Why in the Hell Does Anyone Care That It’s Carrie Fisher’s Birthday?

Every now and again I like to indulge in the temptation to rail against the mindless repetition of uninteresting facts. I know it will accomplish nothing, and indeed is probably counterproductive, but I cannot help myself. This is stupid and I’m going to tell you why. Cry about it in the comments, nerds.

I could easily be mean about this. I could easily go the Ace of Spades route and declare her a coke-addled void-child of dysfunctional Hollywood nobility, who looked so elderly and fragile in the Sequel Trilogy that I expected her to shatter into pieces like a frozen T-1000 (that’s an old movie reference, kids).

Famous for her catchphrase, “Let’s go fuck injustice up!,” Fisher was known for her young-in-life rebellions and scandals, including her May-December romance with Lorne Greene, and playing Andromedan Whore #6, causing an uproar and national boycott due to her participation in Captain Kirk’s first and only non-interspecies kiss.

After her career in acting slowed, Fisher turned her attention to writing, where she turned in famous-but-officially-uncredited “punch ups” to scripts and books, such as Predator 3: Predators In Paradise and “The Bible.”

Considered Hollywood Royalty since her birth, Carrie Fisher was famously the daughter of Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher.

Ace of Spades, “Carrie Fisher Dies at Age 60”

But one wants to be fair, and the older I get, the more I appreciate what Fisher was able to do with the could-have-been thankless role of Princess Leia in the Original Trilogy. Honestly, her acting in that holds up, and her prickly aristocratic mien makes her role as the Resistance Leader in the Sequels at least plausible, however little she had in the tank at the time. Yeah, it would have been nice if they’d given her more to do in Return of the Jedi, but that’s expecting more of Lucasfilm screenwriting than it’s ever been capable of delivering.

And I can’t escape the notion that if she’d read Ace’s mock obituary, Fisher would have laughed hard at it. Because no one was quicker to send up her own career than she was. I caught one of her spoken-word shows on one streaming service or another, and she had her moments, perhaps not as “OMG, hiLARious” as people are wont to say, but seeing a celeb allowed to be merely human, and wryly comment on this, is always to be saluted.

Nor was this an isolated reality, the joke turn at Comic-Con. This was Fisher’s second career. She wrote a comical pseudo-fiction novel about her life, and had that turned into a movie she wrote the screenplay for, both under the title Postcards From the Edge, which is a pretty good title. Not many people actually have the talent and drive to turn their down-and-out moments into art. She did. Can’t take that away from her.

But she’s not a Saint. She’s not even a Blessed. You don’t know her, and you honouring her Feast Day is creepy.

This is gross. You’re being marketed to by sharps and drones. Her death took literally nothing from your life (if she’d been alive, she’d have done exactly what she did in Rise of Skywalker, which is to say almost nothing). It is human to honor the dead and the great. But celebrity is false greatness, the intersection of momentary marketablity and fragile talent. They are feeding you pap and calling it Spirit.

Stop retweeting this crap. Stop reacting to it (But aren’t YOU reacting to it? Yeah, you got me. Walk away and enjoy how much you totally DeSTrOyeD my point. Nothing to see here, move along). Stop pretending you were a massive fan of the next old rock star who kicks the bucket. Honor your family, your friends. Honor the art that stands the test of time. But stop building emotional cults of devotion to corporate product. None of them will ever reciprocate your love.

I Don’t Care If Cuties is a Good Movie

It seems that people have been left by their education unable to put values in the correct order. People who consider themselves intelligent and sober are defending twerking 11-year-olds for no better reason than to annoy conservatives, because apparently child exploitation doesn’t count if it’s done on the set of a movie in France.

Let’s just go ahead and stipulate that the film is well-made. Hell, let’s stipulate that the overall message is something on the order of “sexualizing children is bad and we shouldn’t do it.”. Let’s say it merits the Palm d’Or it’s now guaranteed to get.

It still sexualized kids in order to make it, and is therefore bad and shouldn’t have been made.

