Paradise of Storm

Category: Uncategorized

Mid90s is the Beginning and Ending of Our Lives

C-MID90s-Facebook

by Guy Walker

Growing up in Los Angeles in the mid nineties was supposed to be a time of perspiring boredom. There was no Great War to protest against, no major cultural upheaval, no new mind-expanding drugs to try. There was just the day-to-day unfolding monotony of being a kid, wading through the creamy smog the way grandmothers swim, swinging lunch pails, conceding that yo-yos and Pokémon were scenes of glamour and social footing.

Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s, observes so much more than the fragmented trademarks of growing up in this strange and passionless orgy—the standardized confusion of slang, the Teenage Ninja Turtles ubiquity, the stapled fortresses bunched together into a barren and broken purlieu. Most representations of the nineties serve more like they were accruements of nostalgia organized neatly on the fireplace mantle. And within the context of skateboarding (as well as surfing and snowboarding), Hollywood has never achieved anything worthwhile. For the most part, these types of films have come across as one blurred and contrived iteration of Dazed and Confused, which in itself was feigned nostalgia.

What makes Mid90s the delicate masterpiece that it is, is our own obsession with authenticity. We’ll scour endless hours of interview footage and Twitter feeds to find a person’s single public stumble, and confidently write them off as a counterfeit icon. Jonah Hill rightly stated that a single Kowabunga! in a film that’s really only peripherally about skateboarding would disembowel the whole work, lump it along with the rest of the ridiculous genre.

But there’s none of this caricaturized glee. Thirteen-year-old Stevie, played by Sunny Suljic, comes from a moderately broken home—with a single mother, and an older brother who beats on him, he turns to a new group of friends. He stops watching movies with his mom; he starts smoking cigarettes, and drinking forties in the bathroom in order to catch up with the older kids; he’s deflowered in a sense, vaunting his success of fingering a girl for the first time. But Mid90s is a return to innocence. The resounding meliorism in Hill’s picture is finding family outside one’s own, in the ramshackled guardians who roam around like us, searching for some invocation of purpose. It seems negligible at times to try to pontificate on why a film is so successful in its delivery, in how it was molded over four years into its nice 84-minute package of what it means to grow up in a broken home. And maybe this was unintended. Director Paul Thomas Anderson said it was only well after he completed Boogie Nights did he realize it was about family—about finding it in the most unexpected places.

The return to innocence is what drives so much of the American adult narrative. It’s why so many of us have children, so we can vicariously relive life’s gleaming optimism through our children’s eyes. The innocence is summarized neatly in a scene when Fuckshit, a rhapsodic long-haired skater a few years older than Stevie, played by Olan Prenatt, explains to a genuinely engrossed homeless man about why they skateboard all day: “[It’s] why we ride a piece of wood—like, what that does to somebody’s spirit.” If an adult uttered those words, we could aptly scoff at their own self-indulgence; but the unprompted candidness of the young is what makes it good and true. That same scene was inspired by a moment just before the end credits in Plan B’s 1993 skate video, Virtual Reality, when one of the skaters sings along to Here Comes The Sun with a homeless man playing on his guitar. There was no mockery, no escaped abuse; just a moment of genuine kinship for the streets.

Because the treatment of the homeless and of skaters at the time were similar. Especially a young black man like Na-kel Smith who plays Ray, the oldest and most talented of the group, who occasionally nudges Stevie in a direction that an older brother or father should. He offers gentle encouragements that could only have been learned from his own time living and falling.

Mid90s has been compared much with the 1995 classic, Kids, for the obvious superficial similarities. Kids is about a day in the life of a group of New York City teenagers, their experimentation with dirty words, their required exaggerations of those novel sexual exploits, when every kiss and touch of a nipple felt like Rocky Balboa’s celebration at the top of the stairs. But as accurate as the youth’s depiction in Kids may have been, it was the product of generational cynicism, a sort of updated Reefer Madness that terrified parents on every friendless cul-de-sac than it did inspire more of an introspective art form. The similarities are there: Telly, the main teenage stalwart of awkwardness, intones to his friend about virgins. “I love ‘em. No diseases, no loose as a goose pussy, no skank. No nothin. Just pure pleasure.” It’s two excruciating hours of this. Watching it today, you don’t cringe for him and his clumsy gloating, but for yourself. We remember when this was the way it was—a collective effort of mentally inscribing the most irreverent displays from our older brothers and drunk uncles and coming to school each day as if to share our dirtiest vocal capabilities, gluing “pussy” with “cocksucker” with “your mom” like they were loose interchangeable Scrabble pieces. There’s a moment in Mid90s when Stevie first steps foot in the Motor Avenue skate shop, where he glimpses from behind a t-shirt rack at the private dialogue of his soon-to-be friends. They debate if they’d rather suck their dad’s dick or eat their mom out. Life or death. It’s as accurate of a moment as ever could be. Lunch hour was an endless joust of hypotheticals: would you rather break both legs or let your sister shit in your mouth. Debates that could run on for hours, fissuring our unrealized ideological confines. But there was always the bleary self-awareness that the whole thing was in jest, that life itself is just some strange ephemeral quip, fueled by waggery and drunkenness. Mid90s captured that integral lightheartedness within its dialogue that Kids didn’t.

Because at that age you’re still learning to form words, trying to croak out some meaning from your smutty orifice. As if there’s a vague awareness that we’ve only recently been weened off the teet, and our mouth is now told to perform, to interact casually and senselessly like normal adults do. Before you become a caricature of yourself, miming the sayings of pristine lawnmower American suburbia, drinking a light beer at your buddy’s bar-b-que, saying things like, “just nod your head and say she’s right,” as you all laugh together like you’ve never heard that witticism before. Mid90s is also the last hurrah of innocence before we start acting out these manufactured identities.

At its core, Mid90s is far more related to Hoop Dreams, the nearly three hour documentary that follows two inner-city Chicago teenagers, and their quest to make it into the NBA. Both films have a similar dialectic between chasing some endless victory lap of a debonair adolescence, sinking deeper into the impishness of being young and drunk forever, and pursuing the original dream of doing what you love professionally. In Hill’s film, Ray and Fuckshit begin as best friends, both with exceptional talent, who gradually drift apart amid their differing interests: Ray pursuing skating as a real, tangible career, and Fuckshit just getting more and more fucked up. This same wrestling of temptations underlies Hoop Dreams—it underlies our daily life. Every momentary lull gnawing with the beckoning of sabotage: am I going to drink more chamomile tea and finish this article, or overdose on ghb with my overweight landlord?

I was never much of a skateboarder, but I’ve surfed most of my life. And walking down the steps to the beach parking lot, there’s always the expected coven of old men, softly shuffling around the dusty blasphemous edge of the world with their shirts off, their dark brown beer-tits mummified forever by the sun, the scaled wrinkles folded over themselves. They still wear flip flops. They still ask me for pot. They still even surf on occasion. But most of all, they stand around like human seagulls, scavenging for the last morsels of cool, talking about their hippest days. It’s why a coming of age story with skateboarding serving as the glaring interest that the plot swirls around is so apt—we know this too will change, that our beloved maple-eyed protagonist lays in his hospital bed at the end of the film with two families that love him, with a myriad directions forward.

The skate documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys showed it without categorically declaring it so: the archived footage was of the Z-Boys as handsome sun-tendrilled kids; but their present day interviews were noticeably different. Stacey Peralta became a famous and respectable filmmaker, while Jay Adams slogged in and out of prison serving drug-related sentences, eventually dying at age 53. The blithe enviability of blond-haired grommets sneaking into backyard pools to skateboard disappears with old age.

Mid90s ends soon after the thwarting romance has fallen apart. These decisions are just beginning to be considered, when the audiences’ own desires for self-correction anticipates for a more comprehensive last verdict. It ends when it needs to end, before the rush of school shootings, before one or more of the friends gets addicted to meth, before the shuttering jolt into the next millennium and all its grotesque calamity. Jonah Hill lets us remember the last redeemable decade as it was, before the lights went out on us for good.

Advertisements

The Transcendence of Hillary Clinton

god-of-the-sun
by Guy Walker

Everyone was busy watching Kavanaugh. His embalmed hairless face flickering against the light, his slippery greased-up coating penetrating against his accuser, like the slime on a newt or a poisonous mushroom, like he just emerged from a bathtub of K-Y jelly, his tits cold and heavy. His lips were pulled back in a menacing snarl, so as to show off his calcium-fortified teeth, and the type of predation only his kind can achieve. The country couldn’t take their collective eyes off him, nor his pitiful fraternal greed for beer or pussy or god.

What the country missed was something even more agonizing—if that is even possible. Hillary Clinton cameoed on CBS’s revival of Murphy Brown, episode one titled blandly, “Fake News”. It was only a couple of minutes, but there she was, flouting her petrified glee across our television screens once again, this squeamish reminder that she is alive somewhere, breathing, plotting to solidify her entitlement once again. Her appearance went like this: she entered the news offices of Murphy Brown, applying for a secretarial job. The balmy drollery ensued—jokes about her secretarial qualifications, her experience with email, her awesome resemblance to the presidential candidate of 2016. After all, Clinton informs, she’s not the famous Hillary Clinton. No, she spells her first name with one “l”. She then hands Brown her business card, who then reads her email address aloud: Hilary@youcouldahadme.com.

We coulda had her. What happened. She knows her name is forever ruined, but she doesn’t know why.

