BY JOHN STEPPLING
Jolie’s titillating real-life “bad girl” persona is a marketer’s dream. Her brand of eye-candy image in comic book hero roles is what a totally decadent culture does best: to serve big dollops of fantasy, violence and sex to a permanently stupefied public. (Promo shot from WANTED)
MILITARISM REMAINS FRONT AND CENTER in western psychic life — especially in the US. There is at least a sort of anti-militaristic backlash going on in Europe ( the Irish voting down the Lisbon Treaty was at least partly against the military aspects of an EU super state). In the US however the marketing of war seems to be ever escalating.
Here is a particularly creepy expression of it:
This is an easy sell for US government propagandists because western culture has been so totally co-opted the last thirty years by US state department and Pentagon PR. The audience has been softened up to the degree that any jingoistic appeal to violent heroism is quickly lapped up. Alongside this, of course, are the realities of life in the administered world of advanced capital. The feelings of powerlessness and, even more importantly, the mental vertigo born of capital’s extreme contradictions helps foster a real need for some form of resentment-outlet.
Let me give you another link:
I wrote a bit about Doomsday films last week, and one might add to this — rather obviously — the trend in films about humans programmed for super violence (to chart the road that leads from The Manchurian Candidate to Wanted is quite telling I think). RoboCop was a sort of benchmark I suppose, but even the Bourne franchise is really about this de-humanizing proto robot-as-hero motif.
The total irrationality of an attack on Iran really leaves one slack jawed and stunned. Here I would suggest a reading of the final chapter in Edward Said’s classic Culture and Imperialism, a book ever more relevant. The need for a threat from outside is the basic trope here, and in a world where Imperialism and Colonialism continue unabated, albeit in new clothes, it’s easy to now demonize any resistance to same as *terrorist*. The racism is clear enough in the entire Iran nuke debate, since both Israel and US have quite a few nuclear weapons. That’s alright, we are the *West*, we need to take care of the clueless towel heads around the world, those dark skinned coconut eating poor people in crowded slums like Karachi, Lagos, Jakarta, or Cairo. The knee jerk *truths* of today’s capitalists include the end-of-history types; those who see western technology as the ultimate trump card in any argument about Imperialism.
The madness of life in the suburbs of Connecticut or Omaha or Atlanta, or LA is not examined — even as it is lived. An overweight and unhealthy populace that finds it harder and harder to pay the rent or heating bills, will still scream its superiority to the poor of Algiers or Port au Prince. The slum dwellers around the world, those who live in a shadow society and are most decidedly *outside* are gradually awakening as a collective, but they remain invisible to most western eyes. If they appear at all in media, it’s usually in the form of some nitwit actress or singer taking a NGO tour of a refugee camp and holding two black children while the photographers snap away. The end of white western civilization cannot be better expressed than an Angelina Jolie UN photo op in Africa.
The system that is destroying the planet cannot continue to reproduce itself, and the waste economy is slowly reaching fail safe because it’s (per Don Rumsfeld) running out of targets. Despite the overthrow of the Soviet Union, the rabid anti-communism of western media has actually escalated because somewhere in the toxic corners of the collective Bilderberg Id is the understanding that the slums of Sao Paulo and Calcutta are awakening and forming a new culture, and that culture is inherently socialist. Socialism springs to life when people cannot fail to see, even in the midst of exhausting daily struggle, the inequality around them.
Jason Bourne is also close to superhuman; the android is more and more the formula to please an increasingly infantilized escapist audience.
The media ever more desperatly tries to sell products about the super rich, the lifestyles of the rich and stupid, but the frisson isn’t there, not quite, because my heating bill just went up 200% and because another kid went ballistic at the local high school, and because corporate reality makers are having a harder and harder time hiding the poisons of their products — the pseudo food and the recreational junk. The biggest growth industry in the US is self storage. What does that tell us? Junk we don’t need, food we can’t live on, and a more desperate embrace of super violence and death. It is the last gasp of a people screaming their own superiority, even as they fail at almost everything.
When a people begin to accept and even desire the madness of self destruction, we are close to the edge.
Senior Editor John Steppling is Cyrano’s VOXPOP editorial director. His essays on culture, politics, cinema and theater have appeared in numerous venues across the Internet.