Disposable Pleasures

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A porn star died the other day...

A porn star died the other day. Another wreck on the low road of life, a mention online, perhaps a small blurb in the local daily, but her passing, as so many, went unnoticed beyond family and friends. One of seeming multitudes, she was but another woman beaten by a life so full of empty promise and hollow success that her will to continue dissipated until she dissipated with it and then was no more.

Another disposable pleasure for a culture glutted on human degradation: as pretty much all actors and performers, sports figures and talking heads, when they have passed beyond the point of interest, they shuffle off and we change channels. Or websites.

And while I have worked with many porn stars as well as more than a few of the non-porn type, I had no acquaintance with this one. Just another pretty face, amazing body and willingness to suffer social degradation to fit in, to find her place. Such a strange notion: acceptance through degradation. Build your body to its highest efficiency only to have it destroyed when employed. Ask pro football players about the delights of slamming full speed into walls of human flesh, or even the ground, 15 or 20 times an hour, hour after hour, day after day, during practice or play. Ask a boxer.

Entertaining us takes a toll.

How we loved Elvis, no longer even appearing in backwater mini marts or tabloid headlines – the once mighty king fell, fell harder, and now isn’t even worth lining our bird jails anymore. Michael Jackson, the new king, turned himself into a white princess, poisoning him/herself trying to keep us amused. Which we were. For a while. We loved his antics with the kids. We could mock and degrade him in absentia, humiliate him in the press where he was convicted then tried then hanged then acquitted then released and finally buried.

You know, for kids.

We raise them up to knock them down, worship them, dismiss them, discard them, then forget about them: actors, singers, musicians, dancers, sports luminaries, writers, soldiers, everyone. They are our disposable pleasures, the flashing lights and dancing monkeys which we soon forget when the power is off and the music has stopped. As amusements they are little more than distractions for lives mundane where not positively awful.

For even in the splendor that is our current Western culture, degrading as well with escalating urgency, we are a people bereft of joy. This is established by what entertains us, what amuses us, what demands our attention. Ever see an accident on the highway? Unless you’ve never driven on one, you’ve probably seen more than a few. The reason you see many of them is curiosity, yours and your fellow drivers’. Gotta slow down to a crawl, see a little carnage – spice talk around the water cooler or dinner table: “Saw this accident tonight, the guys head was split open like a busted watermelon all over the 405 – could you pass the mashed potatoes?”

Why do people go to the races? To watch other people drive around in circles, or to watch them crash? If you’re a race fan and were told that new protocols were in place to make it safer and that there would never again be a fiery crash, bursting into the pits, scattering flaming wreckage all over the infield, would you still go? Really? How often?

Why are films where you fuck someone up rated PG13 whereas films where you fuck someone rated R or X should actual fucking occur? Why are the most popular forms of diversion those in which people are hurt or maimed or even killed (or represented as such) and the really most popular diversions are rated X so you have to watch them in private like some pervert? What is more perverse, personal gratification at the pleasure of others, or public glee at the slaughter of others? 

Before the turn of the century, porn films had a virtual prohibition against extreme violence, bondage and penetration, and torture. Kind of like international law. Over the last decade that has changed. It’s not about pleasure. It’s about pain and humiliation and dominance and degradation, our national ethos. Each thrill has to sink ever deeper into the slough of human depravity to help get over that hump. To keep us amused. Aroused. 

Why do we wage war on the screen and in real life if not to keep us interested beyond the excessive profits of a few? Murder seems mighty exciting when it’s remote, distant. On film and in other people’s countries, murder can be enjoyed voyeuristically. Why is this promoted as heroic and noble whereas people who fuck on film are portrayed as horrid deviants that require marginalization and debasement? What drives this sickness?

I posit the reason this appeals to us is that our own lives are so joyless, so dull, so boring that in the recounting of human travail, we become interesting or at least less uninteresting. As we have something interesting to share, our recounting transfers that interest to us: Like my story-like me. Through this, common interest is established.

Look at the community that arises around a sporting event or team: advocates of one team or another call it ‘their’ team, become well versed in the statistics which prove ‘their’ team choice was the correct one, and express huge disappointment when the event leads to ‘their’ team’s failure. Just like politics. They talk about players as though they are friends, as though they know these people who are destroying their bodies and brains so ‘their’ fans can get drunk and fat and shout at each other about the last play and what they should have done. Always what they should have done. Interesting that in both cases, the players and spectators destroy their bodies.

For the game.

Or musicians: thoughtful, talented and insightful artists arise and throw their entire beings into the creation of music which elevates, enlightens and inspires only to find that such art cannot compete with repetition, flash and extravagance. Their fans, as children, have little tolerance for thoughtful message, enamored of explosions and lights and crazy dancing.

The musician becomes the showman or fades into no man, crumbling into obscurity, leading life on the fringes while watching bands which put more effort into choreography and costume than song craft or musicianship succeed spectacularly while they dance around like flashing apes, with lots of gimmickry to amuse and impress the spectators. For kids.

And the flashy, dancy performers suffer their careers as well. They beat their bodies and ears as they pound through each grueling dance routine over and over to blaring music and blinding lights, hurling themselves around--likened to some kind of rhythmic seizure as the beat pounds--thud, thud, thud… Only to wake up one day, surrounded by handlers and accountants and hangers-on and all their best buddies, realizing they are nothing but the latest in a long line of shills, corporate or otherwise, devoid of real substance, bereft of purpose beyond distraction. Sedation for a sleeping nation.  

Why so many of these people, these performers on the Titanic, fall into despair, alcoholism, drugs, or even worse, religion, is the realization that they are no more than whores, disposable pleasures for a society glutted, somnolent and bored. A society that for the most part does jobs that are totally unnecessary to well, really, anything beyond making money. Entertaining the empty – filling the hole with more space.

They realize they have made themselves a spectacle, adored by weird strangers reviled by weirder ones. The appeal of the cheer degrades into the squeal of the jeer with the realization that their fans professed love for them is no more than their own love for a pastry or wheatgrass smoothie, a fleeting joy soon replaced by the next sensation. Watching all who came before and seeing all who nip at their heels, they realize the temporal nature of their limelight and that when they fall, the last light to shine on them will be that of the coroner, and a harsh and dispassionate media.

Why do Western relationships dissipate with such regularity? Jobs come and go, friends come and go; loves ebb and flow. Because perhaps we’ve been taught that a new, greater pleasure lies right around the corner, an opportunity is poised to knock, or the thing we think we really want is imminent? If you can have a new favorite singer, a new favorite songwriter, a new favorite actor, a new favorite film, a new favorite TV show, a new favorite sports franchise every year, then why stay with someone who was last year’s fave? Or the year before’s?

Trade up. Isn’t that what we do? Out with the old and in with the new: Doggy or Miss Kitty Puss dies; rush out and buy a new one; avoid getting too attached, they’ll just let you down. Pets as people, disposable pleasures, here for our amusement. Change the channel, change the channeler. One fuck-up and they’re out; human weakness cannot be tolerated. Soon, love becomes a disposable pleasure and, as with the rest of the waste, gets buried in the ground as we flip around for something really thrilling to amuse us for a bit.

So busy looking for the next thrill, we miss the one we’re having, and thus become as disposable as our pleasure.                                                      

© 2011

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