A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology in 1948, written by two Harvard professors, looked at 3,320 recent male graduates, and the effect their given names had on their academic performance. Those with more unusual names—say, Kipling, Bexley, Severus—were more likely to develop psychological neurosis or drop out of school. Alternately, those named John, Robert, William, had less to worry about. With this in mind, it’s important to note that Hilary isn’t a name. It’s a grotesque fragmentation of another name she ruined. As much as she wants to, she can’t change her name or identity. Her carnivorous Clintonian smile, gleaming for war, cackling for mass incarceration of blacks, advocating for further deregulation of banks. Knocking off an “l” only deepens the cannibalistic void of the insane.

Her continued pandering condescension eats away at daily posture of normal citizens. In her memoir, What Happened, immediately proceeding her failed campaign, she repeated this same smutty denialism, casting much of the blame on Bernie Sanders for not conceding quickly enough during the primaries, while at the same time echoing the same soft and heartless quips of personableness: “I have a weakness for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers and was delighted to find out that 55 goldfish were only 150 calories—not bad!” You can hear the strategists whispering these suggestions over her shoulder: “Be relatable. Goldfish are awesome!” Like in her Twitter bio that mentions she’s a “hair icon” and used to include “pantsuit aficionado.” The predictably contrived self-flattery combusts under its own exploding nausea. Every presidential debate requires candidates to talk about their working-class parents, their first job, their overall croaking sympathy for humankind. Soon enough, candidates will discuss their favorite searches on Pornhub, their most overused emojis, their self-immolating tendencies and Netflix binges to make it through another day.

“Pay close attention to what the kids are into these days,” is the general theme of every political strategy—an overburdened hipness, degrading into the rubble of illiteracy. “One of the wettest we’ve ever seen, from the standpoint of water,” is finally more literate than every time Hillary Clinton repeated Michelle Obama’s “when they go low, we go high” moment. Every time Trump opens his mouth and lashes words together, they are the utterances of a vile and gelded ringmaster, his lips squeezing and pulsing like a collapsed sphincter. But at least everyone knows this, himself included. Hillary Clinton is different. She’s more similar to Mark Zuckerberg, a misshapen automaton who drinks water only to make us believe she drinks water, or to cool the firing electrodes behind the scanning glass eyeballs.

In emails released by Wikileaks, we know the Clinton campaign deliberately elevated Donald Trump’s chances of winning the Republican primaries, under the self-described “pied piper” strategy. In an email to the Democratic National Committee, their stated number one goal was to “Force all Republican candidates to lock themselves into extreme conservative positions that will hurt them in a general election.” And here we are, locked in a Gumby hellworld, with no way out.

Kavanaugh is clearly guilty, but if he had even a modicum of self-respect, he would just say Fuck all y’all, I don’t want the job anymore, and quietly slumber off and melt into a puddle of milky phlegm. Hillary Clinton should have done the same. She’s the Gwyneth Paltrow of politics—one of the most collectively despised individuals who refuses to accept this. So instead, she started Onward Together, another ineffective establishment Democratic project that aims to “encourage people to organize, get involved, and run for office.” She cameos in sitcoms. She declares, with cold brutality, that she’s now part of the resistance.

The horror.

The resistance. Like the anonymous White House insider who penned the New York Times op-ed about what a scoundrel Donald Trump is, and that he or she, along with many on the inside, are also part of the resistance, trying to maintain some order for refined elites.

Perhaps it was displayed best at John McCain’s funeral. The florid nostalgia of war criminals and war hawks coming together, interacting with such decorum, people liked to emphasize. Isn’t it nice, their decency, reaching across aisles? The public seemed especially swooned when George Bush handed Michelle Obama a candy. They cheered when he put his underwear on over his pants, and somehow jammed the wooden triangle block through the square hole. They threw their arms in the sky and cried with paralyzing beauty when he showed them a painting of a doggy he finished. “His ears were floppy!” he grinned. “Floppy doggy!”

Perhaps the Iraq war cost trillions of dollars, and perhaps it cost half a million Iraqi lives, and perhaps Bush was a fool at times; but at least he maintained the standard vernacular of English-speaking adults, most of the time. Hillary Clinton is the same: maybe she’s a closeted racist, maybe she didn’t support same-sex marriage until the public pressure of 2013, maybe she’s a war hawk who would only escalate military operations overseas. But at least she can poke fun of herself. And that pantsuit, it’s to die for!

When Steve Bannon most recently appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher, he predicted the next Democratic presidential candidate wouldn’t come from the establishment political arena. It will be someone like Oprah or Michael Avenatti, he said, someone who’s already a celebrity, someone with a more accessible personality than the dull bromidic fuckery of previous candidates. Because Donald Trump didn’t kill politics; Hillary Clinton did. She operates in an overly calculated impossibility, a self-scripted world, in an age when too many people can see through the drawn velveteen curtains into the self-hatred and paranoiac suppression of what is referred to as decorum and decency. Because we know Hillary Clinton hates all of her supporters their rice milk enthusiasm, their genuine concern for equal opportunity, their care for other humans. We know she only sees her thronging evangelists as a gross and infected puddle of sperm, a necessary collective sin she must entertain in order to advance her way to true power, where finally, after all these painful and patient years she can stand at the cliff’s edge of a flattened world and declare herself god.

But it’s over. It’s all too late for these pallid attempts of revival. There won’t be another generation of her type, of the Wolf Blitzers reciting testaments like drowning holograms. Only the dead and dying watch Murphy Brown, like only the dead and dying watched Rosanne. The illuminated overhead signs directing our laughter and applause; the warm-up comedian massaging the festering wits of the audience. No, instead of cameos on Murphy Brown, two thousand reality stars will be outcompeting one another for the next viral video, vying for the presidency, a sudden explosion of VR Snapchat confessionals that exclaim what flavor of goldfish is their favorite. Standing in front of a rented Lamborghini, a generation of Iggy Azaleas will say, “It’s three in morn, and I’ll be dir to git dat fone biiitch!!!”

And then we will cheer.

Jordan Peterson and the Last 12 Commandments

maxresdefault

by Guy Walker

In the end, Jordan Peterson tore his own flesh off until he was just a sobbing human scab, warning the world of a postmodernist nightmare in which everyone had shitty posture and didn’t pet the neighborhood cats.

Nobody knows what Jordan Peterson wants. His sad enthusiasm for pedantry seems to be all that he’s capable of—his strange and gruesome moanings are like that of a schizophrenic homeless man screaming endlessly about the color of the paint used in an alleyway. “It’s not scarlet!! It’s a deep vermillion!!!” It’s just this that makes him seem so useful—he is so tirelessly eager to talk about mysticism and Bible stories and peoples’ preferred pronouns, that some people actually pay attention for a while, more just to see if the Toronto-based professor will collapse in a self-made reservoir of tears, or if he’ll explain a pumpkin’s sexual proclivities. He tours from under the gleaming shamble of academic superstardom, as mobs of college-age males gather to see him speak; his mighty edifice of reason and purpose—the very reason his name erupted into the mainstream—is his refusal to ever mention non-binary pronouns, things like ‘zim’ and ’zir’ instead of ‘him’ and ‘her.’ And a storm of grotesque and frolicsome self-flagellation ensued, everyone protesting everyone else

But it’s his recently published book that has finally blueprinted a path of self-help for intelligent people, not the parading outrageous eulogies and feel-good confidence that everyone else corrals around. The Tony Robbins types. The sociopathic calmness of Wayne Dyer. The fanatical grandfather approach of Zig Ziglar. Peterson’s book is 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Its initial burst sold well, perhaps enough to ignite its own cultural revolution, a steaming courtship of suited-up bros hustling to get laid like real men, their pomaded hair-dos gone solid with bacon grease, their long noodle fingers reaching out like a Tim Burton animation figure, reaching for anything, reaching to pet every cat they can get their hands on (Rule #12), reaching to cover their mouths so they don’t bother children skateboarding (Rule #11), reaching to clean their room (Rule #6).

Cleaning your room is a contrarian dangerous act—this is actually what Peterson argues—because it’s going to upset your other filthy plebeian family members. They will resent your aristocratic order, resist against your clean dishes because clean dishes are shiny ornaments defying the laws of decay—the universe is a driving rod spiraling out of control, with supernovas of dirty bed linens and used condoms exploding with entropic infinity.  Entropy says that dogs’ natural state is defecating on the street, cracks in the asphalt burst into forests. It says every window eventually smashes into a million little pieces, instead of the other way around—instead of the sandy beaches magically forming themselves into polished rectangles. It can take years of labor and a lifetime of money to build yourself a house, but only minutes to destroy it in a fire. The fetid extravagance and overall weariness of the world would swell into mountains of feces summiting over the roofs of houses, and canopies of morning glories would suffocate the tallest buildings; the extraordinary granite faces of El Capitan will turn to helpless farts of dust taken away by the winds. Cleaning your room is the great defiant act for young white men in the early twenty-first century; it’s the ostended philosopher’s cry that has made all too real Nietzche’s Will to Power. The compounding evolution of history’s great thinkers and influencers have climaxed with the enunciation of Rule #1. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, and the rest follows.

Jordan Peterson is only trying to make this world more orderly. When he comes, clasping the metal bathroom handle with his delicate bone-peaked fingers, he screams something indecipherable about Carl Jung being a god. He doesn’t ejaculate across the backside of the upturned toilet seat; rather, he floods himself into a funnel, which diverts everything neatly into a mason jar—a clean organized system of Monday to Sunday bathroom vessels, stacking them in chronological order, and shipping them down the Euphrates. On weekends, he heads to the desert with a broom and goats pulling a cart of human chattel, sweeping the dirt into perfectly symmetrical cone piles, instructing his men to organize the granules from smallest to largest, and from shade to hue. He goose steps loudly into toy stores in the middle of the day and constructs all the puzzles in the most brazen defiant manner, afterwards laying the cardboard sceneries out side-by-side. “Get your store in order, Bucko,” he croaks, leaving with a few more greased-up men than before, the kind who see Patrick Bateman in American Psycho as a heartrending icon, a misunderstood hero of sorts.

