Monday, 13 September 2010

Plastic androids, plastic culture

The feminist Camille Paglia laid into pop icon Lady Gaga over the weekend, arguing she's a confected copycat - "a marionette... a plasticised android". But is Gaga just a symptom of our increasingly plasticised culture? Let's face it, most of what punters buy these days is fake, commercial, and little benefit to society.

But what are the other by-products of this "relativistic cultural vacuum" - as Paglia calls it? Here's a snap-shot:-

Plastic childhood - It starts early on. Most parents grimace round Christmas when they're bombarded with ads for children's toys - from plastic dolls to overpriced games - not least because they know they'll end up forking out for them. They also know these toys will last a couple of months at best, before they're disgarded at the back of the toy cupboard. And it doesn't get better. Later on there are computer games, iPods and other electronic "must-haves".

Plastic Homes - Property programmes fronted by plastic experts like Sarah Beeny and Kirstie Allsop have fuelled the hopes of millions who dream of living like kings... or celebs... or, at least, plutocrats. Well, everyone has to dream, eh?.

Plastic Pop - Gaga is a not alone amongst pop icons. Much that the young latch onto these days is fabricated. Teen idols are churned out in their droves by impresarios like Simon Cowell. The formula is: fashion model, erotic clothing, vacuous but catchy jingles, electronic voice manipulation. Talents shows like X-Factor simply perpetuate this malaise, while also giving the young something to which they can "aspire".

Plastic Art - BritArt is hardly a creative industry... conceptual perhaps, but low concept at that and for the most part intellectually untaxing. Many of the big names conceive of pretty ropey, self-serving installations, then have them knocked up at some factory in the Midlands. The key to their success is branding - what's in a name? - as that great benefactor of BritArt, Mr. Saatchi, would surely agree.

Plastic Science - The cosmetics industry is the "appliance of science" at its most absurd. Gratuitous chemical "compounds" sell eternal youth to desperate punters. Examples: Radiance Renewal (with watercress extract), Get up and Glow (with polypeptides), Age-Defying Serum (with beech tree buds, hibiscus and yeast)... to name but a few.

Plastic Power - Female empowerment didn't begin in the sixties, or with the suffragettes for that matter. It actually began when women discovered classy shoes that revealed who they were and how empowered they could be. In fact, these poor souls have simply been handing over their hard earned cash to buy into a dream, making various wealthy (male) shoe-makers much, much wealthier.

Plastic Politics - These days third-rate politicians love to hang out with celebs in order to hide their personal failings and to ingratiate themselves with "the people". Many of us just scoff, or look on... or cringe. But then again, even politicians should aspire to being "cool". Should they not?

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