World in Motion: A Cultural Eulogy
“In the post-Warhol era a single gesture such as uncrossing one’s legs will have more significance than all the pages in WAR AND PEACE.”
J.G. Ballard, The Atrocity Exhibition
The problems started when the viewer crossed the boundary into the TV set and the self-aware celebrity of the reality star was born. This week, in one force-feeding frenzy we have had both the X Factor and ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother rammed down our throats, in what seems to be the putrid last throes of this cultural shift. British mainstream culture has once again been reduced to the sum of its parts, the people themselves. It’s a post-modern problem if you want to get into it, as reality becomes the source for celebrity and in doing so reality loses its authenticity and becomes a simulation of itself (see Baudrillard on simulacra and simulation, the Only Way is Essex, the Hills, etc.).
We are are left with two things that fail to deliver on their central premises. ‘Celebrity’ Big Brother is populated by nobodies, each one ‘famous’ for being everyday fuck ups like you and I, yet bear no resemblance to any of us. I constantly find myself asking who and what are these people and where do they keep coming from? Then there is the X Factor, a talent show. Remember talent shows, where the most talented one wins and all that? Yep, well not any more… In this talent show only the pre-packaged saleable star who can make it through two sets of producers before they even get in front of the judges can win. This is currently the quirky, indie ‘chick’/’lad’ with all the authenticity that a V festival ticket, Barbour and £150 wellies can buy. So, from the very beginning, the entire thing is psychologically bullying you to make a ‘choice’ for the most saleable pop star or, in other words, the one you most ‘identify’ with. It has never been your choice, because you don’t know what is best. This is the invasive televisual feast that has its roots in the propaganda and cunning editing of war reporting, where the hideous best end up dumped in the gutter and left to rot along with the rest of us in an endless waiting room for our fifteen minutes of fame.
Whilst we are lamenting the demise of British cultural heritage we might as well turn our attentions to the new Blade Runner film. The techno-noir pinnacle of science fiction, sourced in Philip K Dick’s paranoid ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’ questioning the bounds of humanity and its simulation. Thankfully this week it was confirmed that Ridley Scott is back at the helm as director and he’s not going to desecrate his defining achievement, a film that looks as good today as it did thirty years ago, is he? A short answer goes something like; if Stephen Spielberg’s revisionism and James Cameron’s obsessive and excessive use of CGI is anything to go by then we definitely have something to worry about.
That was all that I could stomach this week and for every future week ever. It might be time to depose the TV and go native, because all of these attention whores may well be gazing at their reflection in the window through which we are judging them, but it’s also the one which we secretly desire to cross.