Tag Archives: celebrity

Let the Beautiful People Rule the World

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by Guy Walker

You may have begun to notice the looming end of politics. It’s overwhelmed us like a marching band of wild rodents, a huge spectacularized circus of dysfunction. It happened so suddenly and so powerfully, there’s almost no memory of when things were normal. You tune in to the news not because you want to understand the nuances of public policy currently underway, or so you can better debate the advantages of a single-payer health care system—you just want to see Donald Trump stumble around like a mangled half-shaven sasquatch, smashing windows over his head, kidnapping women sunbathing on the beach, lighting off fireworks in the Oval Office. There’s no going back to the dreary ashen-faced days of passing bills and submitting formal disagreements. Especially now that a band of other celebrities have joined the elegiac cantus firmus and announced their plans for political office.

Most recently, it was Caitlyn Jenner, who told radio host John Catsimatidis that she “would look for a senatorial run.” Before her it was Kid Rock who announced he would also run for the U.S. Senate in Michigan. Soap opera star and underwear model, Antonio Sabáto Jr., is running for Congress. The Rock might bypass the whole bumbling peasantry and just run for President. If elected, he’ll sit there in the Situation Room in his neon highlighter panties and leather vest, and plot drone attacks on Wrestlemania enemies. Stone Cold Steve Austin will be blown to smithereens, body parts ablaze, the crowd screaming for more. Kanye West might also run for President, where he’ll campaign solely about the importance of cool shoes, as the First Lady’s chronic steatopygia gobbles up terrorists whole.

As the list of celebrity contenders grow, regular politicians are growing more concerned. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned about Kid Rock’s announcement: “There were a lot of people who weren’t concerned about Donald Trump running for the presidency…So, I take it all seriously right now.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in an email to his supporters, “I’ll be honest, we don’t know if this is real, a joke, or a bizarre publicity stunt. But I’ll tell you this: I don’t find it funny.”

By now, it’s obvious that the dull hubris of establishment politics is passed its prime, out of touch with the star-studded appetites of younger generations. Their awfully brittle logic ignores the successes of Saturday Night Live comedian turned senator, Al Franken, or the Tugboat Annie Sails Again movie star, Ronald Reagan, who rightfully matured into his political role and funded far right-wing terrorists in Nicaragua. Arnold Schwarzenegger arguably did as well as most governors before him. The problem is that our political beliefs have been condensed perversely into two camps: pro-Trump and anti-Trump. There’s no room for moderation, no slight left or right of center; just the ravenous schizophrenia of a public who is completely consumed by the wild orange beast in front of us. So when Warren and Schumer say they don’t find Kid Rock’s announcement for a senatorial run funny, they just mean that because he’s not on their team, he is a viable sensationalistic threat.

We’re not supposed to care this much about politics; it was never supposed to be front and center entertainment. Government policy is what only the most boring, moth-eaten cretins are capable of, allowing the rest of us to carry on our business of meandering through hobbies and escapism until we die. When President Trump tweeted the video of him wrestling down the spindly embodiment of CNN, his testosterone-bloated fists wailing into the emojilike head of the news organization, he wasn’t ‘insinuating violence’ or hurling metaphoric rage like a character on Street Fighter; he was tossing another morsel of entertainment to his deeply loyal fans, persuading by means of his cult of personality. Scott Adams—creator of the most lifeless, unimaginative comic strip, Dilbert, and likely the most rational of all Trump supporters—describes the aching dichotomy of responses to Trump as a “two-movie reality,” in that, between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump camps, we are all watching “two movies on one screen.” When Trump smashes in the head of CNN, his fans see their leader as the dominant alpha he already is while simultaneously working as a catastrophic blow to the frail sensitivities of liberals. His critics see another version, something akin to a deep-fried Michelin man who ejaculates fountains of Tang onto his own family members.

Critics call his CNN video unpresidential behavior, but what they mean is it’s not their movie of presidential behavior. Because there’s been many like him. Teddy Roosevelt wrestled and killed a cougar with a knife. Alexander Hamilton, though never president, was killed in a duel with then sitting Vice President Aaron Burr. Andrew Jackson—the man who Trump sees himself as the burly reincarnation of—killed a man in a duel who accused Jackson of cheating on a horse race. John F. Kennedy is well-known for his compulsive womanizing, fucking everything beautiful in site with his inescapable fury of charisma. So Trump’s behavior certainly is, to an extent, presidential—it’s just not the version his critics want to see in our languid arena of old men politely shuffling around in grey suits. What Trump is doing in all his orgiastic madness is being the celebrity showman his supporters want him to be. He is the caricature we all want him to be, because he fits our chosen narrative of hero or villain.

We used to judge a presidential candidate’s competency on the beer test: they could likely negotiate a peace deal with a hostile nuclear threat if they seemed like a dope person to have a beer with. We’re beyond that now. We want our government leaders to be glossy overlords, greased up with coconut oil and a stringy goatee, commanding over 320 million screaming fans with a burning trident. We’re a generation who grew up on American Idol and Internet porn—the dull bromidic fuckery of Nixonian politics is over. And although there have long been celebrities who later became politicians, Trump galvanized the celebrity persona and showmanship within modern politics. He brought the celebrity with him, as others before him separated themselves from their starry personas. The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner, Antonio Sabáto Jr., Kanye West—these are the gods of youth and sex we’ve always gawked at up on a high stage or ohuge television screen; now they are the obvious chosen ones who can fix health care, resolve the climate crisis, pardon turkeys, do whatever it is our government does.

When you go to the cinema and see another heroic war drama projected monstrously in front of you, there’s a subtle, yet gnawing depression when the film ends and the overhead lights come back on, and you have to shamefully walk back to your car and then your thankless life back home. The tragedy and ecstasy has ended, and the verdant luxury of escape along with it. It doesn’t have to be that way. Because we’re in a movie now. It’s likely all a computer simulation anyways, freewill just an imaginary fart in the VR imaging system; so let the big-titted celebrities roam like they were always meant to, declaring war on octopus demons and fucking supermodels in space. Reality will be so much better. Caitlyn will put on his Bruce costume whenever he wants to fuck with other leaders at G20 summits. Kid Rock will Snapchat himself in a wife-beater, masturbating into sinks and killing rodents with a hammer. Kanye West once made a music video of him in bed with wax figurines of Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, and other celebrities and world leaders—now it will be real life, striking a peace deal with Bibi Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by humping their legs like a dog underneath the bed linens. The show must go on.


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Father John Misty and the Death of Cool

“Very evil people cannot really be imagined dying.”

Theodor Adorno

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by Guy Walker

It’s always been the same. Musicians are those veiled effigies we look to for momentary reprieve from being alive. We demand to be entertained, like sticky-fingered children gripping onto lollipops, yelling at the monkey to be funny again. We go to concerts and music festivals with the same gluttonous exigency, herding ourselves around towering stages, gleaming up with glossed-over eyes at the chugging fog machines soaked in red light, anticipating the silhouette of our hero for the evening.

“Distract us from this catastrophe!” we cheer. “Take us on a journey, and make it rhyme!” as we clap our hands and shake our sweaty buttocks to the main chorus. But our love of amusement is nothing new. We’ve always said it. Plato scribed the hedonistic torments of our survival, that we’ve always needed human marionettes, dancing shadows against the light. In the medieval and Renaissance periods, jesters weren’t only used to amuse noblemen. At fairs and markets, they sung songs for the common folk, pulled never-ending ribbons out of hats, told jokes, eased the restless tension of being poor and having little prospects. They made the crushing hysteria of living under a monarch that much more tolerable. Today, we’ve brought Netflix in the bedroom, Youtube channels in our back pocket, and regularly attend concerts with the same intent of escape, soaking ourselves in Red Bull vodkas and MDMA. A blast of serotonin and idol worship—today we are free!

The machinery of entertainment smothers us. The cornfed paradise spreads on. Remember Franz Liszt and the hysterical fan frenzy that ensued when the Hungarian composer and pianist took the stage, now known as Lisztomania. In the mid-19th century, crazed fans would treat Liszt as a greased-up celebrity, making bracelets out of his broken piano strings, fighting over his handkerchiefs, gloves, even locks of his hair, collecting his coffee dregs into little glass vials. One lady resurrected his old cigar butt from the gutter and encased it in a locket surrounded by diamonds. We hoist musicians up on stages so they tower over us. We blind them with coruscating measure, leaving us all in the anonymous pathetic dark. God is dead, so we needed to manufacture new gods.

A century and a half later, the mania has only worsened. For the breed of ghoulish beard-entangled apathy, there is Josh Tillman, or as he is popularly know, Father John Misty. He’s one of the leading figures of the indie rock scene; or the indie folk scene; or folk rock. With songs such as “Bored In The USA,” “I’m Writing A Novel,” “I Went To The Store One Day,” he leads us along the meandering ennui of celebrity libertinage. He exerts great effort to come across as a pessimist, a son to Hermes, to seem deep in thought, tortured, enigmatic, all the usual attributes given to artists and contemplatives. But Tillman is more. He is the direct reincarnation of two classical figures: Julie Andrews twirling between wild dandelions, unable to suppress the libidinal volcano inside her; and Nero playing the fiddle as America falls into an entropic spiral of spectacle and misery, the parody of indifference swelling inside him. Tillman is ravished by the orgiastic features of life, but needs to wear a more putrid pixelated glaze in order to exist. It’s high-definition theater, and he’s caught in his own madness.

Josh Tillman is tall, lean, his face covered in a bushel of perfumed pubic hair. Yes, he may be hideous to look at, but he fashions himself as a mirror to Jim Morrison’s last drunken days in Paris, when he was the most self-indulgent, right before he died in the bathtub with chunks of half-digested Cheerios stuck to his chest hair. His look is a biological mishap—an extended phenotype of hipsterdom—what a nest is to a bird, Josh Tillman is to hipsterdom. His entire personage is a performance, as an aloof misanthrope, like a Dostoyevskian antihero who’s won our pity because he has one or two squabbling virtues left, because we want to see him go mad in front of all of us. His charisma is synthesized glee, like he’s dancing and making jokes so he doesn’t collapse in a puddle of his own drool and beg for forgiveness under a cloud of fireflies. All in all, he is the ideal figure of a cult leader (this is of course what musicians are). Jim Jones, David Koresh, Charles Manson—they were all able to command over their disciples, their screaming fans begging to drink Kool-Aid, piss, buckets of semen, anything to say they were by their leader’s side.

When Josh Tillman dictates over the mud-soaked peasantry from high on his stage, he’s weary of his own power. It’s not that he’s pretentious; it’s more that he’s exhausted from trying to seem pretentious. Under the guise of pubescent narcissism, with his spongey tendrils waving in a burning desert, Tillman makes an appeal to the hysterical crowd of disciples: “Fuck you! I hate entertaining you, and everything it involves. Also, I’m conflicted about my manbun!!” The crowd goes wild. Kids in skinny jeans yell “Hell yeah! I’m cynical too. I haven’t washed my socks for a whole week!” A twenty-something year old with rainbow colored John Lennon glasses turns to his friend, and comments simply, “Rad. He gets it … Here, hit this.” Tillman scowls at the crowd. They’re not getting it. I actually hate all of them, he thinks to himself. At that, young women lose strength in their legs, and faint one by one like dominos, like the gaggles who collapsed during the early Beatles concerts, their 1950’s chastity bursting into wanton cherry-nippled flames, pheromones of spring and dawn collecting into visible clouds above the stage.

In the end, Tillman will go mad. With cardboard cutouts of the Snapchat doggy ears and nose glued to his face, he exclaims to a crowd of invisibles, “I’ve read Norman Mailer! I can quote Nietzsche!! I think about serious matters!!” At the impenetrable silence, he looks out across the wilting cherry blossoms, pulls out his acoustic guitar, and sings a song about canvas shelters. And all the wild animals run far far away.


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