did the opportunity to be publicly reviled become so appealing to so many? And how mean is it going to get? Fans have always turned on their idols for adultery or getting old or other mortal failings, but now it seems the celebs are being raised up specifically to be despised — the audience skips right over the adoration stage and goes straight to the turning-against.

My quarter-baked ruminations on masochistic fame-seeking started with this profoundly depressing article someone else sent me, about the Girls Gone Wild founder. I would hope that a story like this would kill this creep’s career, but I fear that his fame and monetary success eclipse his statutory raping, assaulting, threatening, and exploiting. Hey, so long as they know your name….
I also fear that, no matter what a sociopath this guy is, some readers of the LA Times story, especially fans of the show, will still reserve their contempt for the girls. The GGW fill an appetite for pretty, young naked girls, but the product isn’t their breasts, it’s their humiliation, their being out of control, their being, as one kid who Went Wild in the article proudly puts it, “a dirty slut.” (Another uses Warhol’s most famous quote to compare a tit shot on the show to a Faustian bargain: “If you do it, you do it. You can’t complain later. It’s almost like your 15 minutes of fame.”)

Simultaneously despising and ogling the girls scratches the same itch as Joan Rivers savaging the stars on the red carpet (Paris Hilton is a locus of the two sorts of stranger-hatred). The movie stars, apparently, deserve public humiliation because they have achieved the grail of being in front of cameras for a living. THEY even seem to think they deserve the mean-girl hazing, meekly bowing to Rivers’s microphone with no more protest than the girls pulling up their shirts for a trucker hat.

Being not-famous must seem like a real circle of hell if so many people long to be ripped apart in public. Or to gnaw on the scraps like hyenas Joan Rivers and the Girls Gone Wild guy.

8 Comments so far

  1. John G on August 15th, 2006

    [V, I accidently clicked “Submit Comment” before I finished. Maybe somebody’s trying to tell me something about word count? Anyway, here it is in all its all-ness. Also link to the GWS Trow book:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0871136740/002-5331948-4103229?v=glance&n=283155
    ]

    Being not-famous in our culture is for nearly all red-blooded Americans if not a circle of hell, certainly one of purgatory. It is living, as George WS Trow put it, within the context of no context. This leads to all manner of self-abnegation and public indecency, to wit: Girls Gone Wild.

    However, I would like to ask what the difference is between GGW and MTV’s Spring Break shows. I will admit to watching bits of both with a fascinated squeamishness that occasionally erupted into fear and loathing as these shows crossed the line from humiliation to the loss of humanity for all participants. I didn’t see anything resembling a felony, but neither do I think they have any “safe words” for those unfortunate souls who suddenly want out while in flagrante.

    GGW strikes me as a porno version of “Behind The Music” for MTV’s Spring Break shows. What are all those bodacious babes and ripped dudes doing when it gets dark? Going wild. Why? Because, all appearances to the contrary, they’re human beings, and however ineptly, they’re trying to create meaning and context for their lives, which to this point have mostly been lived in an Olestra-coated sink hole. Unfortunately, they’re going about it in the only way they’ve been taught, doing the only thing that appears to give one the traction to get up and out in this culture: becoming famous.

    As piteous as these attempts are, they meet the classic criteria for tragedy: right coming into conflict with right. The natural, positive, right-minded human drive toward the improvement of self and species is perverted into what is rightly viewed as a dehumanizing, sociopathic exercise in exploitation.

    So, you wanna talk about being fucked? This is the big one, and unfortunately it seems to be perfectly legal.

  2. virginia on August 16th, 2006

    Thanks, John, I’d love to read the Trow book. The variety of comments on Amazon.com are intriguing, as is the prospect of an ex-National Lampoon writer wringing his hands rather than merely riffing within the “Olestra-coated sink hole.”

    I’ve never seen MTV Spring Break, OK, I’ve never seen Girls Gone Wild. OK, I don’t have a TV. Smart friends of mine tell me I’ve no right to squawk about the anal leakage oozing from the Tee Vee til I’ve absorbed great amounts of it, but (a) it makes me more depressed than happy and (b) I think you start getting used to it. Mean, sarcastic, proudly dumb, and delighting-in-humiliation become sort of normal.

    Other smart friends tell me our culture coddles children for too long and that 18-plus-year-olds don’t need paternalistic/maternalistic protection from other adults — including creeps with free drinks and cameras. It might be because I’m spending these two weeks with my nephews 15 and 12, that I’m feeling protective about the Girls Gone Wild; because they have the bodies we all fetishize (which I would call our problem, not theirs), we assign them the power and agency of adults, and brush over that they’re stupid kids experimenting with limits — like we all were. “If the little bimbos got that drunk and they’re such exhibitionists, they deserve to have their mistakes filmed,” seems to be the mindset from which you must enjoy the show.

