Wednesday, July 18, 2007

chicas Obama v Hillary (takes a global village)

This has nothing to do with Spain or Europe, aside from the fact that copycat “films” are likely to pop up in the near future somewhere on the Continent (let me know if you see any lovely French girls fawning for Sarko). It’s incredibly silly, and feminists are going to get pissed off, etc, but it’s totally entertaining. It’s worth the three minutes, anyway.

This is an entirely logical addition to the media and entertainment spectacle that is contemporary Western culture (dominated by the US, but alive & well across EUrope). It’s entertainment dressing up as newstainment. As Obama himself noted in reaction to the question of whether his tribute was organized by the Obamachine (it was not), it’s just a sign of all the creativity out there, and you’re going to see a lot more of it.

As we all know, YouTube has made history by creating a limitless forum for slightly creative people to put out slightly entertaining, slightly intelligent, but mostly silly crap that we can all watch during work (or during class, which I discovered last Spring sitting in on an undergrad course— how sad I felt for the various students watching YouTube or playing poker during lecture! And angry, too: once I almost got up and broke some guy’s laptop over his head because he was reading for like 30 minutes—which is 25 mins too long—while the professor was talking about immigration in Europe). So these political sex kitten videos are quite predictable. Take a culture that adores fame and beauty and television, give it the wealth and tech capacity to make the masses into video artists, and you’re going to have even more of these videos than blogs. Which is saying something. But the videos are the pinnacle of a visual culture in which several captioned images trump a single detailed explanation.

Take the "hott4hill" video, which is brilliant, but serves more than anything as a careerbooster for the young (22) actress behind it. What she needs now is exposure, and accessing the political world and its attending media circus by reacting to the Obama video is pure genius. The whole thing took her 5 days, and now she’s doing TV interviews. It’s really an amazing turnaround. My good natured soul says “good for her, ” because it was (kind of) smart and creative; my head-shaking moralist disdains the manipulation of politics and art for the sake of “exposure”.

The newspaper headline “Chica Barack contra Chica Hillary reminds me of just how prescient Marshall McLuhan’s vision was. Back in the 1960s, he foresaw the global village we were becoming. This meant the collapse of the then very real spacial and temporal limitations through an enhanced communication technology that would allow all of us to plug in to a worldwide real-time information system, an eventual metaculture of sorts. With the digital revolution, that system is coming into shape: the internet, digital and satellite technology, and increasing portability and accessibility. And because the sheer quantity of information society cannot be organized into categories, we have an inevitable blurring of the old categories of fact and opinion, news and entertainment, academia and creativity/art, public and private, etc. Navigating one’s way through this jungle is only going to get more challenging, as a higher percentage of our lives goes online, from email to myspace to professional profiles… we’ll slowly realize the ultimate irony of postmodern life: as it is made materially and informationally easier, life will also speed up as we do more (especially entertain ourselves), and personal relationships will be spread thin as we meet more people… as globalization imposes more of a collective identity on everyone, local and regional tribalism will backlash against the trend, as the classic idea of the individual will struggle not to get devoured in a digital sea of information where one can be anything one wants and is therefore nothing at all... our notions of identity will be altered inexorably.

I thank the Obama and Hillary girls for being such yummy food for thought.

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