Always tell the truth; or, at least, never tell a lie. Rule number whatever. It doesn’t matter anymore. Jordan Peterson has triumphantly binded the most sordid avenues in plastic wrap, the animality and bivouacs of sweat are now sterilized packages of saltine crackers. People line the glistening streets, waving a million kekistani flags, tossing handfuls of rice at the sun, asking Peterson what he will do next, now that his cheese-guzzling victory for meagerness has spread everywhere, now that skateboarders can do synchronized kick flips, now that the once terraqueous throes of the outdoors have been turned into a cathedral of cruel lividity. There’s nothing interesting anymore. The whores have become Youtube personalities, doing makeup tutorials to become Pepe the Frog. The jazz players are teaching basic chords to three-year-olds, vowing no further refittings of their once popular improvisations. The beggars and schizophrenics have bundled their pubes into charity hair depositories; they wear three-piece suits, and host Bible study groups. Everyone quit school, and just watches Jordan Peterson videos on the Internet, because “education is so easy now.”

It’s very clear where this is all headed. Jordan Peterson has corralled an army, men of coruscating morality have strapped themselves to two-by-fours to keep their backs straight. They are forever panicked about the spread of postmodernism, unclear of what it actually is, occasionally sobbing into brutal fits and extended months of anorexia. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn—author of The Gulag Archipelago—is the only other author they know, and they repeat the name over and over, like men with a single and severe mention in their turrets. The intellectual Mount Everest has finally been summited by a pristine masculinity, a polished thousand-foot cock standing perfectly straight in the storm of diversity. Jordan Peterson stands atop of the violet shiny bald head, his stance spread wide, the brittle gusts of wind billowing his long coattails, the crooked pulsing veins zig-zagging down like bolts of lightning, and the final and extraordinary explosion of cum rocketing Jordan Peterson to the stars.


Donate Button

To Scoff at Tragedy

School-Shooting-Florida-5

by Guy Walker

In reaction to the recent news that Florida lawmakers voted down a bill to ban assault weapons, a photograph surfaced of the students from Parkland, Fla. who were visibly distraught. This prompted Dinesh D’Souza to tweet, “Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs.” Uhh…wut. The seething mockery of working at Hot Dog on a Stick, as you shovel masses of breaded hotdogs into the general public body while wearing the costume of a circus villain is indeed a degrading feature of adolescence. It’s the creeping realization that the days of building forts and selling lemonade merely for your own amusement are over. You now have to participate in this real-world lampoon of wearing shitty uniforms, shuffling through the ashen tedium of making some higher, remote entity its money—you walk hand-in-hand into this required indentured servitude for the rest of your life. It is indeed bad. But is it as bad as the sudden but predictable gasp of realizing your dead peers are now just collateral damage? D’Souza’s pandering disregard for the permanent trauma many of the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School now face, isn’t unusual in any respect. The same Florida lawmakers who voted not even to consider a bill banning assault rifles and high capacity magazines did vote about pornography, successfully declaring it a “public health risk.”

Perhaps it does no good in stating the obvious here, that many of these teenagers just saw their friends and classmates killed, and then conservative’s favorite convicted felon taunts them for their visible frustration at the enduring political inaction. “Adults 1, kids 0,” D’Souzsa quipped ever-so-cleverly.

Trump Jr. favorited tweets that alleged shooting survivor, David Hogg, was given talking points by his father, a former FBI agent.

Ben Shapiro, the impish chud-hero of a young reborn conservatism, repeated generally this same sentiment in the National Review, in which he asked only the truly brave questions: “Are teenagers fully autonomous decision-makers, or are they lumps of mental clay, still being molded by unfolding brain development?” And, “What, pray tell, did these students do to earn their claim to expertise?” For starters, “pray tell” is one of those idioms so profanely archaic that it’s only used sarcastically today. It is a desperately inane use of language. Furthermore, his skepticism of the validity of victims’ opinions on the matter of gun control is symptomatic of the political nihilism currently haunting the right. What Shapiro is asking is, Do they really think they have the right to protest against assault weapons after being shot with one? It says, Fuck you! Wipe the blood off your face, and sit back down at your desk! He doesn’t offer a proposition of autonomy, when the transition into adulthood actually occurs and they are allowed to have thoughts about this sort of thing. On Twitter, he iterated simply that “experiencing horror doesn’t confer expertise.” Perhaps the surviving five-and-six-year-old victims of the Sandy Hook shooting were too young to articulately voice their thoughts on the matter; but the age requirement is irrelevant due to its self-exemplification—if you are capable of articulating thoughts on gun legislation, then you are indeed old enough.

According to Bill O’Reilly, this is not the case. The former conservative powerhouse emerged from his squalor and suppressed perversion, his private glamor as the King of Kink, to question if the media should really interview teenagers who are “in an extreme emotional state.” After normal mass shootings—the ones with adults—the usual retort is that it’s “too soon” to talk about gun legislation, that we should respect and mourn the lives of the victims first. When kids are involved, they’re too young. It’s the equivalent of arguing a rape victim is too hysterical to advocate for more efficient processing of rape kits. Besides which, Donald Trump hosted the survivors of the Parkland shooting for a listening session. He did this, we imagine, under the presumption that the students’ suggestions would be lucid and sane, not the possessed dramaturgy that O’Reilly nodded at.

What if Shapiro and O’Reilly are right though? What if they are too young, too emotional? Maybe the saints of death have a point, and the kids should go back to playing nonviolent video games and Snapchatting gifs of Michael Jackson eating popcorn. Should we be helping the youth, encouraging them to be the future leaders they will inevitably become? Or pat them on the head, and tell them to settle down? In April 2016, when O’Reilly was interviewing then-candidate Trump about how he was going to employ black youths, because, as O’Reilly put it, “many of them are ill-educated and have tattoos on their forehead,” he was making clear his position on the matter: What should we rich white men do with the poor illiterate black boy. It’s a slavemaster’s quip, a passive aggressive allusion in favor of apartheid; O’Reilly sees himself as a benevolent inquisitor, a King Solomon of reason who has dealt equality to the masses through his own shrewd totality.

We already knew Trump’s answer. The private prison industry donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to his campaign and then inauguration. A leaked memo from the Bureau of Prisons indicates Trump has already approved the transfer of inmates from federally-run facilities to private contract facilities. Lock ‘em up.

The real problem for the many conservatives who are scoffing with dread at the sight of teenagers demanding change is these kids are white. They never gave Black Lives Matter the attention they deserved because they knew they’d never win over the black vote anyways. These uppity Parkland kids on the other hand will very soon be voting, and much of the conservative establishment is up in arms over because they don’t want to scare them off for good. After all, it’s a new generational crop to fight our wars.

To Shapiro’s point about them being lumps of mental clay, it’s just this—many, if not most of them, are nearing that ripe mirthful age for war. Many high schools host recruitment tents at lunch hour, where some member of some branch of the military solicits them to mime some deadly spasm under the guise of honor, duty, bravery, patriotism. So guns is very much relevant to their conversation. One of the NRA’s most clamorous plague-spluttering advocates, Ted Nugent, dodged the Vietnam draft when he was 18 years old by shitting in his pants for a week—this is true, look it up—and vomiting all over himself. At the thought of war, he literally shat himself; and yet, these Parkland kids are surely too emotional.

There’s no point in predicting anything. If the school walkouts, the protests, the marches, and the entailing media coverage around these actions do in fact strike a nerve with lawmakers, and succeed in passing even the feeblest beginnings of real gun legislation—or in the very least galvanize a democratic effort—it will humanize politics at least for the moment. This seems unlikely. What seems more likely is that the ruckus will peter out, Trump will go back to golfing and tweeting, Democrats will hope Mueller tears everything down, and more kids will get killed. Wash, rinse, repeat.

There’s no telling what will happen; but there are still things you can say with certainty. Silencing the children most affected by gun violence in schools is not going to foster a golden age of reasoning. If other measures are taken instead, such as ratcheting up security measure on school campuses, teenagers won’t come bouncing home from school, telling their parents resplendent tales of how the TSA-like security operations nurtured an affectionate learning environment. The ever-expanding prison conditions of our academic institutions won’t grant the international appeal they once had. The $30 million that the NRA poured into electing Donald Trump doesn’t soothe concerns that he won’t do shit. In the meantime, the teenagers are the only ones making sense.


Donate Button

15:17 to Paris and the Banality of Valor

zFT867s

by Guy Walker

Spencer Stone wasn’t supposed to be good at anything. He was deficient in his academics, overwhelmed with sloth, obese as a child, consumed with his love for toy guns and camo. In other words, a great American in the making. He eventually joined the Air Force where he was deferential and persevering, but kept failing in the most menial tasks assigned. But then on August 21, 2015, Stone proved what he was capable of when he helped thwart a potentially bloody massacre on a Paris-bound train.

He was with with his lifelong best friends Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, traveling through Europe together, unknowingly boarding the same train car that Moroccan-born Ayoub El Khazzani was readying an attack. He armed himself in the bathroom with an assault rifle and three-hundred rounds of ammunition, a pistol, a box cutter, and no shirt, like a self-hating Rambo pantomimist, the sweaty discharge of nerves dripping from his tits. When he emerged from the toilet with gun in hands, he was immediately met with the struggle and force from another passenger, American-born Frenchman, Mark Moogalian. After much hassle, in what looked like a deadly version of musical chairs with the disheveled handing-off of guns, Moogalian was shot in the neck with the pistol, and Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos seized the weapons from Khazzani, beat his face in with the butt of the rifle, and tied him up. They nursed Moogalian’s severe neck wound until the train stopped, and French police and doctors boarded, and all order was restored.