    Oh god, I’m such a curmudgeon. In my defense, I took the kids to the Will Ferrell NASCAR movie and I laughed a lot. I liked it better than The Devil Wears Prada.

  3. kmcleod on August 17th, 2006

    That LA TIMES article on GGW knocked me out of my chair. Overnight on the Comedy Central channel, they do infomercials on GGW, so I’ve seen the gist of it. It seems like a germ-free version of the Ugly John-style street porn, but now it’s expanded into “Olympic games” and zero gee split beaver (?!!).
    As far as despising and ogling are concerned, college males that I talk to are just happy for the chance to ogle. They don’t despise the video girls who flash, they despise the real life girls who won’t sleep with them. I don’t think that this particular fame-seeking is masochistic. It’s not humiliating to pull your pants down, for example. It’s humiliating when someone else pulls your pants down against your will. This is also why Joe Francis is a rapist.
    Maybe sex, rum and videotape is empowering for women in some way, but it looks like another form of x-treme partying. I think about the dumb things I did in my teens and 20s, and my curmudgeon symptoms vanish.
    It’s interesting that Joe Francis is disappointed in the new, more calculating flashers. Suddenly, he’s losing control of the narrative. His power is now being employed by them. Do your nephews know about GGW? If they do, show them that article, so they can see the rancid despot that they might want to avoid becoming.
    Tee vee? You’re not missing anything. It’s like information without the reality. All the best shows you can get on DVD.

  4. Bill Scurry on August 21st, 2006

    Stepping away from the execrable Joe Francis for a moment, the wet t-shirt/flashing culture does seemed linked into deep-rooted misogyny, at least in the circles I’ve seen it — men whose faces are crimson with regular-ass rage alchemically transmute that anger into sexual violence/transgression.

    To me, “lad culture” is a symptom of a generation of men who’ve grown up with vast oceans of repressed anger against women they have been unable to relate to — the very “dirty whores” that arouse sexually are the same “sluts” who propitiate that rage.

  5. virginia on August 22nd, 2006

    I’ve pondered this sexuality-linked misogyny for a long time: I guess the common denominator is “I hate you for making me feel lust because lust is wrong/sinful/out-of-control/vulnerable.” This would account for Muslim and other fundamentalists covering women up like they’re dirty magazines, the over-the-top hostility in the way porn is peddled, and, yeah, lad culture. (My media-innocent friend Mary saw her first Maxim and said in a puzzled voice, “it’s a whole magazine dedicated to tricking women you dislike into sleeping with you!” Pretty succinct “lad” critique, eh?)

    And I assume sluts are also terrifying because they’re equipped to judge male sexual performance.

    Which kind of leaves raping virgins for your peak, man-in-charge sexual experience, according to this vile intersection of fundamentalist religion and porny lad mags. Which POV or directive has to fight against the real (Western) world, where men and women are more equal, friendly, sexually experienced and OK with that. Kenneth, I’d love you to be right that the boys just want to ogle, not see the girls demeaned, but I think your point about Francis wanting to control the narrative is an excellent one and that may be a point of view shared by the fans(? I don’t know. Oddly enough, nobody’s jumping on here to stick up for GGW!)

  6. JohnG on August 24th, 2006

    OK, call me a flip-flopper, but I guess I have to retract my comment that it’s unfortunate that GGW is legal, and defend them. Provided no other laws are being broken, GGW is engaging in protected speech guaranteed by the First Amendment, just like the Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois many years ago. I am a card-carrying ACLU member but I would quit under protest if there were an attempt by the gummint to censor them and the ACLU didn’t take GGW’s case.

    And call me a Pollyanna, too, but I think we need to take a more sympathetic look at the kids who are either directly or indirectly involved in GGW and the cultural phenomena it both embodies and fosters. First of all, in the same way that “the thirties are the new twenties,” most of these kids really are children despite having reached the age of legal consent. Second, I believe that social class and associated, broader socio-economic issues are the fundamental causes of the way these kinds of sexuality issues manifest themselves in our culture—GGW/lad culture, the ubiquity of internet porn, Pam & Tommy, Madonna, etc.

