Friday, December 2, 2016

Fizz vs. Flat

"I'm someone else, I'm someone new
I'm someone stupid just like you"

Marilyn Manson - Born Again

If you live in the U.S. you've likely seen Pepsi's latest ad campaign. Regular schmuck does something regularly schmucky, chugs a can of sugar-water and equates the achievement with his/her hero(-ine) doing something heroic. Flash-cut to hero doing heroic thing equating self to schmuck doing schmucky thing.

I'm sure this sort of thing's been done before but for me it highlights a peculiar ward or confine of our contemporary worldly prison. Nobody bats an eyelash at American anti-intellectualism any more, at the American Cult of Ignorance. So it's no surprise the hero in these commercials will likely be some idiot jock or pop tart with a monosyllabic thousand-word vocabulary. We all expect the public to glorify all the wrong ubermenschen. To twist the knife a little harder though, the cerebrally challenged of the world are effacing the very concept of superior ability.

Granted, this is no new wound. It's the ongoing sepsis of postmodernism, the denial of objective reality, "don't judge me" culture in its ongoing rampage against ... culture... but it is worsening. Yes, Roseanne and Married with Children were popular in the '90s but they presented the average cretin in all her slovenly, inglorious glory. You couldn't stomach identifying with Al or Peg Bundy. When Seinfeld purported to be a show about nothing, it did so largely tongue-in-cheek, as its core cast's petty concerns repeatedly clashed with one-shot characters' more valid knowledge, attitudes and endeavors.

"I'll put down your disco and take your heart away"

And now? The fat schlub from King of Queens has a "new" sitcom, with an identical female co-star in an identical drywall cookie-cutter house mortgaged by Goldie Sacknuts or whatever, doing things I could not find interesting even if amoebae ate away half my frontal lobe. This is the society which even had to sanitize Sesame Street because it was way too way-out-there. Ever notice the nerds on The Big Bang Theory never talk about nerdy things anymore? Some will say it began with reality TV, but that's more of a symptom than a causative agent, predicted by Ray Bradbury half a century before by the "family" in Fahrenheit 451. As early as the late '90s, books like Higher Superstition were sounding an utterly ignored alarm bell for the loss of discerning, critical thinking even within major universities, not to mention pop culture. If you google a Shakespearean quote now, the top hit is actually the mis-quote from NoFearShakespeare.

It's only been a dozen years since The Incredibles came out. I disliked its cut-and-pasted superhero comic anti-intellectualism, the denigration of the mad scientist. However, in the midst of that villain's big monologue comes the best line you could ever place in the mouth of a villain in a children's cartoon:

"When everyone's super, no-one will be!"

Only a villain would equate superiority with mediocrity, with the degenerate vermin which make up the bulk of the human species. No, much as I despise the knuckledragging mouthbreathers whose only worth is physical, they are still better than you, Average Joe, and this trend of degrading not only validly superior beings like intellectuals but even the public's idiotic jock and bimbo heroes by equating them with mediocrity is... well, apocalyptic. The notion that you don't have to do anything well, of giving every kid in the class medals, of building up self-esteem for the sheer hell of it, of gilding the dross of mundane existence instead of always reaching for the next bit of knowledge, the better, the superior, that is very likely the end of Western Culture. This is how you get President Trump, a Simpsons one-liner turned living nightmare.

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