Sunday, December 19, 2004

Sunday Life annoys me ... yet again. There are certain magazines that never fail to irritate me in some way or another. Like The Age [melbourne] magazine, and Vice. The other day I was so enraged by a fatuous editorial from the [aforementioned] magazine that I was reading it aloud to Penny. Bo remarked that he "didn't know whether to punch you or the editor." I knew exactly who to punch, but let it slide because this comment cheered Bo up no end. I think humiliating me is a small pleasure in Bo's otherwise grinding days, and who am I to deny a man his pleasures? (Don't answer that.)

But anyway. Today I was reading one of Sunday Life's annoying page of two-years-late zeitgeisty tidbits (p12), and I read the following:
Cheap trick
Keep yourself noice and ditch the designer labels

It all started with Ugg boots. Now it's time to get rid of those Paspaley pearls, ditch the Gucci shades and head to the shopping centre because cheap-and-cheerful suburban chic is the look du jour. "It's all about tongue-in-cheek glamour, like fake gold chains instead of 18-carat earrings," says futurist Ben Hourahine of culture forecaster 42. "Copying the naff look of suburbanites like Kath and Kim [right], while ironic, lets us reflect social aspirations more sincere than our own." So rev up that hatchback, hit the mall and indulge in some anti-aspiration (and save a few bucks at the same time).
I just don't know where to start critiquing:

1) The idea that's been bothering me for ages, about the tyranny of irony, and those dumbarse hipsters who just can't enjoy their consumption, nor do they want to have to think about the political/cultural implications of their tastes. Irony is a kind of escape clause: you don't have to consider the "social aspirations more sincere than our own", only pastiche them. Maybe I'm being too harsh here, but lately I've just been so depressed by what Baudrillard would categorise as the fourth stage of the image. Baudrillard's nihilism always kind of depressed me.

2) This is all about accumulating everyday bling, which I just wrote a conference paper about and am convinced is a creative, meaning-rich practice. But this piece implies that it's something only dull-eyed suburbanities do, and moreover that these suburbanites are incapable of recognising it as an aesthetic - it takes sophisticated urban hipsters to do that (hence "tongue-in-cheek glamour").

3) But I don't want to get caught in that stupid dialectic I saw so many people get bogged down in when discussing Kath & Kim and The Castle. On the one hand, some critics were championing suburban shopping practices as "resistant" or heroic, old-school cultural studies style. On the other, these consumers were dupes of capitalism being mocked by inner-urban sophisticates. God, I can't tell you how often I encountered these arguments while writing my shithouse Thesis Chapter Five. Even thinking about them makes me re-live the horrible feelings I felt when having to write that thesis.

I wonder whether Meaghan Morris dealt with this in her famous "Things To Do With Shopping Centres" essay, which Mel Gregg cited so gracefully in her paper about avoiding indifference.

4) Also, these are everyday practices that you can't just relegate to 'suburbia'. I'm not particularly 'suburban', yet I drive a hatchback and wear fake gold chains. Lots of 'em. With letterbox numerals hanging from them. Last night I was driving down Sydney Rd and all the old mafia-cafe men were staring at me, wondering which 18-year-old hoon was blaring "Get crunk, motherfucker!" out of his hotted-up Commodore, and instead seeing a blonde chick in a Toyota Camry, wearing a chiffon evening top.

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