Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories (and other stories)

Much has been written, sung and filmed about the degenerate, dishonest, despicable, destructive Hollywood culture. Try listening to Marilyn Manson's Ka-Boom, Ka-Boom (or any number of the Antichrist Superstar's tunes) or the only relatively bad song off NIN's The Fragile, Starfuckers, Inc..

It almost always rings hollow - I mean, we know these people are after all making money hand-over-fist from their movie/recording industry deals, even as they sell us their contrition. There are, however, scenes, lines and passages which can make one believe the writer truly grasped the core issue, beyond simply complaining about losing a recording contract. Eminem's Who Knew is one of them. Another would be several episodes of the British sitcom As Time Goes By in which a (very) minor English author tries to sell a script to Hollywood. The view of an outsider who's actually had a taste of the atmosphere is so refreshing, particularly the scene where his complaints about Hollywood alpha-types are slammed down, both characters making equally valid points:
"They're children, and they're ruling the world."
"Only the bit of it you want to make money from."

And speaking of Brits. The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories is a (yes, one) short story by Neil Gaiman, included in the Smoke and Mirrors collection (or at least that's where I found it.) How much of it is autobiographical I could not begin to guess, but it rings true. It is permeated, instead of rage and indignation, by a growing sense of the macabre: Hollywood is not the seat of the puppet-masters, pulling the world's strings to their whims. There is nothing to fight there. It is only the mausoleum of humanity's lowest-common-denominators. There, in ages to come, will lie the endless chorus of machismo and megalomania, of Ralph Kramdens and Lysistratas, rags-to-riches and riches-to-rags, the endless dirge to humanity's inability to master its own instincts. The only question is whether the last of intelligent life will gladly inter itself along with its wet dreams.

The core issue is not the business of Hollywood itself, but the masses' eager supplication before it, the idolatry before star power, this placeholder religion of the information age. Gaiman captures the pathetic fascination of the commoners with their elected deities, the suffocating desperation to be embedded, if only for the briefest moment, in the veneer on the mausoleum's facade. He paints an image of a town which has forgotten even its own grasping for power, a culture that cannot remember its own ambitions, of skittish, unknowing god-makers, slaves to their own slaves, a thirty-minute town.

Hollywood is not a creator. It is a product. The problem is not whatever influence it may still hold, but that it represents so faithfully the greater mass of humanity. Hollywood will not consume us. It's the rest of humanity that will trample us as it plunges into the monster's maw. Well, this is your stop. I leave you at the fight club.

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