Clint Eastwood’s new movie, The 15:17 to Paris, centers around these suspenseful moments, contextualizing the episode with a strange selection of biographical accuracy. It’s been widely reviewed as a bold, yet mostly failed experiment. By casting the real heroes as the actors, their stultifying charisma is not equatable to bad acting—necessarily, the acting can’t be bad. Criticism of their performance is instead criticism of them as self-conscious young men—a hollow pointless objection that simply says they didn’t entertain the way a real hero would. These complaints are, of course, wrong. Eastwood’s experiment is neo-Stanislavskian idealism, a higher methodology of never breaking character, a newfound commitment towards death. Our heroes will never be in another movie not because they are loathsome as actors, but because they will never be able to prepare for another role.

So, why was the movie so unbearable?

Eastwood has long made clear his political leanings. His queer imbecilic performance at the 2012 Republican National Convention, in which he delivered a stumbling hallucinatory interrogation of Barack Obama sitting in a chair, made everything he did in the future a political act. The 15:17 to Paris wasn’t just shameless military propaganda, or an advocacy of mass distribution of guns and war games for children; it was a landmark entry in the anthology of alternative facts. The single most thoughtful and literary sentence of dialogue was also its worst: my God is bigger than your statistics. It was a moment in the film when our heroes are children; they’re acting up in school, and two of the mothers are speaking privately with their sons’ teacher. She flagrantly and brashly diagnoses the children with ADD, saying they need to be medicated, subdued. The film’s commentary on the reckless haphazard medication of children could have been poignant; but Eastwood’s screenwriter, Dorothy Blyskal, instead diverts it to a gratuitous pandering to Christian conservatism. My God is bigger than your statistics is part of the defiant eulogy in Christian politics—it’s a reactionary crack that’s widely distributed in its application, saying gays are faggots, abortion is murder, war is peace, and so on, until the whole American experience is a porcelain infancy.

There’s about a twenty minutes sequence of Stone and Sadler ambling around Venice, Italy with a selfie stick, posing with the puerile occupation of “Americans in Italy.” There’s no plot here, no advancement of conflict, no foreshadowing of obstacle or goal. But in Eastwood’s obvious senility, in his dithering worship of films about strong men, in his attempt to remain modern and relevant, he inserts the selfie stick as a totem to this is what kids do these days, like a grandfather trying to stay hip with his runny-nosed grandsons: Man, this ice cream is the tits! he says, slobbering everywhere, embarrassing the world.

This has always been an illuminating hallmark of Eastwood’s. His entire career has been about re-characterizing his glory days as the elusive cowboy in the Sergio Leone films, characters that Donald Trump has purportedly idolized himself after—a trick-stopping showman who shoots from the hip and says it like it is. American Sniper was merely an episode in the gradual milk-lacquered entropy of Western heroism, the masturbatory fatigue weighing everything down with the onset of chronic blockbuster depression.

There’s a moment when our three heroes wake up together in a sunlit room after a night of dancing in some club in Amsterdam. One of them mutters the well-known adage: last night was crazy, but man, this morning I’m so hungover. The problem isn’t just that this is profanely hollow dialogue that doesn’t do anything to advance the story; rather, it unearths the more brazenly solecistic aspects of ourselves we’d prefer to edit out; it is unnervingly accurate in its portrayal of human simplicity. In truth, the vast majority of us speak the way an illiterate would write. If an invisible transcriber followed us as we went about our day, and we had to read ourselves in dialogue form each night before going to bed, most of us would shrink into the deepest folds of the sheets, cowering in the face of our brutish parody. A choked starling and her impish gasps is all we get; the rest is theater. The home-loving dramaturges that Chekhov and Arthur Miller beautified give an unrealistic advantage to their kind. Those everyday homely characters that we are supposed to relate to are too pictorial and precise in their structure. Stone, Sadler, and Skarlatos are relatable in their doughy normalcy, their artless glorification of helping others.

It’s interesting to compare the incident on the Paris-bound train with a similar, more gruesomely intimate tale of everyday heroism. On May 26th, 2017, on a train in Portland, Oregon, Jeremy Joseph Christian, an ugly mullet-loving white suprematist, was spluttering his yokel philistinism at two teenage girls, one Muslim, the other African American. Strangers in the crowded train intervened, defending the girls, two men of which ultimately sacrificing their lives, and a third man surviving with a severe stab wound to the neck. It’s heroic, but not cinematic. Dead heroes don’t inspire others. But more importantly, there is no flag worship in this type of action; the Other is the victim and not the perpetrator. The messaging in The 15:17 to Paris is clear that these are our boys. Focusing on an incident like that on the train in Portland would confuse that dialogue.

The 15:17 to Paris feels cruel and inept because it is. It never should have been made. It feels like a movie built with stock footage, the kind you see in pharmaceutical commercials with couples walking their doggie on the beach, flying a kite, mowing the lawn—the everyday tedium that we are actually programed to forget. This is all stacked around a single moment of competence, when the shooter’s gun jams, and our hero tackles him. Actually, both of his guns jam. Eastwood makes a nod at the monumental luck, when Skarlatos inspects the guns immediately after the attempted attack, and comments on their “one in a million” fortitude; but Eastwood never fully illuminates this, that the grandiosity of one man’s valor swirls chaotically in our collective farts of ephemerality.

It brings it back to when they are children—my God is bigger than your statistics. “One in a million” is prophecy along this quixotic brand of Pulp Fiction divine intervention moment—it marries Stone’s awesome bravery to run headfirst at the barrel of a loaded assault rifle with the omnipotence of God’s hand at work, ending with the victorious ejaculation of hero-worship dripping off the screen, a hundred flag-waving hard-ons watching determinedly in the theater, their dicks overflowing like lava cakes. What the film achieves in is explicating the pedestrian nature of heroism—it’s something that everyday citizens like you and I can achieve—be fat, suck at school, stop terrorists. It’s the American way.

And in a way, 15:17 to Paris transcends above all other films. The exhausting banalities of our heroes’ day-to-day are all part of the unsentimental realism of how we live our lives. We’re shitty at nearly everything that’s interesting. We go to Europe—to the safe big cities, and to the hostels in those cities—out of some last-ditch desperation for menial indulgence. The 15:17 to Paris is Westernized avant-garde, an unintended masterpiece of social criticism; it forces its viewers to plug along with the careful representation of themselves—an hour-and-a-half autobiographical biopic in which we stand in front of the mirror staring at the religion of monotony that has overcome us, the utter boredom. It’s a sobering moment, when we realize none of us actually orate like the baroque Tarantino dialogues, that the extravagant fictions of our favorite films are exactly that—fantastic, impossible, award winning in their artistry.

Finally, we can continue as normal. Because this is who we are. Heroes are everyone everywhere, shuffling across the wide open range, consuming things like mac ’n’ cheese and Coca Cola. Our cinematic gallantry always just a moment away.


Donate Button

A Year of Resistance: What Went Wrong

pussy_grabs_back-2-teaser

by Guy Walker

As Donald Trump wipes his stubby fingers clean of 2017, the pomaded residue from a year of nihilistic triumph is left like a vague stain on every surface. His first year in office will be remembered as the dumpster fire that we all had to witness, day after day. His name, his trademark sullen profile, his jelly-soaked face—it’s TRUMP in its totality, and it follows us everywhere. His daily routine has been thrown at us like it were important: he goes to his room by 6:30pm, alone; he locks the door, turns on all three televisions, the sound blaring all-Trump all-the-time like the mangled orchestra of his own ego. There’s a growing heap of Diet Coke cans and Big Mac wrappers that have gone transparent from grease drippings, there’s shredded lettuce caught in his glittered chest hair like a fly trap, bits of decade-old American cheese mummified beautifully under the folds of his tits. He rummages around for awhile, for a dried out morsel of a chocolate malted, oinking victoriously on all fours when he discovers his evening treat.

But in part because of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, we know he didn’t want any of this. Hillary Clinton and her whole campaign staff and donors have to live with the grim reality that not only did they lose to a reality TV star who boasted about sexual assault and was endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, but also that he undisputably tried to lose. According to Wolff’s book, Roger Ailes and Donald Trump were floating rumors of a new media empire—a Trump TV of sorts—following their triumphant loss to Clinton. It would have been built on the progression of mania, the paranoia and delusion so severe it would have made Alex Jones seem as drab and dim-witted as Wolf Blitzer reading off a grocery list.

Even with the cartoonish hellscape that has propogated under him, Trump’s presidency is the best thing that could have happened. If Ted Cruz had won, he would have led like a greased-up lord of squalor, pushing the same oppressive policy as Trump but without any of his brazen ineptitude. If Clinton won, the stampede of reactionaries would have been successfully gruesome in their protest, marching with tiki torches in support of their illiterate ghoul-hero. Congress and the Senate would have gridlocked every dithering attempt of hers to spread her tepid liberalism further. Her closeted racism would have remained mostly unscathed. The alt-right may have become more emboldened because of a Trump presidency, but the conspiratorial charade that would have entirely engulfed a Clinton presidency would have given them the momentum they really need and crave.

They won a contest they never wanted to win. The Bannons and Millers and Trumps of the world function best in their spluttering hostility from the sidelines. Their message is perversely apt only when they are the fringe extremists, squealing like lost pigs in a storm. Resistance under the guise of patriotism worked, but it worked too well. Now they’re in charge, and liberals are in the position the klansmen much preferred, clawing their way towards some respectability. The Democratic Party especially has postured itself as the party of resistance. Resistance was the main theme of 2017, but it resulted in little more than a hashtag.

