It’ll be hard to write about a cultural decline without sounding like a pompous “hater,” but if you’ll lend me your ears I’ll refuse to bite my tongue. For all the good this 21st century’s done, it has also given rise to what I believe are reflections of declining standards in who or what deserves our attention and praise.
1. Kim Kardashian
By now I’m sure we’ve all seen the Paper magazine photo shoot of Kim Kardashian’s massive ass. I scrolled down and read commenters rushing to Kim’s defense saying, “So many haters! Omg, she’s beautiful and she looks great, jealousy is ugly!”
Are you kidding me? First of all, you’re defending a Photoshopped picture of a mother who’s likely had plastic surgery and rose to fame after videotaping herself having sex with Ray J, which conveniently happened right before the start of her reality TV show. That’s what and whom you’re defending.
She’s as special as Honey Boo Boo and Paris Hilton. She’s not a savvy businesswoman, she’s not a fashion icon, and she’s done nothing to deserve admiration or glorification or the pedestal on which we’ve placed her. But no, we’ve accepted her fame because she’s a product of the 21st century’s oversaturated media, and we only watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians because it’s our “guilty pleasure” and because it’s “ironic” to pretend we like her. We’ve created a cultural icon with embarrassingly superficial platitudes.
Solution: Stop caring about Kim Kardashian. Easier said than done, I know, but start with unfollowing her on Instagram and Twitter, stop watching her TV show, and don’t talk about whatever stupid publicity stunt she does next. Her value is entirely dependent on our infatuation, so just imagine the ridiculous things she’ll do to try and get it back. It’ll be a cool experiment that’ll empower us to make sure this type of celebrity will never rise again. We don’t have to shame her; that’s mean. Withholding our attention will be the ultimate, indirect shame.
2. Sharknado and Transformers
I hate Sharknado for many of the same reasons I hate Kim Kardashian. It’s yet another cultural construct that’s “ironic” to like: “Dude, Sharknado 2 party at my house. LOL.” I’m not LOL-ing. We’ve taken the most visceral art form and applied increasingly ridiculous plots, because as long as we have some crazy explosions and special effects people will line up to waste two hours of their lives? Transformers: Age of Extinction made $245,000,000 yet received an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes. Michael Bay is laughing his way to the bank while movie critics are absolutely dumbfounded:
“Bay has said that this film will kick off a second trilogy of Transformers movies—and I think he’s serious. That means there will be (at least) two more of these things. God help us all.”
—Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
Now studios would rather spend their resources on sequels with special effects than something original. How far are we willing to take this? Are we going to have Transformers vs. The Avengers: Sharkvolcano Hurricane? Please, take a stand against this garbage before our kids start thinking these are good movies.
Solution: Before you go to the movies, check Rotten Tomatoes and opt out of seeing anything with a rating below 50%. Even if you don’t care, think about those poor movie critics whose job it is to sit through Michael Bay’s soulless oeuvre. Think about Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, and Alfred Hitchcock rolling in their graves. The movie industry will respond accordingly.
3. 50 Shades of Grey
Few things make me want to quit writing like 50 Shades of Grey. It’s poorly written sadomasochistic pornography for moms, and this shitty trilogy’s sold over 100 million copies. At this rate, it’ll outsell the Chronicles of Narnia series. I’m not even jealous. If this were another Young Adult series such as Twilight, I’d concede that the quality of writing is geared toward an audience with a 7th grade reading level and thus it shouldn’t matter, but this encroaches on a whole new level of trash. Here are some excerpts:
“I feel the color in my cheeks rising again. I must be the color of The Communist Manifesto.” Of all the red things in the world, E. L. James chose a book? The book itself isn’t even red, the political ideology was associated with that color…never mind, the point is that it’s a terrible metaphor.
“His voice is warm and husky like dark melted chocolate fudge caramel…or something.” The writer obviously got hungry and gave up mid-sentence.
“My very small inner goddess sways in a gentle victorious samba.” The “inner goddess” is a recurring personification of this weirdly immature protagonist’s sexuality.
It gets worse:
“My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.” This inner goddess just can’t stop busting moves.
Unbelievably, it gets worse:
“My inner goddess jumps up and down with cheer-leading pom-poms shouting yes at me.” I’m not making this up.
50 Shades of Grey is being optioned into a movie that’ll amazingly be worse than the books, because I’m assuming the only allure these books had were the graphic S&M scenes that made post-menopausal women blush at their book clubs, but those scenes won’t be permitted in an R-rated movie. Author E. L. James couldn’t care less about the movie; she’s making $150,000 per day in book royalties. Per. day.
Solution: Burn the books. Pile them in the street a mile high, drench them in kerosene, and go Fahrenheit 451on their asses. Videotape you and your friends dancing shirtless around the fire like Crazy Horse at Burning Man as your local high school’s drum line pounds out a ferocious, renaissance-like beat to signal a massive cultural turning point. Upload the videos to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. We have the power.
Maybe I’m looking at all of this the wrong way. Maybe I should be encouraged or enthusiastic knowing that I don’t have to do anything to become famous, and if I sell my soul and create some vacuous content predicated on pornography or visual effects, I too could make my mark on the 21st century.