I was mildly amused by Ed Driscoll’s article on truly bizarre commercials. For those not inclined to click through to PJM, the commercials in question are these:
(And is that a creepy name or what?)
I’m happy to say that I missed both of these due to my habit of not watching TV save on rare and odd occasions (like when I’m doing ironing. Incidentally, I need recommendations for good tv series or documentaries on the Terror. At least if you guys want me to write Through Fire [second book of the Earth Revolution.] I don’t need it for research. The shelves devoted to the French Revolution are second only in length to the shelves devoted to Shakespeare, but when a book is in the last stages of being born – or when my subconscious is in the process of laying an egg – I sometimes need visual stimulus for a touch-feel sense.)
Commercials fascinate me ever since I came to the states as an exchange student at seventeen, and realized in shock and fascination that the TV commercials were VERY careful to have at least two races together. No group of friends was ever mono-racial. This was completely different from what I saw around me in Stow Ohio, and after a while it occurred to me that commercials were like the fairytales the culture told itself. For some reason, somewhere, someone believed it would appeal to most people if it wrapped it in this cultural illusion that didn’t exist anywhere in reality.
In the same way, right now, the hyper competent female and truly stupid bumbling male is a fairytale that companies think will sell things – partly because it’s part of a lie that everyone, including their husbands, is telling American women. No? Okay. Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard in a public situation, a highly accomplished man say something about his wife that runs like this “She’s way smarter/more accomplished/more capable than I am.”? Number of times you’ve seen the reverse? Why not? Because nine times out of ten these women are very average women married to high power men and the man is trying to be chivalrous. (Right here I want to point out I’m aware my husband is smarter than I. That’s why I married him. Okay, one of the reasons. Of course, I didn’t take in account the difficulties of raising his sons. Never mind.)
In that way, commercials are sort of a fun house mirror, exaggerating and reflecting back at us the weirdest and most distorted parts of our culture or of the stories we tell ourselves about our culture.
Ed Driscoll doesn’t really push the point that this is a slippery slope, though he does mention it. This is good, because I don’t think it is. I don’t think any woman in her right mind, or even not in her right mind is dying to kiss a sea lion, and as for autocannibalism, well… It takes special for that.
I sort of chuckled over the article and went on – and woke in the morning with a different view on it.
To wit, what came to mind was that it’s not a slippery slope, but it sort of is, and we’re sort of at the end of it. Not a slippery slope of making us accept bestiality or self-eating, but a slippery slope of entertainment and the tales we tell ourselves about our culture, both through entertainment and through commercials being completely divorced from reality.
And then I realized this is the anti-human-wave. It’s not even the (old) New Wave either. They had the redeeming factor that they were telling people things no one wanted to hear. (They missed the commercial disaster this foretold once the novelty wore off, but never mind.) They were, for a brief moment at least, until the culture caved, telling truth to power.
The current Anti-Human wave in power isn’t even doing that. They are the power. And part of the problem is that like any ideological dictatorship or Marxist theocracy, they’re not content with taking over the material part of things. (That’s because Marxism promises paradise on Earth once man himself is transformed.) Instead, they want to control what words can be said and what thoughts can be thought.
This causes problems, because they won’t allow through the gate anything that is “double plus ungood” according to them. So there will be no commercials that reflect at least fifty percent of the couples we see in real life (and often more since it’s still a good strategy to attract a mate for a woman to act dumber than a hen) where the woman is a total dolt and the man is competent. We’ll never see a tv series in which a young black man is a victim of the culture he was raised in, and a victim of people never being able to tell him the truth about his accomplishments, and therefore he gets in a position where he fails hard. (And btw, those young men are victims of racism. Both the racist culture that convinces them that to be “authentic” they need to be anti-social, and the white racism that treats them as a mother treats a two year old child, praising his drawing as though it were Da Vinci and Michaelangelo rolled into one. I never did this to my kids and I don’t do it to anyone else, either. I believe melanin has zero to do with intelligence and I disapprove of cultural trends that set some groups up to fail.) We’ll never see Arab terrorists in TV or movie or book. You’ll see white supremacists, and splinter groups of nationalist movements that never existed. You’ll never see Marxist terrorists either – most of the people in power feel kinship with communism and think this time we can do it right – instead you’ll see – again – Nazis, which in this version are NEVER socialists.
There is a problem with that.
I’ve said before I’m not an artist. To be honest I don’t know if I am or not. I don’t even seem to plan/approach my writing like anyone else I know. The books tend to more or less overmaster me and force me to write them. I use craft to make them saleable. The craft is what I control so I call myself a craftswoman.
