Friday 7 March 2014

Silent Movies

So here’s a thing I’d like to share with you: Lupita Nyong’o is fucking gorgeous, isn’t she?

I know, “Oscar Winning Actress is Attractive” is a shock headline up there with “Water is Wet” and “Fire is Hot”. And yes, it is a bit reductive and potentially insulting to encapsulate the entirety of a demonstrably talented* woman in a single comment about her appearance, but the truth is that I’ve really got nothing else to go on.

Pop Culture now passes me by almost entirely. Obviously the kids and resultant time restrictions eat into this, but it’s a situation exponentially exacerbated by the fact that Japanese TV is fundamentally unwatchable. Factor in the phenomenon whereby entertainment ‘news’ is inevitably the most vacuous and risible genre of any society’s broadcast culture and you end up with a situation whereby celebrity gossip on Japanese TV goes so far through lobotomizing inanity that it loops back round and provokes actual thought, which defeats the whole fucking point.

This kind of mindless pap is usually excused as being an exercise in vacant escapism: turn off your brain for a while and wallow in the plastic smiles and petty glamour of the beautiful people as they cavort and pratfall for the joy of nations around the world. Japanese ‘celebrity’ ‘news’, however, is not like this. Japanese ‘celebrity’ ‘news’ is so actively awful that you can’t just disengage your brain. Japanese ‘celebrity’ ‘news’ claws at the very core of your intellect, emotion, and sense of self, screaming in your face with a spittle-flecked howl of uncontained and uninformed rage, demanding, forcing upon you the very questions you sought to avoid when you first chose to collapse into the blood-warm sparkle-jism of some d-list talent’s latest infidelity: how is this news? how do we as a species assign value and worth? what world is this where effort is expended in propagating this information? why is this endlessly recycled carousel of small-minded judgment and spite deemed worthy of airtime? who watches this shit? SERIOUSLY, WHO THE FUCK WATCHES THIS SHIT? If I wanted to feel both anger and a sense of nihilistic despair sucking at the essence of my being I’d watch some Japanese politician on the ‘real’ news; entertainment news is meant to make me feel the opposite of that, or if not the opposite, then at least a sense of smug superiority as I look at these people with their fame and wealth and judge them for daring to have human foibles like the rest of us. And yet I am denied even that.

So I don’t watch it. Instead I maintain what passes for contact with the outside world through the internet, but even here I am stymied. I’ve never got the habit of sitting at a desk to watch something for relaxation, and even if I had, the room with the computer is right next to the kids’ bedroom so it’s not like I can turn the volume up anyway. Headphones aren’t an option in case one of them wakes up, and I am thus reduced to consuming my entertainment either as still photos or .gifs. Thank fuck for tumblr.

As a result of this there is now an entire generation of celebrities who I must view, for all practical purposes, as mutes. I am unable to pass comment on any of Ms Nyong’o’s talents beyond her appearance because I’ve never seen or heard them. She could have a voice like Donald Duck sucking helium through a rattle and I’d be none the wiser. In my world any entertainer who’s risen to prominence in the last three or four years registers only as a series of static images, if at all. Thus Jennifer Lawrence exists solely to enliven pictures through a combination of cuteness, photobombing, and gauche inability to remain on her feet, as if she were an hours-old giraffe calf (a sexy hours-old giraffe calf); Lorde is a slightly depressed goth who could really benefit from half-an-hour on a bouncy castle and a bowl of jelly and ice-cream; and Jared Leto is basically just hair.

I’m not, I should emphasize, entirely put-out by this state of affairs. Have you ever heard Kate Moss speak? Probably not, and if you have then you also know why most haven’t. There’s something alluringly old-fashioned about all these celebrities’ unwitting silence, a kind of enforced mystique which the total access, twitterfied, ‘personal brand’ modern conception of fame is sorely missing. I’m quite content for my beautiful people to remain beautiful and nothing more, and I can certainly do without their musings on what they had for breakfast or the current state of affairs in the Ukraine (“It’s appalling!” Yes, well done you). If the art they’ve produced is any good then I’ll get around to it eventually, in a couple of years, and if it’s not then I’ve probably saved a bit of my time for more important things like reading The Gruffalo to my kids.

So I wish Ms Nyong’o nothing but the best of luck for her future and hope that she gets to say all that she would wish, but I’m quite content not to hear it. Love the dresses, mind.

*I know, giving awards for artistic endeavour is an intellectually hollow exercise, and most larger ones are probably appallingly corrupt, but you generally have to have some talent or ability in order to win one.


  1. But, we know that you read, and read, and read... Think of all the people who consume all this shit on TV and the internet, and then never put their noses between the pages of a real book. The nice thing is, you've got a house full of loved ones to keep you grounded. As a loner, I usually head down to the local bar and hope I see a familiar face or two. And hope nobody starts talking about something they saw on the interwebz...

    1. At least before smartphones you had to actually go to someone's house for them to show you that *hilarious* .gif of a cat playing the piano, eh? The onward march of technology definitely cuts both ways

  2. Knowing as little as you do about her, besides agreeing she's a fine looking woman, I'm just pleased that someone in American media looks African. What an idea to have someone playing a slave in America, brought from West Africa ostensibly*, not look like an Afro-American (20% 'white', on average) from centuries later. I am not picky that her parentage is the other side of Africa to where the Atlantic slave trade was, for the simple reason that it's some kind of improvement in authenticity.

    Yes, I'm thinking about Obama. He's as black or white as he wishes to claim for himself, but that he's only ever described as a 'black president' says much less about his DNA than it says about 'race' as socially constructed and the persistence of the 'one drop' rule. I'm also thinking of Zoe Saldana. I've got nothing against 'miscegenation', having enjoyed some myself, and am quite pleased her ancestors mated with whom they did to make such pretty: but she ain't (just) 'black'. And yet, guess how she's described.

    See also:

    *Or her parents, or grandparents.

    1. Well, people (as groups or individuals) are entitled to describe themselves as they please, as you say. And others are, of course, free to disagree with those descriptions, but there are levels of permission necessary for that, I think. Public figures will always have their membership (or not) of various groups defined for them by the media, with more of less justification. The glass half-full interpretation is that we've finally reached a point where there are sufficient, and sufficiently powerful, people from 'minority' groups in the public eye where this becomes an issue. The glass half-empty interpretation is all too easy to see, sadly.