This was the tag on a deodorant commercial I saw on YouTube. I can not even parse what that sentence means. What does “changes” mean? I am picturing a woman morphing into Godzilla, a butterfly, a pile of goo, over and over again all day long. Also, why is it obvious that “changes” can “cause odor problems”? What is an “odor problem”? I am imagining the smell of sulphur caused by fire and brimstone, from all the demonic shape-shifting.
It’s wondrous how we are still in the era of the snake oil salesman, standing up on the back of his ol’ broken-down wagon, yelling about how his patented elixir will cure rickets
Today is my last day of school. Ultimate TGIF, and on a Wednesday to boot. I am eating a fried egg sandwich, drinking too much coffee, and playing my new piano, which I bought off Craigslist for $100 and which is kind of a piece of shit but also kind of a classy old dame. Cost three times as much to move it as it did to buy it in the first place, but it all comes out of baby’s first startup fund, so who’s counting? I got out all the battered piano music of my youth and am slowly working some chops back into my fingers. It is surreal to be playing these pieces, which I remember so well from age 12, and to even see that my bad habits are the same now as they were then–everywhere I find myself speeding up, I see that my 12-year old self has written “SLOW DOWN.” Everywhere I find myself losing my thumb, I see that my 12-year old self has written “FIND THUMB.” Is this depressing? I don’t know. It feels kind of like communing with my baby self in a cool way. Here we are, self, just you and me, still losing our thumb and going too fast, just like old times.
We watched half of 50 Shades of Grey last night. Last night was my old man’s ultimate TGIF and he likes to celebrate the beginnings of vacations by watching a movie he doesn’t have to teach, write, or think about. 50 Shades seemed like the perfect candidate, especially because I had just read him Anthony Lane’s review of it, which had made us both laugh really hard. I of course despise Anthony Lane–that shameless picker of low-hanging fruit–but the idea of him reading the 50 Shades book for research, and underlining sentences like “I slice another piece of venison, holding it against my mouth,” is legitimately funny. So we thought it would be fun to watch the movie, although I feared that it would be TOO stupid. Indeed it was and we turned it off halfway through (“I don’t make love. I fuck. HARD.” <--potentially the most epic line of dialogue ever written). The movie depressed us and made us think about the failures of consumer capitalism, as most things do. My old man contends that middle aged women only like 50 Shades because it is packaged as a consumer product that is "for" them, and that this is an example of how consumer capitalism keeps us from reaching higher, thinking harder, actually pondering what it is that we like and are interested in. Then he asked me if it was sexist for him to say these things and I said I didn't know, because the almost inexplicable popularity of 50 Shades just makes me think of all those case studies in Betty Friedan's work, all those 60 year old women who have never had an orgasm and are devastated when they finally have one, because of all that wasted time they spent unaware of their own beautiful bodies' capacity for pleasure and joy. I think probably a lot of people generally haven't given much thought to their sexuality, for various reasons, and so when something like 50 Shades comes along, if a bunch of repressed middle-aged women were legitimately aroused and excited by it, is this a bad thing? I want them to be happy, the middle-aged women of America, a group whose membership I am well on my way to joining. One thinks of the great debates concerning "bad music." The classic thought experiment was done by one of my professors, who told us about his mother, a social worker who spent 60 hours a week trying to help intensely abused, poor, disadvantaged, suffering women. She would go home at night, exhausted, and put on Kenny G, which she found soothing and beautiful. There are people who would say that this is bad, that she is blind to proper value judgments, that she needs to be educated so that she can appreciate "real" music, like John Coltrane, which is all about struggling and overcoming. But what's so great about struggling? Maybe someone who struggles all day might want a smooth soothing chill-out sound bath that doesn't challenge her intellectually, at the end of yet another tragic and impossible day just trying to live in the world. Why is difficulty better than simplicity? These are things I myself struggle with (ha). On the one hand, Kenny G is bullshit, but on the other hand, the value system we live in, that holds that struggling to triumph is the greatest expression of individual heroism, leads not only