    What Bill Scurry said about the cause of this retrograde behavior, that men’s rage and violence toward women is caused by their inability to relate to the women seems to me to hit the nail on the head. I have two sons, ages 9 and 12. It is inconceivable to me that they will be part of, or I want to say victim of, GGW/Lad culture in the way that we’ve all been discussing it here, unless something extraordinarily bad happens to them, like mental illness, both parents dying in a plane crash (unlikely since our divorce decree), or the like. This is not because I am such a good father, or their mother is likewise, although she is. And it’s not because I have a ton of money; I don’t. It will not happen to them because they are growing up with the cultural life of New York City at their doorstep, going to relatively progressive schools and camps, and mostly because they have strong female role models in every aspect of their lives, whom their male role models not only can, but want to and do relate to on an equal footing, and because this ethic permeates my boys’ world, along with that of questioning authority and received wisdom, using their highly evolved bullshit detectors.

    Sounds like a great life, and it is. But it looks even greater when you consider where and how the other 99% of the country lives, which I characterized as an Olestra-coated sinkhole. It seems to me to be a situation where the ethos of the women’s movement has trickled down, leaving the women more evolved than the men. The men, stuck in the past, follow an atavistic code that no longer finds them a mate, or at least one they can relate to, or even conceive of as such. Not to excuse truly bad behavior, of which there seems to be plenty, but it’s hard to be a saint in a sinkhole: you could wind up hating everybody and everything, and going wild.

  7. kmcleod on August 24th, 2006

    I try to be an optimist, but for every half-decent young man I talk to, there’s otherwise news stories such as the report of 20 percent of the female cadets and 4 percent of the male cadets at the Citadel in South Carolina being sexually asaulted or harassed, and over 80 military recruiters being disciplined last year for sexual misconduct with potential female recruits.
    Also, I think you’ve touched upon how religious fundamentalists of all faiths have core attitudes towards women similar to pornographers.

  8. virginia on August 24th, 2006

    It may be the teensiest bit NY-centric, John, to call everyplace west of the Hudson, south of Battery Park, and north of the Bronx an OCSH (Olestra-coated sinkhole). I actually stole your phrase to apply to TV/magazine/Hollywood consumer culture, not Georgians or Nebraskans or New Hampsters. Joe Francis didn’t come up with GGW because he didn’t grow up in New York City; he came up with it because there’s money to be made stirring up lust and contempt for moving or still images of Barbie-bodied teenagers. And where’s that cultural directive coming from? The MSM, which happens to be headquartered in our enlightened little hamlet. (Yay, I used THE blogger acronym in a crabby sentence! I’ve arrived!)

    Hey (buddy), I heart New York, too, and exposure to all the colors, creeds, sexual orientations we got right heah surely cuts down on racism, homophobia, etc. But strong women role models and men who like women live in all kinds of places — and in those other places they may not be as obsessed with fame or money or being A-number-one, king of the hill, top of the heap.

    After 9-11, I heard Gloria Steinem speak and she said, re Al Queda and the Taliban, that societies that separate their men and women are always the most brutal. So in the U.S., what separates the sexes? As Kenneth points out, the worst is the military. As we’ve been saying, kids at 18, 19, 20 are still young and impressionable. You train them to kill other kids and then you’re SURPRISED when their empathy’s been disabled enough that they become rapists as well? Where else? Prison. And fundamentalist Christianity and Judaism, not just Islam.

    All our big religions separate men and women, even if it’s within-family separation via roles of patriarch and helpmate. “A woman’s place” is separate from a man’s.

    But what separates most of the younger boys from the girls is the lad mags and the fashion mags and the sitcoms where the pretty girls scorn the schlubby-or-pretty guys or the schlubby-or-pretty guys insult the pretty girls and the action movies where the girl is the reward for blowing shit up and killing bad guys, because the killing makes her hot. She may also like getting pushed around some.

    The evergreen “battle of the sexes” — always a great distraction from whomever’s really exploiting all of us.

    It is commercially viable to psychically isolate men from women. Mistrust and fear and insecurity vis a vis the opposite sex makes people buy stuff. Human behavior gets uglier when there’s scarcity and, surrounded by wealth as we are, the scarcity marketers sell us is the scarcity of the opposite sex. Either there aren’t enough of them (women’s mags) or they’re incomprehensible and must be studied like exotic wildlife (women’s and men’s mags: “What S/He’s Really Thinking!”) or they won’t want us the way we are (women’s and, these days, men’s mags “347 Steps to Flatter/Fatter Abs/Calves/Delts/Hair”). Ever since Hugh Hefner started Playboy, masculinity’s been about the babe as part of the accessory set along with the right martini glasses, hi-fi, suit, sports car. She won’t want you if you don’t have all that crap AND you don’t really need her because you have all that crap. That’s how the Playboy’s been played for half a century, and, just like he’s supposesd to, he blames the woman for his alienation.