Thursday, June 21, 2007

Paris Hilton and Cars

Two things I don't care about in the least. Two things I would normally never post about.

First, Paris Hilton. I have little interest in her, but I tend to think that she's way too easy a target, that hatred of her does not reveal ourselves at our best and is all too often couched in transparently misogynist language, and that she's a symptom of much bigger social problems. Beyond that, I don't really give her much thought. But I was nevertheless interested to read this post at Voyou Desoeuvre, coming to her defense (along with this article at the World Socialist Web Site) on the grounds that (especially leftwing) criticism of her because of her idleness is misguided:
Hilton seems to get a lot of stick not just because she’s rich, but because she hasn’t either earned her wealth or used it in some kind of worthwhile way. To a communist, on the other hand, this is one of Hilton’s most positive qualities. Certainly, on any reasonably calibrated ethical scale, Paris Hilton is obviously superior to, say, Bill Gates or George Soros. There’s a name for the sort of argument involved in criticizing the “useless” Paris Hilton: productivism. The problem is that it completely misunderstands what’s wrong with capitalism. The Marxist theory of exploitation is not based on a distinction between those who are productive and those who are idle; note that the only way that such a distinction could be made is on the basis of a moralized notion of productivity which is itself the defining feature of capitalism.
I came to voyou's post via k-punk's reply, which says in part:
The truth is that Hilton is an object I am unable to cathect in any way whatsoever - in other words, she is boring. She is a symptom - of her class and background - but an uninteresting one. In fact, her utter lack of remarkable features, the so-formulaic-a-computer-program-could-have-predicted-it pattern of her dreary rich girl life, may be the only interesting thing about her - but you would have to the austere asceticism of a Warhol to maintain that position.

More than the dull reality of Hilton herself, it is the pro-Hilton posturing that is a serious symptom - of a suiciding of intelligence, of cultural bankruptcy and exhaustion. It is the logic of cultural depression, of gradually but implacably lowered expectations, that has produced the over-investment in Hilton; a logic of devaluation, not revaluation - a logic of betrayal, of a failure of fidelity to pop culture's great events.
I tend to be closer to k-punk's position on this, but I really like what voyou is saying about capitalism and productivism.

Finally, in the spirit of Ellis Sharp's semi-regular posts about the menace of cars and car culture and road safety and triumphalist media coverage of new models ("reviews"), I offer, from The Los Angeles Times, more or less without comment, excerpts opening and closing this staggeringly awesome review of a new Jeep (I saw a shortened version of it this morning in the crappy free Express tabloid thing The Washington Post publishes and couldn't believe it was for real):
WITH the 2007 Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon, Natty Bumppo has traded his buckskins for some designer jeans.

Yes, Natty Bumppo, hero of James Fenimore Cooper's "Leatherstocking Tales," the great woody prose of which has prompted many an undergraduate to throw themselves off a tall building. What would Cooper think if he met the Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon? Would he marvel that it, like his famed protagonist, embodies the dual nature of wilderness and civilization, the very essence of American individualism? Would he recognize that, like his famed Deerslayer, the Wrangler combines "the soul of a poet and the nature of a redneck." Or would Cooper just play with the windshield wipers like a doofus? We may never know.


If I had to pick one vehicle in which to ride out the End Times, it would have to be a Wrangler Rubicon. [...]

...the Wrangler Rubicon — two-door or four — is unquestionably the stoutest piece of off-road hardware you can buy off a showroom floor. True, it doesn't have quite the integrated design and packaging of the Nissan Xterra or Toyota FJ Cruiser; both of those vehicles were clean-sheet projects, while the Wrangler has a lot of legacy to cope with. Call it literary tradition, if you like. The Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon is more civilized than ever, but it's still a noble savage. Cooper would have been proud.
We may never know.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that Hilton-bashing also serves a cynical civic self-projection of a reassuring corrective against the very excesses of capitalist idleness.

I doubt many who bash her would turn down her wealth if offered. That her misdeeds are so enthusiastically criticized masks a desire to be committing them ourselves.