Let’s talk about values. On the one hand, there’s not exploiting children in real life. On the other, there’s making art. Which is more important? Think hard.

Just in case you need me to spell it out for you, Art has merit as an expression of ideas, or as entertainment. Entertainment isn’t bad, but it’s a lesser good than expressing ideas or values in a truthful way. And both of them are lesser goods than living out your values with choices and actions.

Charge of The Light Brigade, entertaining as it may be, is thus diminished by the number of horses that were injured or killed in the making of it. We prefer that the safety of living things not be sacrificed to make a military potboiler. That shows values out of proportion. No one says “Hey, let’s give Harvey Weinstein a pass because he bankrolled Tarantino’s filmography.” That’s ridiculous. Art does not excuse crime.

Charge of the Light Brigade, 1936. A trip-wire was used to make horses fall down at an appropriate moment. 25 horses died as a result. Eroll Flynn was so enraged at the ill-treatment of the horses, he nearly physically attacked the director.

A movie that salaciously depicts girls dancing inappropriately is thus not excused by the quality or truthfulness of its message. It’s still bad to do that. It should not be done. Everyone seemed to understand the importance of preserving the innocence of pubescent children when Stranger Things happened. And they weren’t being sexualized by the show they were on.

For the record, I don’t think most people defending this film is doing so out of a wish to normalize the sexualization of children. It’s just a pattern they’ve fallen into. A piece of risque art is made. Conservatives and other groups make a big noise about it. Therefore, they must be Phillistines who just Don’t Get Art. Don’t you see, you knuckle-draggers? Don’t you see the Nuance and the Bold Look it takes, you Satanic-Panickers, you?

Very filmmaking. Much Art. Wow.

And again, let’s say it’s all those things. That’s still not good enough to justify what is done to produce it. The industry that has a long and savage history of exploiting adult women (and men) does not get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to children. Maybe back when Free Expression was still argued as a Primary Good, you could have slipped this one by. But we don’t live in that world anymore. We haven’t for a while now.

Therefore, I do not care. To the void with it.

The Milennial Nostalgia Machine

Back in the 90’s, when concepts such as “youth culture” seemed relevant to me, I was known to lament the chokehold Boomers had over pop culture. Every time the same damn Beatles songs were repackaged into a new format, I got incredibly annoyed, especially when someone my age bought it.

Looking back, this exercise seems entirely natural. There are a lot of Boomers (hence the name), and naturally as they move from youth to peak earning power, their tastes will dominate the landscape. The Boomers felt the same way about the Hello Dolly/Vegas/Laurence Welk aesthetic their elders went in for. Plus, and if I’m being honest, that era had some quality cultural product. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the Classic Rock era, and I’m entirely comfortable with saying that most of it didn’t suck. Neither did late 60’s-mid 70’s New Wave cinema, although I understand why it died. There isn’t any reason for any generation to not want to look back fondly on their youth.

But here’s the twist: When 80’s nostalgia started resting it’s head 20 years ago (just let that sink in), I didn’t like it any better. Mostly because I didn’t enjoy the 80’s all that much, or relate to it while it was happening. But at any rate, I found it boring: a strange, low-cal reproduction of an era, without any of the dark parts that balanced it out. Boomer nostalgia always paid homage to Vietnam and murdered Kennedys; the struggle between order and freedom, and the memory of playing their part in it, was an integral part of the story. But 80’s nostalgia has always seemed shallow; wistful, rose-colored escapism.

It’s been a steady lamentation for most of the past decade that movie companies are unable to move product unless it’s a remake or a film of an existing IP. The question must be why this is the case. Some of it must fall upon corporate inertia/laziness, the habit of the industry to exploit a trend until its dryer than the Red Wind in August. But that dynamic also leads to hunting for new trends, the next big thing, to exploit. Sure, New Wave Cinema had its successes, but that didn’t stop studios from greenlighting Jaws and Star Wars. For some reason, though, the current Nostalgia Well hasn’t dehydrated yet. It doesn’t seem to be the normal kind of trend. This seems to be where we are now, and likely to be for the forseeable future.

