June 20, 2007

Lousy celebrity makes record


(OK, contary to what I suggested in the previous post, I have managed to find a little time for a quick few words today).

Tim makes some excellent points about the 'foreshortened critiques of capitalism' involved in some of the response to Paris Hilton's incarceration.

Campaigning to keep Hilton in jail has no more political significance than campaigning to free her - but then the 'Free Paris' demands (as described by a bemused Simon here) are not political, except symptomatically. They are statements of flaccid flaneurism (a flaneurism reduced to the most dryly theoretical of poses), a flaunted but uninteresting decadence, whose disavowed libidinal charge comes almost entirely from baiting the haters - what I have previously called a resentment of resentment. Would that Paris' defenders were voguers, who had an intense interest in their appearance, clothes and mannerisms, who wanted to make of themselves a work of art. The shameful, embarrassing, and silly 'Free Paris' acting out - I refuse to dignify it with the term 'campaign' - is vogueing without the drive to self-beautification, a spectatorial pretence of worship. For, naturally, the worship is all a matter of being seen to worship her - what else could it be? And who is supposed to be watching?

I don't hate Paris Hilton. I hate Katie Hopkins, because I've confronted people like her, they have some reality in my life. (The only hyper-rich heiress I've dealt with is Her Majesty Le Chabert, and, certainly, I find her moralising self-hating sanctimony far more loathsome than Hilton's blank pleasure-seeking.)

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. Imagine all the proscriptions, the prohibitions, the self-denial involved in the pretence that anything at all is at stake in Hilton's record. Reflect on how a series of tortuous theoretical convolutions have led to a position that is, in both political and aesthetic terms, about as elitist as one could imagine - elitist precisely in the sense that it consists in a demonstrating of one's superiority to the plebeian masses (who did not buy the record - why not? Were they deluded? Duped? Didn't they know about it?) Let's be clear, though, those who so ostentatiously parade their love for Hilton - and it is all about the parading - have outed themselves: theirs is not a serious critical position, but a gentlemen's club weekend activity for stressed executives. They don't live and breathe pop culture, as I hope the readers of this site do; in fact, the category 'culture' - like 'history' or 'politics' - doesn't exist for them. It is all just entertainment, leisure and consumer preference, in other words capitalist realism, interpassive nihilism. This is what this discourse must be treated as: a noxious ideological fog, an apologia for mediocrity, a defence of boredom and the boring. Which is exactly what capitalism wants. Don't make any demands. Don't be critical. Make the best of what's there.

The arguments against Hilton-as-object are ultimately aesthetic ones. The merely mediocre record has more going for it than the substandard Paris-the-celebrity. The problem is Hilton isn't aristocratic enough; isn't sufficiently artificial or invested in artificiality; isn't a weaver of opulent fantasies. Compare Hilton to the artistry of the working class-born Kate Moss - Moss, whose life may well be as boringly hedonistic as Hilton's, but who as an artist (and it is only misogynistic prejudice that maintains that modelling cannot be artistry) cultivates an opacity-without-depth, the fascinating distance of the object that gazes. Working class fantasies about the wealthy are far more interesting than the reality (as Bryan Ferry long ago found out, to his cost.) And if there is a leftist moral to be drawn from the Hilton phenonemon it is this: that the lives of rich people are not interesting.

Posted by mark at June 20, 2007 02:19 AM | TrackBack