to a society based on an extreme narcissism the likes of which the world has never seen before, but also (and as a result) to things like colonialism and genocide, and lord knows that's not great. On the other hand, promoting "easiness" as a consumer good also quite obviously leads down a pretty grim path, culturally speaking. God, thinking dialectically is a drag and a half, you can never get ANYTHING done. I also think that with these weird stories like 50 Shades and Twilight there is something real going on involving patriarchy and reframing power dynamics. I think these stories tap into something about consenting to give a man power over you and finding it pleasurable and empowering instead of horrifying, as it is in real life in a violently misogynist society where you are literally afraid for your physical safety on a shockingly regular basis, regardless of class, race, etc. I can see how confronting that terror and aestheticizing it and sexualizing it and getting power and pleasure out of it could be thrilling and even empowering. (Yes, I know that there are lots of men who are interested in giving up power to women, sexually. I think in the end we all feel powerless (capitalism) and sometimes submitting in a pleasurable way to that powerlessness might feel good to someone, regardless of their subject position. I know generalizing is wrong ("we as humans") but this is just some random blog and not an address to the UN (if only!) so I will do as I please) It also makes me think of this weird cultural phenomenon where so many women are so interested in serial killer dramas. Something about facing the very real terror and threat of life as a woman--facing it, naming it, owning it, coming out the other side unscathed, or imagining doing so--is weirdly comforting. The fact that there are men out there preying on women, capturing women and putting women under their power and control, hurting women for their own pleasure...it's really just a specific manifestation of the all-encompassing power dynamic women have to negotiate every moment of their lives, as second-class citizens in a world run by men. We ALREADY live under men's control. We ALREADY are made powerless before men. Serial killers just make this explicit. Gillian Anderson in "The Fall" is such a weird character because she's decided to spend her life confronting patriarchy in its vilest form, and calling it out AS PATRIARCHY. The scene where the other police officer--a "good guy", her partner--tries to kiss her even though she says NO, and she has to punch him, and then later she's like "you are the same as this serial killer we are chasing together" and he's like "no I'm not, I don't kill women" and she's like "but you believe you can take what you want from women even when they say no to you and that's fundamentally exactly what our killer does" and he's like "OH SHIT" and can't even look her in the face. Or that phone call where the killer calls her to gloat and she's like "you're not an artist. You're not special. You're just a boring regular old misogynist like everybody else" and he's like "OH SHIT" and throws his phone in the river I mean, I will straight-up say that I believe it's no coincidence that the same actor plays the serial killer in the Fall and Christian Grey in 50 Shades. I'm sure the 50 Shades producers auditioned tons of people, but he's the one they settled on, and he's the one the 50 Shades fans approved of. Something under the surface of the cultural unconscious links the two characters. I could never prove that, but it's just absurd that of all the hunky actors on this earth, they chose the guy most notable for playing a hunky serial killer. The dude in The Fall, Christian Grey, Edward Cullen, they're all dudes who specifically prey on women, either explicitly (a serial killer stalking women; a billionaire signing up women to live in his penthouse as sex slaves) or implicitly (Edward's potential for literally sucking the life out of Bella--and his INTENSE DESIRE TO DO SO--are pretty much constantly at the forefront of Twilight's plot). Turning the serial killer scenario into a scenario in which the man who preys on women actually loves you and would never "really" hurt you--and indeed, protects you and "gives" you pleasure--is exciting, but more importantly it's a RELIEF. Whether it's feminist or not I have no idea; thus whether my old man's disgust for the movie was sexist or not, please also file under: me no know The "me no know" file in my filing cabinet now takes up a thousand square miles of space One time I bought a Kenny G LP for a dollar at a flea market and the old man selling it to me goes "That Kenny sure blows a sweet horn don't he" and I was like "he sure does" God, does signing all these Credo petitions even mean anything? Is everything just a silent scream into the shrill shrieking void of time and space?