Wednesday, November 30, 2005

why nick and jessica matter.

i read an interesting article over at salon the other day. rebecca traister takes a look at our collective fascination with jennifer aniston in 2005, and touches on, among other things: what we as a society value and why, projection, the nature of celebrity, and the manipulative power of marketing.

i thought it was an enjoyable article, but then again, i've always been a fan of the intersection of critical theory and popular culture. while traister was certainly not using venturing into judith butler territory with any of this (in terms of content or style - i've always like how accessible and intelligent traister's stuff can be), it was a few notchs about your average "what is up with this jennifer aniston fixation?"

many loyal readers of salon, however, took umbrage at the fact that their beloved website was reducing itself to pondering something that, you know, People magazine covers. the horror. really, some of the letters in response to the article were so soaked in pretension i almost couldn't believe people signed their names to them*. a snippet:

One can only assume that this Aniston article is Salon's version of putting all the latest gimmicky, crappy "got-to-have" stuff on sale, in order to drag in the hoi polloi by the boatloads?...

What's next?

Jessica and Nick: A Deconstructionist View[?]

the hoi polloi? seriously?

i really can't stand people like this - you know, people who think that they somehow stand outside of culture because they look down their noses at certain aspects of it. guess what? no one stands outside of culture. and while it is undeniable that certain aspects of culture are more frivolous than others, that doesn't mean that it all isn't ripe for critique, discussion, and debate. tell me, what is so awful about rebecca traister taking a cultural phenomenon like the divorce of brad and jennifer (and of course the subsequent brangelina circus) and examining it, trying to tease out its psychological and social relevance? are we so elitist that we are afraid of staining our delicate fingertips with the sordid stories of Us Weekly? don't get me wrong, i'm nauseated by Us Weekly just like the next east coast liberal academic. however, i recognize that it represents a big part of the american culture in which i live. i'm not just going to bury my head in the sand and pretend that these things a) don't exist and b) don't matter.

it's folly to act like critical analysis and popular culture can't co-exist. hell, i'd write that deconstructionist view of nick and jessica any day. that relationship was a fascinating display of money, power, gender, and control. if you think that these four issues don't affect you, well then honey, you've got bigger problems than whether or not salon's coverage has gotten more frivolous.

*funnily enough, the person that wrote the letter i excerpted didn't sign his or her name. hmmm.


stark said...

A lot of letter writers to Salon are extremely critical of Rebecca Traister. Personally, I don't get it. I think she's great.

Mike said...

Nick and Jessica matter ebcause they serve as a cautionary tale...for everything.

Jared Goralnick said...

but c'mon, we intelligentsia aren't to be bothered with such trifling hoopla... (grin). Good stuff, K.

elizalou said...

While I am definitely not a Rebecca Traister fan, I do absolutely see your point about critical culture meeting popular culture. I think it's fascinating and I would be lying if I said I wasn't interested in some level celebrity gossip. Last week, for instance, my sister's boyfriend saw Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton shopping in Sydney and for some reason I felt pretty darn special being privy to that information, even though it was in all the Australian papers. There's something so addicting about it that could lead to some intriguing umm. . . analysis. People shouldn't discount pop culture if they want to actually understand a big portion of this country's population.

I think comments sections on large scale media sites (maybe comment sections in general?) are just ripe with petty catfights and superiority complexes. Salon has obviously made a change in content and format over the past few years and I think it's really difficult for a lot of the long time readers to handle. The strange thing is that this new format is precisely what's allowing their voices to be heard in abundance now.

By the way, I don't know what this says about my place in the whole spectrum, but I had to look up "hoi polloi". Maybe I'm doomed to "Hello" magazine for the rest of my life?

elizalou said...

Wow, sorry for the novel of a comment there!

kate.d. said...

elizalou, i love novella-length comments :) and i'm not yet sure how i feel about salon's new format in terms of letters...i'm still getting used to it. though i do like how you can still choose to only see editor's choice letters if you want.