Even though it’s the end of June, and The End might be near (key sign: Harvard in NCAA men’s basketball tournament), it’s not too late to announce 2012 resolutions. After all, half the year remains. I resolve to live life more passionately, like screwball comedies and Taylor Swift songs. What might be wrong with that? Well, lots of things.
First, I have to defend the concept, because it’s not common culture. It was in the past, in highly regarded films like The Philadelphia Story or Roman Holiday or Casablanca. Would the ending of Casablanca be the same today? Likely not, nor would it be as memorable. There used to be guidelines, the Hays Code. Not every suggestion was wonderful, like the embargo on race mixing. Many were, though. Here’s an illuminating quote from the code:
Mankind has always recognized the importance of entertainment and its value in rebuilding the bodies and souls of human beings. But it has always recognized that entertainment can be of a character either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race, and in consequence has clearly distinguished between:
(a) Entertainment which tends to improve the race, or at least to re-create and rebuild human beings exhausted with the realities of life; and
(b) Entertainment which tends to degrade human beings, or to lower their standards of life and living.
I’m tired of degrading things. I’ve got a thesaurus, so let’s add synonyms. I’m tired of watching people be humiliated. I’m don’t want to walk around Evanston and see profane swear word note paper displayed in a store window. I’m tired of undignified attitudes rewarded. I’m tired of cheapness and brutality. Looking at the 2011 hotel top movie rentals, Bridesmaids? Hangover II? No Strings Attached? Though I might laugh, how am I re-created and improved by those offerings?
I’ve been searching for some version of culture rebuilding. It’s been tough, because creation and establishing and general policy aren’t fashionable. At least in the United States, it doesn’t sell well. In academia, instead of building and creating, philosophies such as post-this and critical-that are negative and destructive. It amazes me that well-paid, safe, job-protected professors don’t consider themselves part of the Power. It drives me crazy. The University is not my cultural model. No matter how many times I subvert an assignment, like to write about the year 2017 by scribing a note to my unborn child, I won’t make it lyrical.
Perhaps as guidance, I had a powerful fantasy image on my Thanksgiving trip. You might want to put away any cupcakes you have out.
She – my wife – and I are in the black car, traveling through Hong Kong on our way to Sha Tin. It had been a good flight from the States, a long flight, but comfortable in business class. We’re anticipating our holiday … We arrive, and the club offers drinks, then we head to the suite … There is this gorgeous giant bathtub, easily sized for two. We soak in the warm tub, cuddling, caressing, canoodling together. Then we rest, smoothly, in the king bed. … When we waken, it’s just after sunrise, with fog over the mountains. And as the day brightens, we express our love.
Now that you’ve recovered from a saccharin-induced blackout, I warned you! I realized that I had basically written a Taylor Swift song. It was a little worrisome. Was I being silly, like from about 2:00 to 3:00 in this Jimmy Fallon clip? Speak Now? Was I following a bad path?
On TV, Ms. Swift has tea time with young girls. It’s rare to see her even in a bikini, let alone something salacious. This is her typical elegant look. And it’s very attractive. She accepts being a role model:
If you’re choosing to put out music and be out there in the public, you have to be conscious of the fact that you are a part of the raising of the next generation and you do have an impact on that. So, choose your outfits and your words and your actions carefully. I think it matters. I think it really does. You can pretend it doesn’t, but it does.
Is Taylor Swift a desirable role model? Or, as someone wrote (with profanity, of course)
at autostraddle.com, is she a Feminist’s nightmare? She’s followed her dream from an early age. She left her first record label in order to gain creative control. She writes her own songs, including passive-agressive stabs at people that hurt her. She has millions of dollars and Nashville songwriting credibility. If that’s not power to a female, I’m not sure what is. It’s a lot more complicated than white knights, as the Village Voice writes: “One of the two fairy-tale songs on Fearless mocked a guy for trying to white-knight her, and the only mention of such things on Speak Now is ‘I had the time of my life fighting dragons with you’ — note the tense.”
Yes, love stories and Hong Kong fantasies are part of Taylor Swift world. The string trio playing in Seoul Incheon airport live there. They degraded nothing. I envisioned a slow waltz in front of the band.
Some fantasies are fine, perhaps even necessary. Without hope, what is there? Post-modernism? Nevertheless, just thinking about things doesn’t qualify you or me as a resident of the passionate world. That’s the tourist visa. Living there takes effort. For example, if Ms. Swift performs 100 shows a year, that’s 100 times preparing the stage, setting the song list, adjusting the sound mix, and other stuff. Dozens of stagehands work behind the scenes. Passionate living is hard work, much harder than sitting around waiting for America’s Got Talent.
We’ll see how I do. Today, I awarded myself one point for stopping to listen to the string trio, and two points for literally skipping through the transfer area at Incheon. Of course, like Whose Line is it Anyway?, the points don’t matter. Passion, mission, and rebuilding have consequence. For those I strive.