The problem is in large part due to the fact that the political left has no understanding how to resist effectively. The day after Trump’s inauguration marked the beginning of an era of voyeuristic pusillanimousness—a pacified resistance movement that’s overly pleased with itself. The Women’s March didn’t have a single arrest. In what was deemed “likely the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history,” by The Washington Post, with an estimated 4 million attendees at demonstrations across the country, and not cause for a single arrest, the #Resistance movement was off to its start of withering fruitlessness. It was self-pacified, concerned not with halting the fascistic menology of a Trump administration, but posing with your other nasty gals for another hit Instagram post. It was, after all, a day of fashion. Were the pink pussy-eared hats part of a feminist hallmark, something of a suffragette anatomical allusion, or were they just a response to Donald Trump’s red hats? If the presidency was won with a cheap red hat, then surely it could be taken away with a pink one. One almost expected the alt-right to respond with exaggerated scrotums sagging from side to side on their heads, chanting Balls Are Beautiful! as they summited a hill for everyone to see.

As the year dragged on however, the left did demonstrate that they can indeed incite outrage. When the conservative provocateur, Milo Yiannopolous, came to speak at UC Berkeley, antifa erupted in protest by smashing storefront windows and setting cars ablaze. When conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro came to the same campus, he required $600,000 worth of security. When professor Bret Weinstein of Evergreen State College issued his disagreement when white students were encouraged not to attend campus as part of Day of Presence/Day of Absence, students deemed him a racist, and responded by patrolling the campus with baseball bats. It was as if all the pent up rage had spurted out in the most self-immolating ways, the ineffectiveness of it all making a mockery of their cause.

When did resistance become so petulant? It drives a Prius with a #HillYes bumpersticker fourteen months after the election; it eats mud and then proceeds to brag about it. The Democratic Party confirmed they only want to lose when they elected Tom Perez as chairman of the DNC, completing the powerhouse trilogy of dying turkey-gizzard aristocrats with Pelosi and Schumer.

It wasn’t always this way. In Henry Kissinger’s first volume of memoirs, White House Years, he recounts a Richard Nixon who was terrified that Vietnam War protestors were going to summit over the barricades of empty city buses surrounding the White House gates. In a PBS News Hour interview, The Presidency of Richard Nixon author, Melvin Small, put it this way:

“Henry Kissinger said Washington and the White House were besieged. There were district buses lined up around the White House for who knows what. The 82ndAirborne was in the basement of the Executive Office Building across the street.”

The tyrants were cowering. They feared the people enough to admit it even decades later. The Nixon administration was perhaps the last in which the peoples’ contempt made a lasting impression. When George W. Bush was asked what he thought about the Iraq War protests, he said he welcomed them, because they were expressions of democracy, a freedom they were going to bring to the Iraqi people. In effect, the American peoples’ collective voice was silenced. Resistance never evolved beyond the Gandhian salt march, beyond the quiet stubbornness of Rosa Parks. In today’s hailstorm of controversy and content, an action similar to Parks would never make headlines, much less the history books.

But there’s other reasons why resistance no longer works like it used to. It’s been said elsewhere that one of the key differences between Trump and Nixon is Nixon was capable of shame. Even in his rotten pastiche of character, in his alcoholic’s hallucinatory furor, he somehow had enough rectitude and awareness to be shamed out of office. Trump doesn’t have that capacity, but he is far less impervious than he pretends.

The justice system is heavily bent on its own intimidation of (and sometimes, alliance with) white nationalists. Waco and Ruby Ridge were public relations disasters for the state, directly inspiring the Oklahoma City bombing, and solidifying the suspicions from gray state paranoia. Since these instances, the federal authorities have been tepid at best when dealing with rightwing militant standoffs. They eventually surrendered to Cliven Bundy, releasing back his cattle, presuming the conclusion that if you are white and have enough guns you are immune from federal crimes. And the charges against the Bundys were most recently dismissed by a federal judge, allowing them to walk free after leading an armed standoff. As noted before, there were no arrests during The Women’s March, but there was an unduly amount the day before, during the inauguration. Compare the dismissal of the Bundy case with these arrests, now known as the J-20 trials, involving 230 people, many of whom are journalists. Of these, photojournalist Alexei Wood was indicted on eight felony charges and could face up to 60 years in prison. It’s this kind of justice system that makes resistance as we knew it impossible.

Trump’s mental stability has been called into question by his own staff, his pathological bluster seeming to weaken in its conviction. We want a professional to diagnose him as the madman he is, thinking that this would somehow finally convince his base of his actual ineptitude. But we can’t. Under the “Goldwater rule,” the American Psychiatric Association denies its members from diagnosing members of the public from afar, without having them as actual patients. It is evident though, his ever-worsening madness catapulted his electability in the first place. This is why traditional forms of resistance don’t work—his madness is his greatest asset.

In Foucault’s History of Madness, he describes the Classical Age as one of which the mad were revered for bestowing an unusual kind of wisdom. The literature and art of the time, according to Foucault, cast the schizophrenics and hallucinating as minor prophets wading into other realms of the senses. This is, of course, how supporters of Trump see him. Forgetting the words to the national anthem is actually cool. Not knowing how to read is tantamount to true enlightenment.

By the end of Trump’s term, he’s sitting in the Oval Office, in a pile of hay and newspaper shredding, in just his underwear, his bloated flesh spilling over the sides of the elastic band, blabbering nonsense like he were mimicking De Niro in the final scene of Cape Fear. Kellyanne Conway is standing over him, writing in her clipboard. “That’s great,” she says aloud, “I love where you’re coming from. Keeping your promises to the American people.”

This is how it will end. And if the Democrats and the rest of the #Resistance movement hoist up someone like Oprah Winfrey to compete with him in 2020, it won’t matter who wins—it will be one enormous dystopic circus until the end of time. “Modern man no longer communicates with the madman,” Foucault writes in the preface. And not by diminishing into a language of celebrity and spectacle will the “rupture in dialogue” be restored. A lasting, meaningful resistance is effective through elevated reason, through a dialectical materialism evolved for here and now.

Erecting Ruins: The Future of Isolationism

682h1w1feh3cr6iq

by Guy Walker

How will Donald Trump finally build his wall? At nearly every campaign rally, he iterated his plans of a gilded hysteria, his fetishized wet dream of this coruscating seventh wonder of the world. Whenever he spoke about it, his mouth tightened and expanded like a gasping sphincter, as if every now and then the pressure builds to uncontrollable levels, and he explodes like a rushing torrent of tics and insults. You can see his face twitch when he reads from a teleprompter, like there’s a profane and haunting beast right at the edges of his skin trying to climb his way out.

This is the real Donald Trump, the one who ran on a promise of ethnic cleansing, pushing 11 million undocumented immigrants just over the other side of his “big, fat, beautiful wall.” But there’s something strange about it all—his obsession with something seemingly so mundane, out there in the desert, is unlike normal fantasies. There’s no reason he would stop with the initial 11 million. The wave of deportation would inevitably spread to all members of the media, everyone who’s ever criticized him on Twitter, Democrats, feminists, all male competition for women or power. He only wants to corral himself away from the rest of the world, him and Ivanka safely locked behind their two-thousand miles of barricaded gold mirrors, his chest hair saturated in baby oil, the sizzling gravity of his tits cooking like two thick steaks in the sun. He wants to personally patrol the entire length of his wall, leaning from side to side as he walks like a human pear, his baggy suit blowing aimlessly in the dry anarchic gasps. His huge red tie hangs like the tongue of a dying dog. But these clothes—this suit and tie—are old garments of a former life that was strictly about business and real estate. Now, he imagines himself in an open robe, hung with little velveteen tassel-balls, a Burger King paper crown propped on his head, gripping an oversized trident still smoking with victory, the triumphant abandonment of the world begging to be touched by him. When he looks up at night, the major constellations have rearranged themselves into a glittery caps-lock pronouncement: TRUMP! #MAGA

There are eight prototypes from six contracting companies being seriously considered, all of which will soon be put through stress tests to better determine what best keeps the colored people out. Contestants will try to climb over, dig under, and hammer their way through. You could call these tests The Trump Games, call them Blood and Soil Olympics, call them Island Stupid, or Wall Madness. It’s government sanctioned theater that has a lot of potential—a Survivor-style reality show where contestants can have flamboyant pseudonyms and side ponytails, give sobbing backstabbing confessionals in front of navy blue curtains, share their family histories on why we should root for them. It’ll be everything the major networks could dream of: everyone in the country will talk endlessly about how much they hate it, but they won’t be able to take their eyes off of it.

The hysteria has nothing to do with keeping the brown-skinned people out. Even if the border was merely a sloppily drawn line in the sand, and every immigrant that stumbled over it were a desiccated serial rapist, Trump supporters wouldn’t be frantically stacking cinder blocks to keep them out. It was never about this particular profession of belief; it’s always been about adding to the bloat of America, nothing more. Support for the man is a different thing altogether. It’s an obsession, a Freudian pathology with insatiable cravings for more. But so is the hatred of him—every bit of it is disgusting and impossible to ignore. It’s as if we all volunteered to be locked in a Hometown Buffet in some indiscriminate strip mall as we consume endless portions of Donald Trump, dipping the oversized ladle back into the mac ’n cheese, gorging ourselves on the American heart attack solidified into human form right in front of us.

This is where the wall enthusiasts feel most comfortable. The wall has nothing to do with keeping America safe from the apparent reign of drugs and crime festering in the squalid enormity south of the border; the wall is an exclamation of nihilistic pedantry, a pointless craving to leave a human scar across the landscape. Even the word itself has a unique distaste when leaving the mouth. Wall. It’s a stretched out grunt, an illogical menacing groan that likely shouldn’t exist. But it does, in all its awfully banal physical form. It’s Monument Todestrieb, a meandering ruin trying to dam up the sky. Our greatest monuments to ourselves have never been about anything practical or worthwhile—they’re always a pharaoh’s desert-hardon magnified into some cumbersome concrete edifice that can be seen from space. Trump’s wall, when viewed from space, will be a hyper-realistic rendering of his dick—a single, wet, Top Ramen noodle. It wanders aimlessly, the stupid thing looking for a purpose all its life, meandering in and out of lost valleys, the staggering confines of freedom waving delicately in the arid breeze.

