Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Three Related Things

On Sunday, there were two articles in the NY Times Arts & Leisure section, plus Johnny Carson's death was announced. Why are these things related?

One article, by Manohla Dargis, discusses the deeper meaning of the proliferation of cosmetic surgery. Dargis notes, "What is undeniable and increasingly unavoidable is that plastic surgery is altering one of the greatest landscapes in cinema: the human face." Plastic surgery erases the signs of a lived life--it cleans the slate, not just of the messy chalk dust, but of the jokes you laughed at, and the tears you shed. I have a wedding photo of my parents--they're leaving my grandparents' house, just after the wedding, I think, and they look so happy. I have another photo, from a few years ago--i.e., taken about 45 years after the first photo--and they have almost exactly the same looks on their faces, but their faces show the lives they've lived. I love those two photos, and I love them side by side. And the thing that matters most is the looks on their faces, the life they've shared. How can plastic surgery improve on that? How can it do anything except erase the evidence?

A second article, by Frank Rich, details how the pictures of the torture that Americans have conducted (and likely are conducting) isn't on the television. As Rich notes, "Since the early bombshells from Abu Ghraib last year, the torture story has all but vanished from television, even as there have been continued revelations in the major newspapers and magazines like The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books and Vanity Fair. If a story isn't on TV in America, it doesn't exist in our culture." And he's right--we get our news from the radio, from television, from the ether; many people don't have time, or don't want to make the time, to read something Serious, and the media are, at the very least, complicit in this. Torture is icky; much more fun to show someone getting worms dumped on his head--or show a Regular Girl getting the makeover, including plastic surgery, that will make her the beauty she always knew she was Inside.

And Johnny? Well, after the first football game was over and C left to take O back to Mommy's house, I channel surfed for a few minutes (until I found a Law & Order rerun, if you want to know the truth), and happened across six or so channels in a row that were yammering on about Johnny Carson and his death and What He Meant, and so on. Good lord, people, is that all you can find to discuss on a Sunday? don't get me wrong, I liked him; I thought he was an interesting man, and he did a good job on The Tonight Show, and he definitely gave a lot of young comedians their breaks. But all that? Come on!

And that's when I saw how these three things fit together, though I'm doing a piss-poor job of articulating it here. The media lurches from one story to the next, encouraging viewers to have the attention span of a spaniel--and the depth of analysis, too, while you're at it. The mighty right-wing Wurlitzer complains incessently about how the Media Are So Liberal. What they really mean is that facts, like torture, might make average citizens rise up in outrage at their government's policies and actions; better to distract us with a star's death, or "reality" shows (in what sense is that "reality"?), or some middle-class white murderer with a telegenic girlfriend. Better to smooth away the unpleasant signs of aging, surgically remove the evidence, and pretend we're all young and innocent once again.

Blegh--I'm not satisfied with this, but I hope you got at least a little of what I'm yammering on about.

5 Comments:

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Blogger Hoodia said...

Help me Dude, I think I'm lost..... I was searching for Elvis and somehow ended up in your blog, but you know I'm sure I saw him in a car lot yesterday, which is really strange because the last time I saw him was in the supermarket. No honest really, he was right there in front of me, next to the steaks singing "Love me Tender". He said to me (his lip was only slightly curled) "Boy, you need to get yourself a San Diego cosmetic surgery doctor ,to fit into those blue suede shoes of yours. But Elvis said in the Ghetto nobody can afford a San Diego plastic surgery doctor. Dude I'm All Shook Up said Elvis. I think I'll have me another cheeseburger. Then I'm gonna go round and see Michael Jackson and we're gonna watch a waaaay cool make-over show featuring some Tijuana dentistson the TV in the back of my Hummer. And then he just walked out of the supermarket singing. . . "You give me love and consolation,
You give me strength to carry on " Strange day or what? :-)

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