Blandness is taking over our culture with an agreeableness that’s really irritating! Margarine has been applied to our entertainment and then served on a toasted ciabatta sandwich, which we learned how to make by DVR-ing anything with the word “bread” in it.
Our edge has no edge left! The sharks are jumping each other! Zany stuff is everywhere, but as a result, it’s lost its bite and everything’s been reduced to a quick visual followed by a wisecrack and a commercial break. Things are getting so banal I can barely stay awake to finish this sentence.
And it doesn’t help that we’ve gotten way too complacent for our own good. Bittersweetly enough, we’re not nearly as afraid of things anymore. Terrorism fears have dwindled, especially with bin Laden dead, and no one can manipulate us into getting that agitated all of a sudden. (I didn’t even take Harold Camping‘s world-ending prophecy that seriously. I blithely ate pizza all through May 21!)
What’s more, though the budget crisis is a nightmare, some parts of the economy have been slowly inching back like a Republican on Viagra, so there isn’t quite the same level of “Will-we-make-it-through-the-week?” horror of a few years ago. And while Obama is hardly Captain America, and he’s wussy on gay marriage, he’s still riding the bump he got when he decimated a common enemy in Donald Trump, so we can’t even yell as much at the White House nowadays. (And we’re not even mad at Trump anymore, either!)
As a result, we’ve become lollygagged cows on couches, lulled by a succession of reality shows that serve faux confrontation to make us feel better about our own significant lack thereof.
Ever since it became OK to watch TV—when college-educated people actually started using Survivor as conversational fodder—the culture pretty much announced its absolute surrender. Society declared en masse, “I have lost my mind and I will not leave the house from now on,” and suddenly you didn’t want to either, terrified of the off chance that you might run into reality-show zombies dying to talk about Celebrity Fit Club or Sister Wives as they walk in a trance back to the home base.
Even worse threats are all the talent-competition shows where the public chooses the winners, thereby handpicking the chart-topping icons we’ll be living with for the next five years. So the stars we end up getting are those who screech the loudest, sing the blandest, and offend the fewest. Please! The public should never be left in charge of anything!
The TV that caters to that public is such a ritualistically toned-down affair that on the last Grammys, the big “Fuck You” song by the guy in the Mummers costume was done as “Forget You” and sung along to by the fucking Muppets! These same creatures with hands up their asses were so prudish as to can a Katy Perry bit from Sesame Street because her cleavage showed, and naturally, a child has never seen any hint of a breast before, right?
I’ll take Katy’s boobies any day over the hairless chest of Cheez-Whizzy Justin Bieber, whose main purpose seems to be to make sure preteens’ hormones don’t get too excited (and his publicized romance with Selena Gomez is rotting my teeth, by the way). Still, I’d take him over the other biggest musical cliché for years now: a female singer wailing some monotonous refrain, segueing to a rapper barking half-rhymes about respect and shit, then ceding it back to the chanteuse, who trills the refrain in a vocoderized higher key.
And movies are totally off-key! For one thing, half of them are sequels—there are 37 of them this year, the vast majority of them loudly proving the law of diminishing returns. For another, most animated films are basically sitcoms overstuffed with pop-cultural references from two years ago and an occasional song thrown in for Oscar consideration. Even indies are suffering from terminal blandness, since their oddball-finds-love-against-all-odds theme hasn’t seemed fresh since Marty came out.
You’d think that at least on Broadway, producers would have the courage of their lack of convictions, but no! They treat ticket buyers like tranquilized sheep, helping foster the parade of revivals and jukebox shows that will never go out of fashion because the material is so achingly familiar. Every generation gets the culture it deserves—but does it have to be the same as the last generation’s?
Even my beloved gays are blander than watered-down Thai noodles nowadays. With the help of Glee and Gaga, they’ve assimilated to the point of almost being commonplace! They even go on dates and actually get to know each other and plan to get married! Basically, they want to be my parents! This is all wonderful, of course, but shameful feelings were one of the few things we could uniquely lord over the heteros, and now they’re going the way of last season’s Thom Browne jackets. Oppression sucks, but it’s a great aphrodisiac.
But the most edge-shattering development of all is the way everyone on earth is now a sitcom-level snarker, sending out tweets and comments with a crushing obviousness: “Weiner is a pig!” “Murdoch is sleazy!” “The Bachmanns have issues!” Now that every last soul on the planet can shout their watercooler-level eye rolls, the mass banality has become appalling. I wanted to be the only one!
But wait, there’s finally some new hope for our culture! ABC recently picked up a pilot called Good Christian Bitches, and I’m popping open some edgy champagne. Whoops, too soon. The show is now called Good Christian Belles. Pouring the champagne on my margarine sandwich.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2011