You could probably assign a thousand causes to this, and all of them play their part. Large historical trends are ever thus. Single causes yield single effects. But one thing that strikes me about ongoing 80’s nostalgia (which has absorbed 90’s nostalgia, which is wierd, as much of 90’s culture was a reaction to 80’s culture), is what the manner and the persistence of it has to say about its use. And that brings us to the generation that’s using it.

There are a lot of Milennials (which shouldn’t surprise us, as they’re mostly the Boomers’ kids), so their tastes are going to be dominant. In fact, you could argue that their tastes have been dominant since the late 90’s, when the crusty, wierd, ironic grunge aesthetic was replaced, almost overnight, by the Day-Glo Autotuned Bling aesthetic that rode hard into the new century. I felt that whiplash as hard as anyone of that era, and was shocked at the speed of it. I mean, for all of Nirvana’s legend, grunge didn’t come out of nowhere. It was seeded throughout the 80’s underground years, and the mainstream 80’s rock aesthetic wasn’t as uniform as memory suggests. Guns N’ Roses, for example, was a different beast entirely than say, Poison, for all they seemed at the time to be just variations on a theme. So were Motley Crue and Metallica. You can trace the connective tissue. The techno-pop, rap/rock late 90’s, on the other hand, seemed to just arrive from a spaceship and take over, apropos of nothing. It was an odd experience, feeling like you were already on the wrong side of the Generation Gap in your Early 20’s, but there it was.

But as time has gone on, the Millenials have become very protean in their tastes. The Spice Girls/Limp Bizkit era had even less staying power than Nirvana’s heyday. By late 2001, there was a Garage-Punk Riot going on. That gave us some good fun rock songs, but the whole hipster aesthetic that gave rise to it went mainstream as time went on and forced itself to become sillier and sillier to go on. Pretty soon it was impossible to embrace anything without irony, unless it brought some level of comfort.

And the experience of Millennials, by their own admission, seems to be a seeking after comfort. If you hit your teen years at the end of the 80’s, you became keenly aware of how wicked the world was, but also that it was full of hope. The combination of Crack Wars and the Fall of the Berlin Wall made an impression on me, that things that seemed to last forever could change, and that change could be good. But if you were too young to catch that lesson, history seemed to offer nothing but down notes. The Lewinsky Scandal shredded any faith in the Political Establishment. 9/11 shattered the idea that we had reached the End of History. And the 2008 Financial Crisis exposed the extent to which our economy has become a three-card monte game.

Who wouldn’t rather look back?

There are those who argue that this just opportunity. Unlike older generations, who had no capacity to indulge in the past, and younger generations, for whom the digital world has always been there, Millenials straddle the line between a pre-internet childhood and an online adulthood. They have the capacity to live in the past, so they can.

For our parents, and their parents, that was never an option. From childhood, all the way to adulthood, there was no internet — no easy access to the experiences of their pasts. For our children, the internet will always have been there. They’ll never know what it’s like to not be able to find a friend from summer camp or rewatch a TV show they loved. But millennials are somewhere in between — we remember a time when the past was out of reach, and we’re tech-savvy enough to make full use of the resources we now have to bring it back within our grasp.

Evie.com

That is as may be. But a crowning obsession with things past always hides a discomfort with the present, and fear of the future. Paradoxically, the very loss of tradition can feed this. When the future is understood to be some variation on the past, because we will do what we have done, then we can let the past be the guide it can be. But when all things are in flux, all understandings subject to disruption, the longing for Known can take over. The practical upshot of which is that there was a Baywatch movie precisely because Remember it? This is what Millenials want. The world is full of harshness and fear, and entertainment is escape (Oscar Movies are not entertainment). And it just might be that this is where we are right now, until another generation becomes dominant.

So Barbara Streisand is a Monster…

I almost wrote a whole blog post about Leaving Neverland, the new documentary about Michael Jackson accusing him of pedophilia.

I didn’t. Because ultimately I decided I didn’t want to wade into that morass.

I don’t know if Jackson did anything. I wasn’t there. Rumor is less than truth and accusation less than proof. He’s already been acquitted of it. So let the matter stay.

