Thursday, March 01, 2007
I am itching
I left my friend Matt's house the other day itchy. It wasn't a physical itch (like between the toes), it was a psychological itch that I just couldn't deal with. I was uncomfortable. It has taken me a lot of introspection to determine what caused this horripilation of my psyche. In order for you to understand this better, I have to allow you to see a facet of my relationship with Matt.
Matt and I are mainlining pop-culture in the most unhealthy of ways. It is apparent that a lot of the classy angles of pop-culture (literature, decent film, mainstream music) are not what we are into. Matt and I tear into the seedy underbelly of what people are feeding on. I must say that he is much more disciplined in his pop-culture abuse than I am; but I am there with him, shooting up fairly regularly. Who am I really kidding though? there is a market for the trash that Matt and I have been feeding on. If there were no market, there would be no current blog about the subjects that I am about to break down.
It started years ago with things like watching BUMFIGHTS and Iraq execution videos online. We would wince and wonder what inspired people to film such jacked up moments and submit them. We would wonder who these people were who were feeding on this stuff. I remember wrestling with the Iraq execution vids and wondering if the head held out in front of the camera was real or a special effect. We wondered why. I wondered why. I would haunt ogreish and score stuff just to the left of sanity. There was some truth underneath it all, and I wanted to secure it. Little did we know that we were soon to become those very people who would be known as, "those that feed at that trough.".
The Steve-O vids, Jackass and a plethora of sub-par cinema that is funny in one way or another to a certain crowd has been our forte. But there have been nights when I have gone to sleep feeling sorry for poor Mr. Steve-O and wondering what turn his life took that he would actually drink the beer that ran down a strange man's asscrack. If Matt and I were watching movies in the theatre, they tended to be the mainstream ones that people talked smack about. There is some class in what we are doing, but like I said, that itch really got to me and forced an internal assessment that I really had never planned on.
So, yesterday, as I left Matt's place itching again, I knew what that itch was about.
BEING MADE TO FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.
Oh, I know, it isn't too much of a revelation; but we need to check the issues at hand here.
Years ago (well, 2) I watched the Ricky Gervais' OFFICE in its entirety. Back to back to back. My conclusion was that the humor was all about making the audience uncomfortable. The funniest things in that show all had to do with people saying too much, or too little in situations that needed specific reactions. I have since tried to do the same with the American version of the OFFICE, but 40-year-old virgin makes me so uncomfortable that I simply can't do it.
2 weeks ago in Missouri, I had a similar twinge of this uncomfortabliltity. I was watching AMERICAN IDOL at the bar. The show is a rather mean-spirited visitation of mediocrity upon the American tv-viewing public. There are these poor fools trying to cut it on the show, with all of these mean-spirited odds against them. What is uncomfortable is when you see someone who really sucks at what they are doing. You hear bad their musical notes. You see their dance mis-steps. You hear that Simon-bastard judge telling people in the coldest, most venomous terms that they really suck and to get the hell out. Those that succeed the bloodletting are strung on until the last possible sane second before they are told that they have cleared and can move onto the next round.
Those pregnant pauses as they wait to tell the performers and the audience at the same time are what (I think) drives people back to the show. Sure there is a musical backdrop, and some people are going to actually buy the albums when the show is over, but in order to keep the tv audience riveted, they make them UNCOMFORTABLE.
So I was at Matt's a few weeks ago and he wanted to play me the boxed first season of BBC's EXTRAS. Ricky Gervais is at it again, and needless to say, I was uncomfortable as hell. EXTRAS is more of people simply opening their mouths and saying more than they should ever say and then backtracking, or not. A key uncomfortable situation had Ricky Gervais at a prayer meeting. he had lied to a girl and told her that he was Catholic. She in turn invited him to a party. The party was the prayer meeting. Ricky then proceeds to lie about his parish, his confirmation saint and the priest of the imaginary imaginary parish. The priest running the show asks Ricky about it, and he proceeds to admit it. He admits that he simply told these lies in order to get closer to the woman who brought him there. Understand that Ricky Gervais is delicate looking and you already feel sorry for him because his very demeanor demands empathy.
And there we have it; the key word of this entire post: EMPATHY. if you have no empathy, then you probably won't feel the itch that I speak of. I suppose you also have to have the stomach to put yourself through such things.
Something about reality TV and TV in general and how it makes me so damn uncomfortable.
So yesterday, Matt walked me through a reality TV show on VH1 called The White Rapper Show. I finally stepped up my game and told him, after MC Serch (of POP GOES THE WEASEL fame) did his third or fourth "woo-WOOO" call for someone offstage. It sounded fake and impersonal. It sounded like Serch was trying to be something that he is not. Then, as I watched the show, i saw all of these kids trying to be something that they were not. Sure, white guys can rap. But rap then. Don't posture and pose like you are something else. This got more and more painful and tedious to watch. Color was the issue. the whole show was based on the color issue. During a freestyle battle, the black rappers reminded these white guys that they were indeed white. I was really itching. These white guys were putting in their time for their $100,000 prize money, but at what cost? And when one of them flubbed his rap, or if his gold teeth fell into his mouth mid-rap and he had to recover in front of a tough crowd? I was made uncomfortable again.
So what is this all about? What is this feeding on uncomfortable moments all about? Are we supposed to feel what the contestants of these reality tv shows are going through? Is that where the juice is? Am I supposed to feel for Ricky Gervais when he slips up and totally puts a gay intern in his place? Who am I supposed to feel for? What is the proper reaction to this stuff? Matt and I discussed it and he revealed that at times it gets so bad for him that he has to leave the room. Or he has to get up and walk around, to shake this nasty feeling off.
My empathy is wielded against me and exploited with this stuff. But for some reason, this really is the flavor of the moment. It is the flavor of the moment, and I am learning to live with this flavor, however itchy it is.