Narratives

Dec. 23rd, 2009 01:24 am
mellicious: pink manicure (Xmas - purple star)
"We tell ourselves stories in order to live."

Who said that? Joan Didion, maybe? (Googling says yes.) I really loved both Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The White Album - meaning Didion's book, not the Beatles album, although I like that too - back in the day, so it's probably from one of those two books. More likely the latter, I would guess - if you've never read Didion's long essay about her intersection with the Manson case, it's well worth seeking out, and I suspect it's the source of that quote.

In any case, that phrase has stuck with me, even though I don't believe that I thought it was as profoundly true when I first read it as I do now. I've come to think that that is one of the few things I've found in my life that really explains the crazy ways that people behave. We define and redefine our lives by telling ourselves stories. The stories may be essentially true or not so much, they may be helpful or harmful, but it's just something that humans do. We cast our lives and other people's lives as narratives.

I didn't intend to make this political, but I think politics is one of the ways this gets used on a regular basis. The religious right in particular is really good at using it; it's a lot of the reason they were so successful for so long, I think. If you have relatives like I do who are dumb enough to forward you the stuff they get from various right-wing mailing lists - and if you're masochistic enough to read them sometimes, like I am - you see the narratives they construct really clearly, about Obama and Acorn and all that kind of stuff. It depresses me just to think about it. No wonder they're all crazy.

Most people are recasting the narrative in their heads about Tiger Woods these days, although I think they were just being unrealistic about him in the first place. Nevertheless, this is about narratives, and the narrative about Tiger was that he was some sort of saint or paragon, which he clearly wasn't, so much. Is it fair that he's getting compared to that other famous philanderer, Bill Clinton? Probably not, to be quite honest. The narrative in MY head about Clinton is that he's a serial adulterer to a degree Tiger never dreamed of, although I might be lying to myself there. Although to be honest, who Tiger Woods sleeps with is not something I care too much, about, either.

(How about this for a narrative: rich, powerful men cheat. I know there are exceptions, but honestly, if you're that kind of person you get women throwing themselves at you all the time, and it seems to me that you really do have to be some kind of a saint to resist straying at least occasionally. But maybe I'm just overly cynical there.)

I know the first two examples I came up with are black men, or men of mixed race, anyway, and there's all sorts of things I could say about the racism inherent in the narratives people come up with about both of them. It's not really my intention to go there, but definitely there's racism inherent in these narratives, let's just say that. Racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, all that stuff. Whatever's going on in the back of your head is naturally going to affect the stories you tell yourself. (I started to say "color your stories" but I think would be a really unfortunate word choice here.)

Well, heck, let's talk about another black man who was much in the news this year: Michael Jackson. I know that the story in my head about him changed dramatically after he died. When he was alive, I pretty much thought of him as this weirdo child molester, and his death and all the subsequent publicity caused me to pretty much completely recast that story; I came to really think he may have been innocent of those charges, which I never believed before. Which makes that a really tragic story, if true.

I meant to talk about the way we recast our own lives, when I started writing this, but as usual my brain went haring off in a completely different direction. Oh well - I think you get my drift. Anyway, I'm no sociologist but that's my two cents.



Come to think of it, I think I need to get over being defensive about my choice of examples. Between those three men and Sarah Palin, that covers about 95% of the news this year. Now that I consider it, I'm sort of surprised no pundit or magazine has called 2009 the Year of the Black Man yet. (Or have they and I just missed it?)

And boy, I could write a whole 'nother entry on Sarah Palin and her narratives.



Note: I wrote this this morning, and this afternoon I happened to have to wait in the accountant's office for a little while, and what should be sitting on the table but the new issue of Newsweek - with Tiger Woods on the cover and an article about celebrity culture which talks about celebrities and their narratives. So hey, I wrote this before I knew that existed, okay?
mellicious: pink manicure (umbrellas - paper)
Good lord, I thought by the time I got up this afternoon maybe the Michael Jackson frenzy would've died down a little bit. I guess that was wishful thinking. However, there are some people writing some good words that pay tribute to the good stuff about the man without losing sight of the bad. [livejournal.com profile] cleolinda's is good, and [livejournal.com profile] ursulahitler's is better. (And that video Ursula posted is unbelievable. You can totally see the adult Michael there in the little kid.)

Rob said they have been talking some about Farrah Fawcett, too, although she mostly got eclipsed by the Michael juggernaut. (I'm sure most of you reading this are aware that his death broke Livejournal. Or rather, the whole world trying to log onto ONTD did, or so I hear.) I'm older than a good many people on LJ and a lot of people remember him differently than I do - that is, they were kids when Thriller came out. I was in my early 20s and living in Austin. We liked to mock Thriller and its zillions of album sales, that's mostly what I remember. I know MJ has a lot of cultural significance as far as having been the first black artist to have that kind of success, but to me he was this guy who was always around from the time I was 10 or 11 (and who happened to be about my age), and who made some good music, but wasn't really somebody who affected me that much. Farrah Fawcett - or Fawcett-Majors, as she was when she first turned up in my teen years - was not terribly significant to me personally, either, but I came to reluctantly admire her as she hung in there after her big fame had waned.

I'm mostly just rambling because I can't get onto LOTRO and I'm unhappy about that. Columbine was off today and we were planning to start playing early, but it's down. It's been buggy since the big update earlier this week and I imagine they're trying to fix that. (They were supposed to be fixing it this morning and be back by now, but obviously things did not go as planned.)
mellicious: pink manicure (Mermaid)
OK, I can't stand it. Let's talk Oscar dresses. You can play along with me by looking at this slide show from the NYTimes (I like the way this is organized partly by color) or I'm sure you can google, if you'd rather.

Taraji P. Henson: Love it. Love the necklace, too.
Miley Cyrus: eh. It might work better on somebody else, I don't know. I think it's a little too foofy for my taste - however, I don't promise to be consistent about these things.
Jessica Biel: I'm up in the air about this one - it doesn't look bad in this picture but I really think that drapery in the front is a bit much.
Anne Hathaway: I hated this when I saw it on the red carpet but it looks better here. The bottom half of it is pretty fabulous, and it was the top half I was objecting to. I'm not big on strapless dresses on most people (more on this below, I'm sure) and I think she's so pale that this pale dress really washes her out. (I'm not too crazy about her hair, either.)

Let's lump these first three red dresses on the next page together - Virginia Madsen, Heidi Klum and Amanda Seyfried. Virginia Madsen's is the most restrained and I think works the best by far of the three. Amanda Seyfried's is totally too much, as far as I'm concerned. Heidi Klum's looked better when I saw it Sunday than it does in this picture, but I think it's pretty fussy. It's definitely something only a supermodel (or maybe a Tilda Swinton) could pull off, but I'm on the fence about whether she actually did.
 
I'll have pity on you and cut. Lots more of the same, plus a bonus mini-rant about Sarah Jessica Parker! )
 
mellicious: pink manicure (Dark Knight)
Heath Ledger is totally going to be the new James Dean.

I dunno why this just now occurred to me, but it did, so am I sharing. And I'm headed out of town overnight so these are the last words of wisdom you can expect from me today. (Well, unless I get bored and start doing text posts. Which is entirely possible.)

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