Friday, August 10, 2007

The Age of Arrogance

The biggest laugh I got this week was compliments of Camille Paglia and her monthly Salon essay. I've always liked and admired Paglia. Though I disagree with what she's saying just as often as I agree with it, she's an intelligent woman with a strong, almost confrontational writing style. How she got appointed as a great cognoscente of pop culture, I still haven't figured out. Because she most certainly does have a big brain, and an even bigger ego-filled head to contain her big brain. And yet, that doesn't preclude her from being able to take her big old head and shove right up her own ass.

I mean, this woman spent countless pages over the years trying intellectualize her lust for Keith Richards...and Madonna! I have no problem with someone having a taste for Keith...or Madonna. But when you try to wrap it up in psuedo-historical-psychological-grandstanded philosophical crap, you lose me. Not everything needs to be footnoted with Edith Wharton references or have allusions to Foucault or the Peloponnesian war. Get over it, Camille. Keith played a mean guitar, wrote "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and looked kinda hot in a vampiric, overly drug gorged way. He was a bad boy, and bad boys are hot. Madonna? She sold sex. It's called whoring. It's been done for centuries. It didn't make her revolutionary. It made our culture less puritanical by accepting and commercializing whores. You like bad boys and whores. It's cool. We all do.

And yet, Paglia's writings mostly entertain me. When I read her column this month, she got me to bust out laughing with this riotously outrageous passage:
Aside from Francis Ford Coppola's "Godfather" series, with its deft flashbacks and gritty social realism, is there a single film produced over the past 35 years that is arguably of equal philosophical weight or virtuosity of execution to Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" or "Persona"? Perhaps only George Lucas' multilayered, six-film "Star Wars" epic can genuinely claim classic status, and it descends not from Bergman or Antonioni but from Stanley Kubrick and his pop antecedents in Hollywood science fiction.

Fucking funny, isn't it? Immediately, I thought she was joking. I thought she was intentionally yanking the reader's chain to stir controversy and discussion, and that her tongue was firmly planted in her own cheek, probably getting a giggle as she wrote that. Later in the column, she manages to up her own game when she crowns Kelly Clarkson the savior of modern music. I shit you not here, man.

So it was then, after the Clarkson comment, that I applauded her panache and brass ovaries. To be willing to make such blatantly retarded critically inclined opinion public! But then I started thinking about her big brain and realized that maybe she wasn't joking and that she'd taken navel-gazing to incredible new heights by inserting her own head up her ass and inspecting the interior of her intestines with fatuous fascination. Then, it was the removal of her own cranium, and its passage back out through her rectum, which left her covered in shit. She then proceeded to shake this shit off her head and it landed all over the page. A page which she subsequently submitted to Salon, and which they in turn not only published -- but paid her for!

How does this fucking happen? Seriously. I want to know! How the FUCK does someone reach the stature of a Camille Paglia and then get PAID to write absurdly stupid things on the page that end up stinking not of reasoned intelligence but of self-satisfied nostalgia? Don't get me wrong -- I like nostalgia, man. Clearly, Paglia has a connection with the art of her time, including Keith Richards and Ingmar Bergman. And I like reading analyses of Bergman's work, especially if they're tinted with a "in my day" personal perspective.

What I laugh at reading is when an aging person has the knee-jerk reaction of either condemning or ignoring any film, music, writing, or art that's happened beyond their pinnacle--of-discovery formative years. It's arrogance at its peak. And when it comes from one of our supposed "great thinkers" like Paglia and is published in Salon, it reeks of stunt-journalism, where the need to create controversy is more important than actual relevant commentary and criticism. And that's when I get jealous. Again -- someone, please, tell me -- how the fuck can I get one of these jobs?

I understand that it's an "opinion" piece, and so comes under the protective blanket where it's no longer really required to be relevant or critical or, apparently, even make sense. I understand Paglia and this piece do its job by getting people all frothed up and going there to read it. I understand that I'm part of this machinery by writing about here and providing links. But that's just the point -- it IS fun. And it's fun for me to write on my blog and talk about how shit-filled Paglia's once seemingly-intelligent head has become.

I'm not sure that I'm jealous of Paglia, exactly. If she was joking, I'm jealous as hell, because she's still one clever, calculating broad who knows how to keep herself in the dough. But if she was serious in her statements, I kind of feel a bit sorry for her. Yeah, she's still getting the paycheck and attention, but she's missing out on some really fantastic movies and music that are happening now. The world is passing her by as she lives with her big brain up her own ass.

For real now, though. How the fuck do I get a gig where I can do what she's doing?


Anonymous said...


I don't read her regularly, but I've been known to enjoy a Paglia column every now and then. She is an entertaining writer, and, with that BIG FUCKING BRAIN of hers, she even has moments of sheer brilliance on the page. So I understand your disappointment/frustration/jealousy that Mz. Pagila can write some idiotic shit like that and get paid for it. And no, I doubt she was joking. Every time I read her I can't help but note what a child of the 1960s she is, which is not a bad thing, but she has been pretty open and up front about her own self-imposed myopia in past columns, so I'm not surprized that she would make such a blind statement in this latest one.

How does she get away with it? Well, she's got a lot of faithful readers out there (like you and me)who have found her entertaining and insightful, despite her penchant for living in the past, and she has been doing this for a while. Yes, this latest ass/navel gazing is pretty fucking extreme, but Paglia has had this gig a long time, and she can, for lack of a better way to put it--rest on her laurels from time to time. I've been able to rest on my ass--er, I mean, laurels from time to time in jobs I've done for a while. So I guess she can too. Don't worry, Susan. You're so ffing good at what you write, I'm sure that one fine day you'll be so famous and have such a large and loyal following that you too will be able to puke on the page for buckets of money.
Do you know how I know this? Because oh my darling---what a BIG BRAIN YOU HAVE!!!


your fan forever,


SusanD said...

Oh Scales. ;)