Affronts to Gracious Living
2000's Top Ten Style Disasters
Compile a list of Top Tens relating to popular culture? Good and bad? Where to begin? That was the first problem.
There seemed to be a dearth of good trends. I liked the PT Cruiser, and its promise of a return to more elegant styling at a reasonable price. That's about the best new thing I could think of. Scooters, costume dramas, and brushed aluminum all were cool, and all harking back to another era of design, which seems to be the biggest trend of all.
Assorted atrocities of the year 2000 included acts of moronic ignorance on the part of the sanctimonious, self-serving blowhard known as Dr. Laura, as well as sheer lunacy on the part of Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby. (What was she thinking?) The worst trend, of course, is Dubya. I'm tired of having to apologize for being from Austin.
So, here, in no particular order (and wishing I could find more positive trends to report on), are my picks:
1. Leopard Everything. A saleswoman at a large department store told me last week that "leopard and animal prints are coming back." She did not elaborate on exactly which rock she had been under for three decades. In the Seventies, leopard had the ultimate vintage kitsch appeal -- shoes, bags, scarves, and coats were snapped up in a frenzy. The rage lasted until it was co-opted by the New Wavers of the Eighties, and with the swipe of a silkscreen, it appeared on everything from leggings to neckties. In the Nineties, the edginess of leopard still lingered -- this time around acknowledging its world-beaty roots in the African veldt -- and made its statement on the couture runways of the world, igniting a passion for it that worked its way out of the walk-in closet and into every room of the home: from the bed and bath, to the living room, dining room, and kitchen. So, it's coming back? Darling ...
2. Mullets. Wasn't pretty then. Isn't pretty now.
3. You Too Can Be a Designer! Clothing and accessories by Sean "Puffy" Combs, Monica Lewinsky, Melanie Griffith, Shoshanna Lonstein, Carlos Santana ... Sounds like Career Day at Hollywood High, with the cult of celebrity reinforcing the dangerous delusion that your name (no matter what they call you) and your reputation (no matter how you got it) are viable products that should be marketed to the gullible masses. Who is this public, clamoring to spend their hard-earned dollars on a handbag designed by a woman whose design background is limited to describing President Clinton's penis? Ask the folks at Henri Bendel in New York: They say the bags are flying out the door.
4. The Seventies. Culottes to Bean Bag Chairs to Peter Frampton. Sorry, we were there the first time ... and the second time. Didn't they die out once already in the early Nineties?
5. Eminem. Replacing Marilyn Manson as the most despicable excuse for entertainment, this is white trash deluxe at its most repulsive. Engendering such fanatical devotion as, "Eminem's so close to God itz scary" and "Stuff that they say about my boy Eminem makes me want to tear their guts out, and that's about all I have to say. Peace," the mentality of the rapper's fan base is equal to his own. With mellifluous lyrics such as "You faggots can vanish/to volcanic ash and/reappear in hell with a/can of gas/and a match ..." and "I don't give a fuck if this chick/was my own mother/I still fuck her with no/rubber and/cum inside her and/have a son and a new brother/at the same time ..." as well as "Their mother wasn't raped/I ate her pussy while/she was 'sleep, pissy-drunk/throwin' up in the urinal," Eminem is the poster child of the appalling tastelessness and reverse-pretentiousness that epitomizes the worst of the white-suburban-boy's hijacking of black culture. The real question seems to be, what the hell do these kids think they have to be so angry about?
6. Got ____? Got tired. Really fast. Tied with: "7 Habits of Highly Effective ____ (fill in the blank: Dogs, Children, Aliens, Prostitutes, etc.)" for the most overused phrase.
7. "Gay." It used to be safe to assume that if someone told you, "Man, this is so gay," that it meant that whatever they were talking about was not just well-designed and stylish, but with a certain flair that set it apart. But somehow, in a turn of perverse irony, the term "gay," which had been cultivated over a period of decades to be a non-derogatory term for homosexual, has come to mean any variety of adjectives -- and none of them complimentary. Always used by the most erudite phrasemakers ("This is the gayest shit I've ever heard"), it is now right up there with "sucks" as the word of choice for the literately lazy. So much for the theory of evolution. (see: Eminem)
8. Ho's & Pimps. More appalling appropriation of stereotypical black culture by mentally challenged suburban white boys, which asks the musical question: Can't you find attractive aspects of someone else's culture to adopt? How did pimpin' and hoin' get to be desirable occupations anyway? What kind of woman wants to be associated with a guy who thinks of himself as a pimp? At least the stereotype of a pimp is someone who dresses flashily and drives a fancy car -- and yet these ridiculous pimp wannabes look pathetic: adolescent Eminem lookalikes shuffling around in droopy drawers and backward baseball caps, all wearing FUBU ("For Us by Us"), the black-owned clothing company whose ghetto-deluxe duds are a suburban white boy favorite, though a complete misnomer. According to Esquire, a more appropriate name might be, "For Them and Worn by Them." (Note: I have it on good authority, however, that here in Austin, the white suburban kids stick with the Dillard's version of FUBU -- like Tommy Hilfiger's comical attempts at "urban" -- and that the only white folks wearing the colorful FUBU couture are large dykes ... ) And we don't have to tell you: The super-ho look for women has swept the world, espoused by such walking wounded as Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and the moronic Britney Spears, who says, "I only wear these crop tops because other clothes make me sweat when I dance." Me too, Britney.
9. Children with Cell Phones. Almost as frightening and obnoxious as adults with cell phones.
10. Webcams. The proliferation of these is astounding. Go to www.camarades.com and see for yourself. But one of the things you'll see is that webcams are primarily a "white" thing, and more specifically, a white male thing. Even more specifically than that, it's seems to be an older, bearded, balding, overweight white male phenomenon. Most of them are cameras set up so that you watch your subject as he (or, rarely, she) works at home on the computer. Now, when I'm at home in front of my computer, it is sloth city: What I look like in the privacy of my monitor bears no relation to what I look like when I step out the door. When I'm at home alone, which is alarmingly often, if I manage to be dressed, it is without any thought that I may ever be seen. Most likely I'm wearing something I should have thrown out long ago, and as a fashion-conscious individual, will probably go to hell for. But there I am amid the detritus of my various interests, all piled in heaps on my desk, crowned with a heaping ashtray and a wreath of empty Diet Pepsi cans. I know. It's not a pretty picture, but, dammit, I can live like white trash in my own home if I want to. But it doesn't mean I'd dream of presenting this view of myself to the world. Why would I want to inflict that upon anyone? It seems to me to be a matter of basic self-respect. It's one thing to live like that; it's another to act like you live like that. I know, I'm not proud of it, and why on Earth would I parade my shame in front of a bunch of people I don't know in Sao Paulo or Helsinki? And yet, if I hooked up a camera like these folks, there it all would be: a panorama of sordidness, for your private viewing pleasure. Forget that.