This is what it’s always been about. A man and his dick palace. When he was in real estate, his buildings were golden phalluses, erect and shimmering in a desolate universe; they’re totems of one man’s inner gilded age, meant to signify not only his good fortune, but his youth and fertility. I fuck in gold! his buildings blurt out from every coruscating edge. But he knows his buildings are a teenager’s joke of giant cocks drawn on the skyline—with the ephemerality of a man’s erection, Trump’s buildings will soon crumble and fall. The Wall, on the other hand, is where he can really make his mark.

The form of the monument changes with the form of the man. Because he’s bulging from all sides and his skin is just seared meat, his monument has changed accordingly. He wants to spill himself across the frontier like a patriarch’s fetid corpse. This is his death drive, his unholy petrified cum statue he has commissioned for himself—or is it of himself. It’s possible it’s both. There’s obviously a precondition here, a vague haunting that’s slowly giving him the shrewdness of a fetus. You can notice it in the little things, the way he drinks water, the way he shows everybody he wrote his name. Trump has been given everything; he’s more powerful than any man before him, and all he wants to do is play in his room, stacking Lincoln Logs in the Oval Office, enthusiastically revving up Hot Wheels and smashing them into Barbie dolls. As each succeeding day nudges Donald Trump closer to death, he turns more and more into a slobbering newborn. Every time he doesn’t shit himself he demands the people applaud. When he said, I just want to play with trucks, his staff brought a Mack truck to the front steps of the White House so he could pretend to drive one, honking the horn with the outstanding enthusiasm of a toddler. The wall is his Lego castle he always wanted to build.

The wall will almost certainly never be built, but the glamorous drama of believing it could be reality would be great for our culture. After all, that’s what it’s always been about. A mile-and-a-half from where the prototypes stand, in the dusty nowhere, there is a “free speech zone”, where protestors can throw tantrums, march in circles in their sealed off paddocks, and finally ease themselves under catharsis and dehydration. But nobody’s fighting for anything—the wall is only a symbol, and not because it won’t function properly for its intended use, but because it’s a wall. It’s the most nihilistic form of tribalism—we are at rock bottom. The already crumbling slab of concrete has brought all ideological encampments to their knees, begging for some outcome, some gilded destiny, or some failure that allows the landscape to remain. Whatever the case, this is the end of us. Evolution ended when we stampeded the world for the concept of a wall in the desert.


Donate Button

The Future of Desire

Blade+Runner+2049-1

by Guy Walker

What actually did happen to the sexual revolution? It wasn’t long after one of Freud’s most noteworthy students, Wilhelm Reich, landed on New York’s squalid shores in August of 1939, that the generation of prurience and free love was born. His most noteworthy invention and physical contribution apart from his writings now seems like an artifact of dereliction, some shambled box from an abandoned carnival: the Orgone Energy Accumulator. It looks like a boarded up telephone booth, an unexciting trunk turned on its side that you were supposed to sit in and wait to receive the brilliant and spontaneous orgasms it provided.

Sex from some obscure unknown realm has long been a preferred subject of science fiction. In Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, a bounty hunter Phil Resch (a phonetic cousin of the Austrian psychoanalyst), who works for a fictitious police agency, and could be another android, remarks to Deckard with a tone of austere advice, “If it’s love toward a woman or an android imitation, it’s sex.” The reader is propelled into the obvious: how does it actually feel to be in a storm of eroticism with a robot?

Blade Runner 2049 offered another installment of this fantasy. Our hero’s girlfriend, Joi, is a three-dimensional hologram resembling an evolutionary masterpiece; you can watch the movie in what is seemingly another layer of 3-D, gaping up at her seductive digitization swaying into the bedroom, your mouth hanging open stupidly, staring up at the huge screen with your flimsy paper sunglasses. Joi’s character is a reincarnation of a character we know well.

In the 1956 French drama, …And God Created Woman, Juliette, the subliminally catastrophic temptress played by Brigitte Bardot, believed “the future was invented only to spoil the present.” Sixty years later, it’s the present that wants to spoil the future—it wants to give it all up for us, tell us of the trenchant nihilism ahead, popularize the ultimate ghosts of technology. In the film, she lays around naked, walks everywhere barefoot, undisturbed by the male forces and societal norms around her, causing a moral panic amongst those nearest her. The men in the film conclude she “was made to destroy men,” as they try to repel the inevitable gravity of her enchantment.

The destruction of man by the strange and impossible intrigue of the woman is a common theme now. Hollywood is smitten with this fantasy. How will people, you know, “do it”, in the future? Spike Jones’s 2014 dystopic interlude, Her, brought the same titillating futurism conceptualized in the bedroom to the big screen. The envisioned communing between Theodore and the computer operating system, Samantha, was little more than a banal exclamation that mimicked the snorts and grunts of pleasure. It was phone sex, mildly elaborated, only for the sake of the pronouncement of orgasm, leaving the fluids, sweat, bullwhips, fuzzy handcuffs, and every other physical attributor of touch, in question and out of the picture.

Ex Machina notioned that the most beautiful women of the future will be an invasive species of silicon chips molded in our most alluring fashion—they’ll be prowling amongst us, like a digitized playmate who could calmly and regularly beat the Kasparovs of chess, and then lock them in a cellar until they rot. There’s nothing more thrilling than taking someone home from the bar who might turn out to have a survival glitch that would necessarily have to kill you to succeed. BDSM for existentialists; the abstract fetishizing would turn a whole generation into a sex-themed Russian roulette game.

Or there’s HBO’s Westworld series, which featured robot prostitutes that would kill their way to freedom. Thus far, our popularized interest in artificial intelligence goes as far as what sort of envious bloom their reproductive organs will look like, how lusting and lifelike the interplay could and should be. Especially the women. Movie producers and audiences alike don’t desire the other possibility in quite the same way. There’s something deeply unsettling about their male counterparts that would only be used for sex—their dangling rubberized testicles waving in the dusty anarchy of the wild west, their smutty reprogrammable libido under spasms of defect, wreaking havoc on innocent female victims who only wanted a bit of cathartic delight.

It’s clear what’s happening. When Lacan famously announced “there is no sexual relation,” he wasn’t attempting a contrarian view of desire without features. He was iterating how we split ourselves up in the act of sex, between “its being and its semblance, between itself and that paper tiger it shows to the other.” In this, as in a combative death drive, we either give or receive a mask, “a thrown-off skin,” in order to protect our real being.

We’re never really alone with our sexual partners. There’s always a deep fantasy or weirdly-cloaked fetish lingering in the shadows, hammering away at our heads in varying degrees of distraction. In the strange and extraordinary partnership of cultural totems, Slavoj Žižek was commissioned by Abercrombie & Fitch to write for their 2003 Back to School Quarterly, where he quipped his bursting tic-filled remarks on youth and sex, the capitalized large font spread across a glossy overlay of two boys and a girl completely naked, barely of age, carousing in green fields, the sun’s yolk spilled across the whole verdant jouissance like a pagan dream: “The only successful sexual relationship occurs when the fantasies of the two partners overlap. If the man fantasizes that making love is like riding a bike and the woman wants to be penetrated by a stud, then what truly goes on when they make love is that a horse is riding a bike…With a fantasy like that, who needs a personality?”

A horse riding a bicycle is as real as Ryan Gosling passing his dick across and into the flickering static of his girlfriend, both of which are only barely less real than an undisturbed sexual communion between two people. There’s nothing remarkably novel about Hollywood’s attempts to realistically imagine the future of bodily desire. A robot’s vagina is not the exemplary nexus of modern art, not some avant-garde interpretation of Freudian psychoanalytics. But some productions have imagined a sort of post-Oedipal world, in which man creates his maker, fucks her, and then is gruesomely slain by her.

What Ex Machina and Westworld achieve is they thrust the viewer outside the obvious torments of being killed by the glamorous female lead, and they allow you to imagine the daily benign thrill of the technicians themselves, and what it must be like for them to pick and prod and quietly sculpt women of our yearning. As viewers, we know the architects of these humanoids had to at some point kneel down and masterfully sculpt the deep swelling crevasse of her reproductive organ, the realism of her sensuality more essential than any other appendage or feature. The absurd bald mounds on Barbie dolls, like they were long-legged congenital eunuchs disguised in aprons and wigs, no longer suffice for the pornographic obsessions of the modern age.

The cinema is now our most easily digested form of suggestive enterprise. We bring the whole circus of crime and drama and comedy and romance and war into our bedrooms, our gawping voyeurism permanently attached to our laptop screens. But it’s always been like this. The preferred art forms from before quietly distilled the same libidinal hankering as multi-million dollar productions filmed in front of green screens do today. What happens when Picasso or Lucian Freud paints one of their women? Are they not attempting to garner a lusciousness of dimension of the female form they never managed to see themselves? They spent countless painstaking hours leaning over their huge canvases, trying to improve on mere replication, detailing the dimpled flesh and overgrown pubic forests like things of undocumented mystery. They composed these scenes, arranged their women in candid moments of trembling bliss, and hyper-realized the overflowing smooth flesh of women as the givers of all life. The title of the painting above is “Benefits Supervisor Sleeping,” the model’s actual job title. The words give a humanness, a normalcy to the shapeless spill of tit over the edge of the couch, as if this could be every moderately heavy woman walking down the street. We are pressed with the overwhelming gravity of who we really are, the unflattering reality of ourselves as a gruesome patchwork of anuses and other spluttering holes, all held together with this dying membrane of sweat and pores and hair, the festering wounds of age slowly eating away at us.