But I am at least at the edges of artistic creation. So let me tell you the problem from this side, when the gatekeepers (and no, I’m not ignoring they are on the way out – but trust me, we’re on the very beginning of THAT revolution.)
The problem is that when you establish no-go areas in your own mind, areas you see around you every day (no? Are the lines in security in response to Basque nationalist terrorists?) your mind has to find other ways to express itself.
One of the things that seems to happen is that art becomes mannered, repetitive, and the expression of a world that doesn’t exist. See the French plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Not allowed to talk about anything real, they had these mannered, formulaic plays in which messengers brought you word of anything too shocking to be seen on stage. (I was highly amused by finding as a runner for truly being Shakespeare Antonio Jose da Silva, the Jew, who was supposed to have faked his death and gone on to become William Shakespeare. Let alone this would require a time machine, we studied da Silva’s plays in school. They were very good of their kind, but definitely in the French school.)
We have that to an extent. I mean, when is the last time you opened a fantasy book from a big publisher and found something truly shocking or new, or even a violation of a minor politically correct piety that is not and has never been true? Perhaps I don’t read enough, but part of the reason I don’t, is the tendency of modern fantasy to put me to sleep, so that I ended up restricted to Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones.
Then there is the reverse side of this because our culture has enshrined the idea that “speaking truth to power” is a duty of the artist… Except the artist can’t, because well, most people QUITE FRANKLY are not the stuff gadflies and revolutionaries are made of. (And thank heavens for that. My son did a whole skit on the subject of a pre-historic tribe composed of people like me, and how short a survival time it would have. “We need to go hunt mammoth, we are starving. You, come hunt mammoth.” “No. Don’t feel like it. Will learn to weave baskets.” Or “You can’t eat purple berry, it kills you.” “Oh, yeah, you and whose army? I’ll eat purple berry if I want toggggggggggahhhhhhhh.”)
So we have, of course, the endless tourettes like violation of taboos that haven’t been that for at least sixty years: in your face sex and violence, which are supposed to shock… the proper people of the fifties.
When that fails, we get the other side of it – the violation of taboos that aren’t taboos because no one in their right mind would do this. Hence, girls making out with sea lions. (I mean, classical myth records bulls and – weirdly – swans, but sea lions? Have you ever smelled the things? EW.) And ice-cream men eating themselves.
And if you’re saying “But that doesn’t happen in entertainment” I direct you to the movie Crash – the first one, in which people get turned on by being in car crashes and having hideous injuries. It was supposed to symbolize something or other, but mostly it was the glorification of a sexual fetish no one had. (Though they might now, I mean, you know, once you mention it.)
Because that’s shocking (mostly because people will sit there saying “how can you think that’s hot? She looks like an industrial clothes rack) and speaking truth to power (we’re free to be as kinky as we wanna be, so there.)
Also, there was this mystery series I fell prey to (it happens every ten years or so) medium. I liked medium because the way she assembled clues is often how I put books together. Not really, but sort of. And because, of course, she did something other people would think crazy. And then – I think it was the fifty season – it went nuts. The “normal” reasons for murder were no longer enough. You had odd fetishes and “he just went insane” and went insane in a bizarrely convoluted manner that led to killing children and packaging them like dolls. That’s the episode where I stopped watching. My husband watched on a little longer and said it became like a cross between its old self and Criminal Minds. I guess the ratings were falling and because the series could not – gatekeepers – reflect reality, it went further and further away from reality in a shocking and bizarre way.
Part of me is vaguely amused by those commercials and wonders how far things will go before the corrective of indie comes in. Also, how fast indie will act.
I think the establishment is engaged in preference falsification and we’re do for a preference cascade. Things like Fifty Shades of Grey – don’t scream – are signs of it, as is, to an extent, Twilight. Both hark to older romances/erotica in which women were allowed to be submissive. Most women, by nature, seem to want to be overmastered (I say seem because I never felt the need myself – but then I’m odd.) However, entertainment has refused for years to give them what they want. As traditionally published romances employed more and more feminized heroes, there was nothing for these women (though many were devotees of old stuff.) Hence, these break through best sellers with FFOG now outselling Harry Potter. (Haven’t read it, don’t intend to. The only stronger turn off for me than BD or SM is submissive females. Don’t misunderstand me, I like strong male love interests. As strong as the woman. I just believe in marriages of equals – See Kit and Athena.)
So, even though indie is in its infancy, we should be engaging in another Human Wave activity: writing books that are not afraid to kick sacred cows – real ones – on their fat sides. I think there’s a public waiting for them.
Now stop staring at the woman making out with a sea lion to advertise skittles and go read and write. We’re going to turn the world upside down.
Long May It Wave.