A friend of mine linked to this piece by James St. James today, "Dear Michael Alig ...," which can be read in two ways:
1. As a critique of how swiftly consumer technology can alter social mores and change the definition of everyday tasks.
2. As a wink-and-a-nod parody to the superficiality of club- and "celebrity" culture and what the people involed in it presumably care about.
When I read it, what it reminded me most of was Josh Kilmer-Purcell's book, I Am Not Myself These Days, which details the year of his life in which he divided his time between working as a drag performer named Aqua and being helplessly in love with an escort-cum-crack-addict. At the end of the book, Kilmer-Purcell concludes:
While most of the things we are told may be true, it is not until we have tested them, taunted them, flaunted them, that we truly know they are right. Or wrong. Or true. Or false. Or somewhere in-the-fucking-between. And I think I know now a little better which is which. And I also know I’ll never quit testing this world. I’ll never rely on common knowledge. Or common denominators. Or even common sense, for that matter. To do so would be too, well, common.
So. I’ll keep dancing in my costumes. Day and night. And I won’t sleep as much as I should. And I will drink more than I should. And maybe, as I’m twirling and glittering, playing a retarded game of hide and seek in the middle of an open field, maybe, just maybe, whatever happens next will be bigger, and I will forget that which seems so huge to me right now.
This heedless rush away from your feelings and toward the bliss of the next big thing -- which will, when spoken aloud, be utterly tiny -- is what I think St. James was reaching for as he wrote "to" the man who killed their friend.
But there's also an echo of a sadder cultural complaint in the link. Because the party kids were folded into the same commodification of outsiderdom that Thomas Frank has been writing about since the club kids first hit daytime television. The end result?
The ostensible joke in each sketch is that a witless club kid works for a city tourism bureau and makes terribly inappropriate suggestions, but I think the larger joke is that you can actually buy the counterculture that you want. You can have the comfort of existing within the consumerist mindset of American culture while believing that you're somehow too special for it.
(Buying your way into an alternacutlure is a logical extension of celebrity as "the sum of their consumption patterns," to quote Anne Helen Peterson's analysis in the Believer. When the bar for getting attention is so low, we can all buy our way to notoriety for a second.)
The St. James piece ends with a chilling line about krokodil, a drug that's currently enjoying its moment as the panic object of straight culture. I love it. It's an elegant twist of the hairpin, a tiny vicious stab reminding the new guard that consumerist conventions may have moved forward but some truths about cultural commodification seemingly spring eternal.