What’s next, beyond each fantasy, is another. Most of us spend our days slouched in some form or another, our necks sloped like a cow grazing her fields, staring at a screen. We tap away at it endlessly, as if it will eventually do something, fetishizing the swirling blots of color, a whole universe encased in Snapchat doggy ears and nose. When you watch porn on your computer or phone, you’re signaling one half of a holographic sex doll—an illusory, yet very real, pleasure. There’s a brothel in Germany that’s already gotten rid of all the prostitutes—all the real humans, that is—and instead offers their clients a lineup of lifelike sex dolls. We’re almost there. It’s the same fantasy played out in different forms—different brands of the same product within today’s culture industry. Adorno and Horkheimer illuminated in their philosophical monument, Dialectic of Enlightenment, that the “culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises.” It usually ends in flaccid regret. Instead of the high definition fantasy playing out in front of us, we end with a white pool of mucous in a dirty sock. “The promise,” they continue, “which is actually all the spectacle consists of, is illusory.” But it’s voluntary. We pay $17 to see someone else play out our fantasies of what the future will look like.

It could have been an interesting storyline in Blade Runner 2049, between K and his holographic girlfriend—where their moments of affection and confidentiality really lead to, what they would have done about having children, arguments around infidelity and if it’s really considered cheating. But the filmmakers never went there. That particular subplot ended in masturbatory ennui, a close indifference about the future of our relationships. Again and again, we’ll watch these films on our own screens, the clutching voyeurism of survival fluttering across the backlit rectangles, the colorful blobs of other humans superimposed. But the end is always the same. The credits roll and the screen goes black, and we’re left staring at our dark naked reflection in the glass.


Donate Button

The Faux Patriot Phenomenon

0212militia05

by Guy Walker

On a dank fetid afternoon in the middle of August, as the sweltering torridity encouraged record-breaking fires to spread even further across the American frontier, Donald Trump emerged for a group of journalists, their questions frantic, as if each one were trying to clammer over the another. His skin was more opaque than usual, like a mangled sun-roasted apricot, a glob of hellish torture that housed his gleaming white blocks of teeth. He kept his lips pulled back in order to show off his teeth like a prey trying to scare off its enemy, and answered questions about the racial-infused violence that occurred just days prior, famously uttering there “were very fine people” amongst the Klansmen, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis that stormed through Charlottesville.

It was a simple seditionary remark, another snort of his trademark grandiose ignorance, the kind he exhibited when denying he knew who David Duke was while initially running his presidential primary campaign.

Fast forward a little more than a month, when Trump is speaking at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama. His skin is softer; he’s surrounded by his unwavering compatriots peering up at their charismatic hero; he’s more at ease, and therefore even more reckless in speech, encouraging the firing of any athlete who kneels during the national anthem. “You’re FIRED!” he screams, as the crowd roars with approval, a deluge of blood rushing to his emaciated genitals.

Responses to Trump’s more treacherous remarks incite the usual bursts of outrage like they were little anger-filled ejaculations glazing the screens of countless blogs and social media platforms. Likewise, it positions any number of Trump whisperers to pontificate on what he really meant, as they condemn the media for always listening to him incorrectly. But it’s not an issue of Donald Trump as master villain or gilded hero; it’s the present manifestation of tribalism gone mad.

In The Authoritarian Personality, Theodor Adorno and his accompanying authors posited a theory on the phenomenon of the authoritarian figure, including the unwavering patriotism of the masses that contribute to his manifestation. The authoritarian figure himself is the result of a Freudian developmental model, a sexually impulsive, insecure man, catapulting with outward hostility in order to overcome his shortcomings. With overwhelming impulses from the id (disorganized instinctual drives), and an incapable mediator of reason—known as the ego—the authoritarian shoves his way to power like a desperate and lonely drunk finally grabbing an old pumpkin to fuck. Hideous perhaps, but nevertheless inevitable.

Something analogous to the Napoleon complex, Adorno et al. considered that men pursuing roles of acute power and severity tended to be atoning for their bestial malformities. It seems plausible enough—a glitch in the mass outcropping of humans is bound to eventually take the form of a vainglorious sasquatch every now and then. It’s more the hysteria of support around him that is interesting—why do blundering fools such as Franco, Mussolini, and Hitler corral such aberrant loyalty? They were grotesque figures, considered buffoons before accessing power. It’s only because patriotism is more magnetic than any god. As Adorno et al. described, “patriotism…involves blind attachment to certain national cultural values, uncritical conformity with the prevailing group way, and rejection of other nations as outgroups.” It is the blind patriotism that is so fascistic—chauvinism, by its nature, is a fetid and truculent enterprise that only manifests from a long-exaggerated tribalism, when we smashed rocks and bones to establish survival over other threatening groups.

As long as we’re still human, we’ll likely never fully outgrow our tribalism. It was a survival mechanism that worked too well. Now, we clutch maniacally only onto what we know, fearing the other shaded men outside. We hate the neighboring middle school in town, then the other high schools in the league, then sports teams or religions that differ from our own—we’re seven billion tribesmen standing with crooked cheeseheads and smeared body paint, stammering why our paddock of dirt is better than theirs. What makes it far more beastly and hideous today than when our ancestors hunched on all fours, grunting and tossing their feces, is we moderns should know better. We’re the momentary products of a 200,000-year enlightenment—one would expect us to be a little more astute of our prevailing commonalities.

But there’s reason for this lingering stupidity. English essayist, Samuel Johnson famously announced that “patriotism is the last refuge for a scoundrel.” Patriotism works like an impenetrable edifice of one’s identity, an ideological safe space for anti-intellectuals. The more illiberal corners of the political left have been justly blamed for calling anyone they disagree with a racist or a bigot—they apply it so haphazardly that when they finally do meet a legitimate racist, the term is no longer effective; similarly, many conservatives call their opponents un-American, as if this were the towering lord of all insults. It is difficult to recover from if a politician is deemed un-American—they’re now on the defensive, having to prove that in fact they are a proud member of this relatively new land.

The Patriot Act of 2001, by its very name, challenged anyone opposed to the act as the antithesis of patriotism. It didn’t matter what the contents of the act were—indefinite detentions of immigrants, the searching of telephone and financial records without a court order, the searching of a home or property without the consent of the owner or occupant. The Patriot Act passed 98 to 1 in the Senate, the only dissenting vote coming from Russ Feingold from Wisconsin, saying its provisions violated the civil liberties of citizens.

Blind patriotism is nothing new, and its tempting to think this is just one more manifestation of our cyclical human deformity, with all its baseless love for the stars and stripes. But it’s not. The patriotism of today is far more contrived than it is blind. There’s a bombasity and overachieving loudness to American patriotism today that makes it all seem so fraudulent and miserable. Men stomping around in head-to-toe camo with semi-automatic rifles slung over their shoulders, women proudly flaunting their bulging muffin-tops cinched tight with America-themed body armor, red trucks lifted to the height of houses, babies drinking breast milk from Big Gulp mugs while simultaneously punching commies—American patriotism is a fashion statement no more sophisticated than girls wearing garlands and John Lennon glasses at Coachella. It’s a shitty Halloween costume that countless Americans wear everyday. The faux patriotism of today comes out of a desperate overcompensation of life-without-meaning—they wave only the symbols of those ideals without propagating the ideals themselves.

As of 2013, 94 percent of all imported American flags came from China. Polyester showered with carcinogens. But it still works. The meaningless piece of cloth still triggers something deeply primordial in good patrioteers, like a bull who sees a red bed sheet and starts blowing steam from his nostrils. It makes the authoritarian personality that much more serious.

The monumental pettiness surrounding the national anthem debate essentially ends with the contents of the anthem itself. The entirety of “The Star-Spangled Banner” reads more like whorish pedantry, the abecedarian rhymes of which cheapen all polemics about nation and virtue. Written by Francis Scott Key about the Battle of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, only the first verse has been extracted and used for our arduously long ceremonies preceding every major sporting event. Given that the first verse is still dragged through exaggerated undulations, minute after minute, like a glittered masturbatory spectacle in front of forty thousand exhausted beer-bloated fans, perhaps no one dare add a second verse. Adding even one more verse would compromise the attention spans for the rest of the night. Or, perhaps it was to hide the overtly racist rhymes near the end of the third verse:

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Francis Scott Key was referring to something specifically annoying to him. In response to the Americans trying to hijack Canadian territory from the British Empire, the British recruited entire families of slaves, training the men to form their own regiment known as the Colonial Marines, assuring they would not return any of them to their former American owners. Not only was it an invitation to escape a life of shackles and routine whippings and sexual humiliation, but a chance to fight against the ideological perversity that enslaved them in the first place, to openly antagonize the ubiquitary of systemic despotism. Anyone in their right mind would take the British up on their offer. Francis Scott Key—a slaveowner himself—held this against slaves, scribing his paeans of death for the opportunistic men with darker skin than his.

“Land of the free and the home of the brave” is now a meaningless phrase that still triggers the most frenzied ravenous excitement. We humans are animals that attach overbearing emotions onto words. When Trump tweets “Courageous Patriots have fought and died for our great American Flag” as reason for why professional athletes should be forced to stand during the national anthem, he’s serving a word salad of patriotic idioms that his base will recognize as their own. Every major word in the sentence ignites a shallow sense of pride and purpose; it assures arousal without providing any real meaning.