But, for the love of God.

Streisand, 76, made the strange comments to British newspaper The Times in a piece out Friday, in which she also said that Jackson’s “sexual needs were his sexual needs.”

She says she “absolutely” believes the allegations of abuse by Robson and Safechuck, but puts more blame on their parents than The Gloved One.

Now, here’s a couple of consistent positions:

  1. Michael Jackson molested little boys. He was a perv and we should shout it from the rooftops.
  2. Michael Jackson is innocent. These men are grifters and liars and we should condemn their falsehood.

Either of those stem from a disagreement about the truth of the accusations. Who should be blamed follows as a consequence of who is guilty.

But neither of these is Barbara Streisand’s position. Barbara Streisand’s position is:

  • Michael Jackson had sex with boys, and that’s fine as long as they don’t turn out like Corey Feldman.

Yeah, she’s apologized, unsaid it for the camera, but whatever. The mask slipped. That’s what Streisand really thinks. She really thinks a little pederasty is fine so long as you provide a nice resort for the family.

Really.

And it strikes me that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen the Rich & Famous stand by each other like this.

Remember how Roman Polanski sodomizing a 13-year-old in a hot tub wasn’t “Rape-Rape” according to Whoopi Goldberg?

Remember how everyone on the set of Guardians 3 went to bat for James Gunn (Who, waddya know, is back on the job)?

Remember how no one said shit about Harvey Weinstein for 25 years?

I’m starting to wonder if maybe, just maybe, there’s yet more poison in the mud to be hatched out.

I’m staring to wonder if anyone in that industry is capable of seeing another human as more than a commodity.

And I’m starting to wonder if there’s some way to purge it. Like with fire.

Sri Lankan Author Finds Himself on Nebula Ballot, Completely Baffled By American Political Discourse

Book Awards are becoming increasingly ridiculous, an extension of Twitter rhetorical battlefields with some side-talk about literature.

You should read it in full, as it nicely encapsulates the descent into madness that has resulted from the beachhead politics has made into fandom and entertainment. But this in particular amused me:

I’ve tried understanding American politics before, and it’s a bizarre mutation. Their conservatives are, like ours, highly religious, but they also champion freedom of speech, like our liberals, and they want a minarchist state, preferring to let market economies work. Their liberals are, like ours, pro-equality, but unlike ours they seem to disfavor freedom of speech and prefer heavier government structures. This is interesting, because this markets bit at least comes from the economist Hayek, who championed free markets at all cost. Hayek’s views were considered liberal in his day and would be considered a liberal pretty much anywhere else; it was Keynes who was the conservative.

This is like driving on the left side. They take something normal and do it the other way around.

Well played, sir.

Anyone Who Refers to Themselves as Representing a “Community” is an Ass

Is that a Hasty Generalization or a Sweeping one? I lack the data to tell. I also don’t care that it’s illogical.

It’s how I feel, therefore it’s true.

What am I talking about?

This.

Long story, short, an author allowed internet bullies who spoke for the “community” to shame her into not publishing her book. The book in question had yet to be published. Doesn’t matter. It has been seized on, it has been denounced, it has been made to un-exist.

This is how we live now.

But but but, don’t I realize how damaging such a book could be, because it reifies this or doesn’t show proper respect to that? Don’t I realize how this book is Hitler? FOR SHAME.

I don’t care.

I also don’t care if you have claimed, at some point in your life, to speak for a “Community”, and you don’t think that you’re an ass, and you’re offended and you hate me now.

Good.

I’m glad you’re offended.

I’m glad I wrote something that pissed you off.

Welcome to the party, pal.

Because the long slow march of shrieking cretins who have debased every part of our culture has been pissing me off for a while. I haven’t said much about it, because what’s the point? Anyone who genuinely thinks that a fantasy novel which has as a hook the enslavement of magic-users is a thought-crime deserving of rage, anyone who applauds the destruction of art for the sake of their politics, is beyond persuasion. As Joseph Mills put it, a mob has reasons that reason knows nothing of.

But the flip side of that is, it genuinely does not matter if you try to meet them halfway, or if you flip them the bird. It is not possible to avoid being offensive any longer. No matter what you do, you’re going to piss off someone.

So I’m going to.

“Community” is a word used by bullies to give their unexamined premises and tendentious conclusions the false authority of societal need. It is a word utterly ruined, which sickens my heart whenever banally uttered by a smug imbecile. It is verbal diarrhea.

It’s also a pretty funny if preciously self-aware sit-com from the last decade. I still like it, but I don’t watch it much anymore. It’s gone now, and Archer is funnier, anyway.

I speak these words as an aspiring author myself, and I speak them as one who just realized that, if The Sword gets published, I’m going to make people angry.

I can’t predict why, exactly. But I can predict I will.

Because this is the world we live in now.

So I promise this: if no agent or publishing house wants it, I’m going to set up a crowd-funded launch. If someone persuades Indiegogo or whatever site I use to shut me down, I’ll find another one. If I get nowhere that way, I’ll put together the scratch for as big a self-pub launch as I can manage. If the trolls go after me on Amazon, I’ll find another way. I’ll mimeograph the damn thing and pass copies around like samizdata (is that an inapt use of that word? I don’t care).

I will not be stopped.

Because you are evil, and you deserve to have the thing that offends you shoved in your face.

I hope I make you cry.

(Hat Tip to Larry Correia, who, if you think I’m obnoxious, is an order of magnitude rantier and more offensive.)

Do the Oscars Really Need a Host?

So here’s how the Kevin Hart thing went down:

  1. The Academy (whoever they are) offers a comedian a job being meh funny for a few hours while pretty people in gowns walk across the stage to announce other pretty people in gowns and then give each other shiny statues.
  2. Activists on Twitter (whoever they are) digs back through his tweets and his standup routine from ten years ago and discovered stuff that was not all about the LGBT community.
  3. The Usual Call for Apology is issued.
  4. Comedian posts video stating that he’s Moved On from That Time, and everyone else should.
  5. This is Not Good Enough.
  6. Comedian posts another video declining to apologize on the grounds that he’s Addressed This Before.
  7. This is Super Not Good Enough.
  8. Comedian announces that he’s declined the gig, whereupon he apologizes.

Other than the apology coming after the point when it might have done any good (not really, though), this is obligatory. The only question is how soon we’ll get the Burned by Oscar Controversey, Comedian Mounts Comeback narrative. My guess is next year, depending on whether his next flick with The Rock performs above or below box office expectations.

The obvious question now is, who hosts now? The more interesting question is, why anyone? I’m completely serious. The perennial complaint of the Oscars is they go on too long. What better way to slice the Gordian knot of technical awards and laundry lists of people to thank than removing the superfluous element of what’s ostensibly an award show?

All the introductory elements of the show can be handled by one of those navel-gazing retrospectives. All the introducing can be done by some red-carpet casualty who’s not up for any awards (that’s 90% of what happens now anyway).

All hosting the Oscars gets for you is the harrumphing consensus that you should never do it again, partly because one of your weak one-liners Offended someone, and partly because you’re Not Billy Chrystal, who remains the only acceptable Oscar host (along with Zombie Jonnie Carson) in the eyes of people who care about such things. And there’s a low six-figure paycheck, which sounds nice from where I sit, but I don’t have to pay for Southern California real estate or Hollywood divorce lawyers.

Skip it, give the people their statues, and let’s get on with the mindless speculation about what’s gonna go up next year.

The Coddling of the American Mind — Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff — The Story’s Story

A good discussion of the most modern of complaints: the University-as-therapy and the concomitant eradication of Free Speech.

Apart from its intellectual content and institutional structure descriptions, The Coddling of the American Mind makes being a contemporary college student in some schools sound like a terrible experience: Life in a call-out culture requires constant vigilance, fear, and self-censorship. Many in the audience may feel sympathy for the person being shamed but are afraid […]

via The Coddling of the American Mind — Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff — The Story’s Story