The word “patriot”, for example, wasn’t always used to describe the illustrious bravado of camo-obsessed Americans as it is today. Liddell & Scott (A Greek-English Lexicon) wrote that patriotes was “applied to barbarians who had only a common [fatherland].” It was a term used for derisive mockery, defined in Samuel Johnson’s fourth edition of his Dictionary as “a factious disturber of the government.”

The American journalist John Thomas Flynn wrote about it in his As We Go Marching in 1944, a time when even the most ardent American patriotism may have seemed justified: “[W]hen fascism comes it will not be in the form of an anti-American movement or pro-Hitler bund…it will appear rather in the luminous robes of flaming patriotism.” This is where we are today—the gilded dawn of fascism, when men and women march gladly into their weaponized barbarism. Flynn said “when fascism comes,” not “if,” as if it’s an entropic inevitability, as if we humans will invariably create dystopia in our pursuit of utopia.

The cult hero is the representative of this phenomenon, hoisted on his high stage, lamenting about why non-patriots are destroying the country. Trump managed to corral 81 percent of the white evangelical vote without noticeably understanding any Christian practice himself. Similarly, he successfully branded himself as the patriotic choice without having any history in serving the country. When he famously mocked John McCain for getting captured and tortured for five years in Vietnam, or snubbed the Pakastani-American parents of Army captain Humayun Khan, or announced on Twitter that transgender soldiers would not longer be allowed to serve in the military, he became the incarnate celebration of the faux patriot. We’re amidst the self-destruction of reason, a gloating dystopic tribunal of normalities. The world is a cube; sea cucumbers are just slimy cucumbers; and it’s patriotic to loathe and belittle true patriots.

Trump had five deferments during the Vietnam draft, one of which was for heel spurs—calcium buildup in the heel that can oftentimes be treated through stretching exercises. In an interview with the New York Times in July of 2016, he said “I had a doctor that gave me a letter—a very strong letter on the heels.” He never produced a copy of the letter, nor could he remember the doctor’s name; but it doesn’t matter because it was categorically the most patriotic thing he could have done. He was patriotic not to pay his taxes. He was patriotic whenever he grabbed a rogue pussy. He was patriotic under every golden shower, lathering his mangled genitals in the noxious suds. And if hard evidence does reveal that he purposefully colluded with Russia, Trump’s loyalists will not waver—the magnetism of the cult hero is fixed permanently.

This self-styled faux patriotism erodes away only through reason alone, as the demagoguery and supreme brutishness is slowly replaced with a more humane understanding of ourselves, until we fully abandon what Bertrand Russell called the “willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”


Donate Button

Taylor Swift Devours Our Demon-Haunted World

IMG_4426

by Guy Walker

It was with strange and grotesque flamboyance that Taylor Swift rebranded herself. As admitted in the music video to her newest, much-anticipated hit single, Look What You Made Me Do, this is the seventh, maybe eighth time she’s changed outfits—a methodological norm for the world’s most popular artists. In order to stay relevant, our gluttonous feathered heroes change the color of their glitter, manufacture scandal, even change sexes. We demand to be entertained, herding into bulging damp fortresses with the expectancy to be coddled in awe.

In a sense, it’s completely understandable: the all-Trump, all-the-time circus devours any sense of normalcy. Watching any news on the tube is like gazing stupidly at a ghoulish doughboy as he violently shakes his loose buttered neck back-and-forth like some menacing predatory tactic. Every day, for two years now, CNN hosts Brady Bunch-sized panels trying to psychoanalyze the snarling clown. Neo-Nazis and Klansmen have come out of their fetid dark closets, chanting with overtly flamboyant lisps, “We’re racist, and we’re proud…Heeey!” We need a reprieve, a place and opportunity to just idolize the wonderful, to twirl vicariously in a pop star haven.

Pop music fills that void. As a child, my mother used to regularly toss me in the backyard, where I would reliably attack ants with my favorite action figures, and she would lock all the doors and close all the curtains, and blast the same Tina Turner classics on the record player. I peaked through the slip of a curtain once, and there she was, pirouetting her arms every which way, seizuring determinedly as if her mom-twerks could generate electricity. There’s something strangely normal about this: how many house moms are trapped in a Sahara of cul-de-sacs, dancing tirelessly in private because of the ameliorative catharsis?We’re all just trying to dance away the encroaching madness. It’s not escapism; it’s a necessary and imminent remedy in a world lost of meaning. Pig-tailed teeny boppers singing along to Taylor Swift’s Love Story exhibit the same phenomenological tendencies to articulate the profound: You’ll be the prince and I’ll be the princess; It’s a love story, baby, just say “Yes.” We march en masse to her concerts, or her Youtube page with songs well over 2 billion views, because we need to join the sing-along about what it’s like to have a crush on someone.

But somehow, her latest hit Look What You Made Me Do, went violently astray. It reads more like a shunned tyrant’s eulogy, like Stalin’s perverse affectation on why he starved millions. It’s necessary plunder, you’ll all thank me later. After all these years of the public’s obsession with her, she’s saddled us upright on an intimate tour of her life in duress. We encounter new Taylors and old Taylors, dead Taylors, idol-feuding Taylors, like one amorphous orgy of Taylor consummating the world.

The song’s primary intent was to communicate a degree of self-awareness, a croaking anthem that can be summarized as I’m woke cuz I know how basic I am! At the end of the music video, the new Taylor stands alongside her several former Taylors, in front of a private jet that’s been awkwardly spray painted “Reputation” on the side like a defiled advert of her own narcissism, essentially disavowing these other versions of herself, as if they were just bitchy girls from Fashion Week forced to stand in a police lineup. She’s letting her fans and critics know that she knows what they think of her. Self-awareness about one’s own more deprecating characteristics is meant to heighten the quality of its commentary. We insult ourselves so others won’t insult us first.

It was in this last scene that we’re forced to grapple with our own Swiftonian emotions—it’s a costume change convention with every Taylor Swift there ever was. Are we nostalgic for innocent country music star Taylor Swift? Fantasize much for classy dominatrix Swift? It’s a kaleidoscope of teenage malevolence. Are we seeing things? Perhaps not. Taylor Swift’s confession about coming into a new Taylor phase seems peculiarly out of place. It’d be like if when Madonna got over her coned bra phase, and instead of just quietly changing styles, she belched to her adoring masses, Coned bras just ain’t hip no more; now it’s frizzy hair and pink lipstick galore! A bit strange perhaps, but I get it—as a kid, I made people call me Batman one week, then demand to be identified as Penguin the next. We’re watching the high definition swirling psyche of a woman amidst a terrifying identity crisis. Which one is the real Taylor Swift?

Prior to this scene, Swift picks up a telephone and says “the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why?…’Cause she’s dead.” For an adult with at least the peripheral attention of every person on the planet, it’s tempting to mock this for its glamorized edginess, like a goth teenager staring at the solar eclipse with no eclipse glasses, and simply muttering “Fuck ‘em,” as his eyeballs sizzle and foam. But Taylor is doing something entirely different. She’s not trying to be edgy, not making a New Age remark that she’s rebranding herself—no, she’s making a marvelously candid admission that there is no real Taylor Swift. She’s a caricature of herself, a symbol of schizophrenia nuanced by sex appeal. She’s been corralled into a puppeteer’s fetid stall, like an over-played-with doll tearing at its seams, cotton bulging from the ends. It’s the story of Pinocchio in reverse: born a real girl who gradually mutates into a wooden relic, everything controlled and organized from the gurning money-grubbing producers above.

Every major media outlet online has published some sort of analysis of the video—the hidden references to ex-boyfriends, fights with Kim Kardashian’s ass, conspiracy theories about her closeted support for Donald Trump, the passive-aggressive between-the-lines disses to all the naysayers and haters. They dissect the minor undulations of an adult woman’s voyeuristic temper tantrum, and they do so with more perseverance and patience than a veteran tour guide in the Louvre’s collection of antiquities. What will she do next? Who will she be next? It’s episodic drama, something all successful television drama series entangle their viewers in—the constant titillation and anticipation of what will happen next episode.

The rest of us are left with the collective penitence of what we made Taylor Swift do. Her previous hits—Love Story, Bad Blood, Blank Space, Shake It Off—were harmless interludes in the machinery of one girl’s life—her highly dramatized feuds with other hot girls were like a normal catfight in the girl’s locker room that’s been magnified across the vastness of the cosmos. We’re all hapless bystanders in the Roman Colosseum of teenage pettiness. Still, those were good clean pop songs, peppered with the smutty gossipry of boys and make up, relatable enough for the rest of us to sing along to. Look What You Made Me Do is different—it’s the last croak before madness. Its brash narcissism doesn’t care anymore about things outside itself—the pulsating forces of love, the vague empathies and their yearning enterprise of heartbreak. Look at what we made her do—the swelling vastness of all-Taylor, all-the-time is our fault. We appropriated her indistinct sex appeal, we orchestrated her failed relationships, we fed the monster-inhabited tabloids with the allure of celebrity catfights. Her wretchedness is on us now; her porcelain effigy stomping through the wasteland for her next big hit.

But it’s not her fault. Taylor Swift is a generational outcry, a representative of our cosmic ubiquitary pettiness. There is no real Taylor because every young white middle-upper-class woman and man is Taylor Swift, proselytizing why their non-problems matter. Taylor Swift is simply a cretinous skin-grafted Bambi, an android-like creature with prosthetic private parts. For years, the more conspiratorial corners of the Internet alleged she had no belly-button, like a reprogrammable sex bot in Ex Machina. She just may be. When she stands there, waving her arms haphazardly to some sick beat, lamenting about what other girls have said about her, she’s simply channeling every girl before her, believing the world is here for them and them alone. It will never end. This is the world now. Look what we made us do.

%d bloggers like this: