Sunday, 26 April 2015

Do Game of Thrones fans dream of sex or power?

Did you cross your arms as well?
I know Game of Thrones is a big hit. Not because I’ve watched it, but because everyone tells me it is. I’m not even sure they’ve watched it, because, at this point they probably know more about the show through their eardrums than through their eyeballs. Now that’s marketing.

People also tell me Game of Thrones has lots of sex and violence. Actually, after they start salivating, that’s the first thing everyone describes. Apparently the storyline is ancillary. And I’ll love it, because politics and intrigue - and boobies. Did I tell you there’s boobies? I guess no one’s querying why lumping sex and violence together tells me plenty about their brain stem. But I’m no shrink and violence/sex has been media’s selling point for 150 years.

Anyway, a “staff writer” at The Guardian noticed that ten tissue boxes-worth of sex and violence in every episode might not be a good thing. I wasn’t sure why that was front-page worthy. I guess today’s topic was finding an “angle” on a TV show and mother duck us into explaining why we’re bad people for watching it. On the one hand, violence is a bad thing, no one’s suggesting it isn’t - except perhaps the people at the wrong end of a drunken fist. Then violence is ok, but only when it’s defensive. Got it? Not really...

Flip that over and notice how all the protagonist sex is absolutely kosher because from the viewpoint of the observer, the logic stands that there must be a good reason for the horizontal action if you’re doing it. The sex represents what the viewer thinks of themselves. It’s an identity thing, which is the whole point of having a protagonist. Of course, anything that might affect the viewer - like imagining sex out of our control - is inescapably conflated in viewers minds with violence, hence violence/sex in the same paragraph. So, accordingly the viewer accepts the form as: =all implicit actions are happening to me=I want control=sex is violence when it is controlled by someone else. But I could be wrong here.

What’s the best way to achieve this? Double down on how sex is always horrible, even if you’re not religious. And get the audience to agree by interviewing one of the “sexually objectified” women plastered all over GoT like so many playthings. Thank Aphrodite plenty of women are ready to spill their story for the waiting media. Here’s one now:

  • Some of you may be aware that Games of Thrones actor Kit Harington complained about his sexual objectification, saying: “It can sometimes feel like your art is being put to one side for your sex appeal and I don’t like that” and: “To always be put on a pedestal as a hunk is slightly demeaning.It really is and it’s in the same way as it is for women.”

Hold up, my misdirection-senses are tingling. But I did not expect this particular bait-and-switch. Bravo. I’m not gonna lie, I thought Kit Harington was a girl’s name at first. I already understand why that makes me part of the joke and why you’re laughing, but let’s be honest, if I didn’t just tell you the subject is a man, would you have known? Oh, you’ve seen the show...

Another piece of information: this story is written by a woman. Not that this should matter - ever. But in this case, boy oh boy, is it crucial. So it’s tempting to see this as a war against men because the author has a distinct set of chromosomes. But you’ll have more fun seeing this as an insight into just how cannibalistic a movement can get when its low-hanged all the oppression fruit decades ago. The culture war isn’t a fight between men and women, it’s a fight over individual freedom and how close you can get to the edges of the box without a SWAT team being called. By the way, this is her standfirst paragraph and the she’s already distracting us with a condescending “complained” and “may be aware”. We’re being told to think everything the man says is a lie. As Yoda would say, deal with this you must. So start with the basics: if you have to say it, then it’s not true.

Thing is, using the atemporal logic of women’s lib which believes it has power: if men are talking about feeling sexually objectified, then sexual objectification exists. Never mind that this concept is only ever talked about by and between feminists. The greater irony is that although the concept of sexual objectification existed for a long time, it was only legitimated when a man says it exists - and then the knives come out. Don’t get any stupid ideas though, of course men can’t use it to describe their own experiences, no matter how accurate it might be. Kate Shepard would be turning in her grave!

Notice that it wasn’t the nasty violence part of the violence/sex-spectrum in the TV show which made the author shiver. That wouldn’t fit her narrative. I can almost guarantee that 90% of all deaths on GoT are by males killing other males. Men are supposed to be killed, that’s the whole point of their existence. No one blinks when a man is stabbed or shot (I assume there’s guns on this show?). Directors spend more money on disgustingly slaughtering men on television than almost anything else. If you’re a man and not dying, you probably have plenty of lines. No one’s quite sure whether that’s a good thing either.

A simple feminist deconstruction of poor Mr Harington’s “sexual objectification” would be to dissect it as an unexpected example of the insidious nature of the patriarchy. To turn it around and show how he’s actually suffering from the very oppression by the same system he ultimately represents. After all, the reason he’s upset with being a sexual object is because movies are meant to make money. And men figured out a loooooooong time ago that to increase the ratio of female viewers (=more money), the male characters needed to be “attractive”. Men want to emulate with and aspire to the characters on screen, but women want to look. Sartre might have had something to say about this, but 100 years of evolutionary psychology will need re-editing in light of 40 years of market-researched TV dramas.

Hilariously, the best way to get more female eyeballs is to make the male characters appear as feminine as possible. Why? How can this be true if the other great “knowledge” posits that females are attracted to large, domineering men is also true? They can’t both be correct, can they? Turns out women love to love youthful traits over age and brawn. It’s a little thing called neoteny. Women project their own identity onto media through visual stimulation as concretely as guys, if not more so. Why else would the “music” “band” One Direction attract swarms of desperate over-40s driving 60 kilometers to its concerts?

This stuff is not an accident, and it’s definitely not biology. The production studios know exactly who their target demo is, they’ve spent billions of dollars and 50 years on research. One Direction fans certainly aren’t majority girls with braided hair and freckles, even though that’s who the studio gets to pack the background of each cringy music video. What 16-year-old wants to see rival 16-year-olds fondle a boy-”band” star’s terrible upper arm tattoos? That tiny blonde waife with braces dancing awkwardly is the necessary wish-fulfillment placeholder for the true demo: the 40-year-old frustrated housewife wondering where her last twenty years went and how best to scrub the red lipstick that clearly isn’t hers off her life-partner's $300 cotton business shirt. “That’s a stretch, it’s her daughter’s favorite band. And the boys are 18 or something!” Come on, why exactly do you think the daughter likes the group in the first place? Do you think she came up with that idea herself? Jesus, and people blame fathers for projection through sons!

I’m sure that above classical feminist deconstruction angle would be interesting in an academic journal, but by god, am I glad the author didn’t follow that trail of crumbs! Instead, and I’m entirely serious here, the journalist single-handedly decided men aren’t allowed to feel “sexually objectified” by a process of reasoning so immature that if she’d said it to her grandfather he’d have backhand-slapped her out of the interpretive dance club.

  • Following the furore, Harington now says that he’ll be a “good little hunk and keep his mouth shut”. That would be Harington’s pretty little mouth spouting adorable nonsense from his fluffy little head? In fairness to Harington, he raised an interesting point: could it be seriously argued that male sexual objectification is in any way equivalent to the female variety? Because, from where I’m sitting, the concept is at once offensive and hilarious.

Oh good, yeah, laugh at the person who’s feeling objectified. That’s constructive. It makes perfect sense to point out how the term “sexual objectification” shouldn’t used by a man, because that’s a woman’s word. Actually, pause for a moment  here.

When was the last time you heard a man say a woman was being “sexually objectified”? No, I’m not talking about when a road worker cat-calls on a hot Spring day, I’m asking when you heard those two words come from a dude’s mouth? Unless the man is an academic discussing the concept in some abstract and completely non-sycophantic way, it never happens. All I ever hear is, “she’s hot” or “she’s sexy”. I know feminists think those words are bad too, but let’s stay on this topic for now.

The only people pointing out women are sexually objectified are other women. Every. Single. Time. It is a feminist phrase. But no longer is it used to raise the public's consciousness of the patriarchy, however. That’s old, low-hanging fruit feminism. What we’re witnessing with articles like this is a new kind of pop-feminism where the worst thing in the world is a sexy woman. Worse than rape. Worse than make-up. Worse, even, than bras. A sexy woman is to modern feminists what JFK is to mental patients - a conspiracy without an explanation. It’s barely logic, but apparently no man can ever feel sexually objectified because men are the objecifiers.

The author says, “It appears to be yet another low in the ever-continuing trend for specious gender-reversal – whereupon an issue in the realm of female experience is seized on and reversed”. So don’t for a second think that not all men are like this, because this would indicate rationality, and rationality leads to tempering ideology. Better to stick with the fury and vitriol or the dams might break and bring the flood of patriarchy.

The author's quite happy to admit female-to-male sexual objectification exists. I’m not sure how it helps her thesis though. Earlier the whole thing was “offensive” and “hilarious”, and there’s no universe I know of where those words don’t mean exactly what I think they mean. I’m willing to let her have it both ways because I know for a fact that sexual objectification isn’t confined to people with penis, and that’s not what she cares about anyway. But she doesn’t even want to have it both ways because her next paragraph says:

  • By contrast, female sexual objectification is an ongoing socioeconomic-cum-psychosexual epidemic, affecting the vast majority of women at some stages of their lives. Even when they are no longer objectified (losing looks or fertility; ageing), it’s used against them in a routine way. Without meaning to be crude, from a female perspective, you’re screwed when you’re being sexually objectified, then you’re screwed when you’re not. This is the truth of female objectification – it’s less about personal sexiness and more about impersonal power structures.

And it becomes clear what this is all about. Here you can glimpse the Long Con: a power struggle packaged as a gender war. Should it really have been surprising the entire game is about power? Understand that the author doesn’t care about power in some ethereal, tomorrowland of pleasure and assumed perfect equality. The real power is in the here and now. That’s always been the point. It’s a pity women’s lib has lost leaders who knew where real power resides, let alone how to use any kind of logical or strategic crowbar of “justice” to dislodge it.

Now all we’re left with is authors who’ve bought into a diversion narrative in which women are always and irretrievably under the control and domination by males. Unless women can release themselves from the deep subjugation in a male-centered universe, they will never be free. This will always be a shell game though, because the mistake is to assume anyone who doesn’t have power can attain it by force. The only way to get power is to trick others into believing you have it. The inability to convincingly achieve this despite decades and millions of pulped trees has been the singular failure of modern feminism, and it’s why the author feels rage at hearing a man use the term “sexual objectification” to describe himself.

The pursuit of power is always set within particular boundaries by an impersonal system of power. Not by people, but by a system of people acting as ants in a nest without instruction, only operating by carefully managed instinct. Those boundaries are constructed as the battlegrounds of the culture wars and are always built as far away from true power as possible. The necessary illusion is any “winner” only gains the trappings of power, not real power, because the status quo matters more than the individual or the conflict, especially when the individual represents a consumer base. In fact, more than anything the conflict itself is the most important activity because it both distracts and forces the illusion of choice, which always leads to tribalism and eventual identity branding. What happens with identities? They need reinforcing, and Prada has the perfect trinket to match the colour of your politics. Everything wrong with the current culture wars stems from the acceptance of the form of the system’s question: which one would you like, a system controlled by men or by women? It might sound like liberation, but it's a trick.

The sleight of hand happens when we pick a side. The creation of a dichotomy is the whole point. No one’s allowed to ask whether we want this system, or even a system. The default position is to assume the system of greater consumption will continue to exist, no matter what choice you make. The illusion of choice over which gender we prefer controls the process, diverts us from asking whether this system should exist. It’s always funny when the weapons seem to drop from the sky at just the right time with articles like in the Guardian or suspiciously trending videos. Thus spake the Guardian. Its voice honestly appearing as from your own mind. And off we go, fighting on some manufactured battlefield over a specifically-formed question while true power quietly shuts the door and goes back to planning three or four steps ahead for the next money-making distraction/controversy.

Do you want to know why it’s only feminists who use the term “sexual objectification”? Feminists can’t stand sexy women. Instead of beauty, they always see chains and oppression. Even worse, they see competition. No matter how convinced a modern feminist might be, they are woman first and feminist second. If you’ve ever watched a room full of women you’ll notice the little eye-movements sizing each other up as newbies stroll into the room. If all signs are oppressive, why do feminists pluck their eyebrows or trim their hair?

Who do you think they bought the handbags for? Men, really? What male has ever said, “she was ratchet-looking as hell, but that Louis Vuitton bag...I had to smash”. Nice try. The clothes, bags, and make-up are entirely about competition with other women for the attention of women. I know this doesn’t fit the neat box of power structures modern feminists wish so tersely to be true. Yet it is true. Then again, when a culture is this invested in a lie, not even the truth is true anymore.

And by the way, sexism isn’t only used for oppression and subjugation, even though that’s what most people think when a husband rolls his eyes at his wife’s latest “information” about Princess Anne. Sexism is a genuinely malleable apparatus. It’s much more interesting to see it as a tool of consumption. The bag example above is perfect, I’m gonna whip it out here too. Women are encouraged to spend far more money on clothes and appearance than men. They’re told it’s part of the requirement of modern living, to be a professional woman she needs a minimum of ten pairs of shoes and a whole wardrobe of pantsuits. Not to mention accessories. And no career-respecting woman should go without makeup!

Monetising envy has very low costs and extremely high returns. Try turning up to work in the same five shirts every week, no matter how feminine looking, and you’ll soon see where the high tide mark of “workplace equality” sits. Dressing up is sold as a perk, despite women being paid less on average than male counterparts. The fight has never been to wear fewer expensive things and trinkets, because those decisions have already been made for women. Besides, even if they wanted to fight against this self-imposed systemic manipulation for consumption, they’d have to be sure their outfit matched the rhetoric. Can’t fight the power in heels, but maybe you could in neon pink Adidas. Better see if TopShop has a sale on...

“Good thing fighting the system isn’t on the Fem agenda anymore, we fixed that decades ago.” Really? How exactly does Helen Clark affect YOU as a women? It doesn’t, the average women is as far away from power as ever. There’s just a few more toys in the gift basket ($19.99+GST) to keep the movement from thinking about this distance. Now all we get is angry articles exorcising the ability of males to use meaning-heavy/impact-weak words strictly reserved for oppressed women. At least this goal offers a horizon-- crucially just out of reach for eternity. Controlling how women are perceived as individuals at the workplace is an attack on the system - and since the author has no control over the media she writes for, that goal will never work so it has been abandoned. Only people with power can do that can trick the system.

  • Maybe it’s time for men to speak up about things that genuinely affect them instead of putting a spurious man-spin on typically female experiences.

Alright, no problem. Can I have a turn? If women’s lib is so worried about gaining power, why are women most likely to be found as employees of power? Why is it that not enough of them occupy positions to move the machinery of power? Instead it’s now considered a victory to be yelling on an internet article or owning a start-up that you’re told is only successful when you sell it to someone else. In other words, when you give up the power of owning the production of capital for the fetish of power. And that's the goal of every SME everywhere. That’s got to be the easiest game, set and match ever played. The yearning was originally to wrest power away from the powerful and liberate women. Yet as soon as we all started collecting the shiny trappings of power, they thought they’d won the battle. And the status quo string-pullers bow as the curtain falls.

The lesson? Give angry women the trappings of power with earnings of $120,000, throw in a Toyota Lexus or a job as a journalist “for one of the biggest papers in the land” and you can convince them all that these equate with securing power - and the whole house of cards collapses. Simple as that. No oppressed person wants to be free, they wouldn’t know what to do with it. It’d be torture. And no oppressed person ever thinks they’re oppressed, the system’s feedback loop lets them self-enclose by asking for the feelings of freedom but not true freedom. They want to appear to be free because how you appear in the eyes of others is all anyone’s ever been told is worth caring about. This affects men as well, don’t think it doesn’t. Although the “freedom” most men have is only in a different part of same black room in a box called “work/home life balance”.

Sometimes it’s funny to watch a person pull up to the lights in a $300,000 car and see the absolute vacuousness in their eyes. They know something’s missing, but just can’t put a finger on it. Everything’s where it should be: retirement plan, career, beach house, kids in private schools, investments in Bermuda, trophy wife/husband. Yet still they can’t do the things they want. They were promised power and freedom, but all they got was this stupid paper money and a $10,000 “heirloom” wristwatch. You can see their eyes are red, partly hidden under Nivea cream or a “cultured” amount of make-up - never mind who’s culture. The late-night drinking is obviously helping deal with a mid-life crisis as they realise all that effort won’t leave anything behind of value for their 2.5 kids.  

What’s more important from the system’s viewpoint is that the effort shut the angry disenfranchised up for 40 years while they tried. At some point, this became the individual’s goal all along. You've convinced yourself that you came up with the idea to “get a career and a house” as markers of respect and self-worth. I bet the white male bankers and politicians of yore wish they knew keeping the illusion relevant was this easy 100 years ago. Funnelling the unstoppable frantic energy of defending against impotence was how they gamed the prols into something - anything - more useful than throwing rocks. Keep them where they are, but tell them they can succeed if they try. Most people confuse being rich with being wealthy. Those in the latter mansions don’t see money, they only see a headstart. That’s the true insidiousness of the system which everyone is now confusing to be an issue with a rising wage gap. Not enough money for the poor? Tax the rich, that’ll sort it out - says the person who’s never seen a government balance sheet.

Put it this way, the less money in the correct places, the simpler it is for those whose money is already in those correct places to get even further ahead. It’s not about the money, never was. It’s about keeping everyone exactly where they should be. That’s why you can’t escape from the rung you were born onto. The ladder doesn’t go up high enough and there’s always other people watching to see what’ll happen in case the illusion stutters. Every minority or oppressed group thought it could win real power in politics or banking. No one stopped to ask the most basic question: if there’s more minorities represented in those positions, then that lowers the space available for white men. Because, come on now, white males in power is the trifecta of click-bait headlines. Nail that, and you’ll drive traffic from all over the specific part of the internet. I don’t need to name the websites, because you’re already thinking about them. And if you think the white males know where the power is, wouldn’t it be better to ask where they’re all congregating silently rather than congratulating yourselves that you kicked them out of this or that sector? Sorry, too slow.

If there’s a thread running through the last few years of media headlines about the culture wars, it’s that white males in power are still the preferred targets, so don’t tell me they don’t represent power. Time seems to think this is true. And the absolute rapturous glee from the New York Times when a black kid was (finally) filmed being shot by a white policeman last month registered at least a 6.2 on the narrative scale. Neither publication could believe the luck that after all those American fake rape scandals, tenuous black shootings, kinda-white guy shooting black kids and cop chokings, clear evidence now exists of white power corruption. If they believed in god, they’d propitiate in the required direction for more column inches.

The media was getting a little worried for a second. It looked like the whole narrative was coming apart. Everyone *kinda* knew white men were still oppressing minorities, but it was getting really hard to find some actual, unforgivable proof to back up that assertion. Overworked reporters were going out of their way to find stories about bad white men, but they either came back empty handed or, under pressure from editors, made up tales of woe in the elevator returning to the desk they’d been absent from for five weeks. Gold star for effort, but unfortunately, lies don’t sell papers in 2015. It has to be the truth, and the best way to believe a crucial lie is not to make the facts fit the world, but the world fit the facts.

One thing’s for sure, if this perfectly-filmed white-on-black shooting video turns out not to tick all the boxes, it won’t be the minority community that suffers. A much bigger victim is set for flushing purposes if this thing backfires: the mainstream media. This is its final attempt to prove to everyone that if something exists or doesn’t exist depends only on whether it says it does. It holds the cards, and no one else.

But the MSM has become such an extension of our identities it’s starting to sound like the early-onset alzheimers patient knocking on the door asking where Mr Tiddles has gone. No, we haven’t seen the latest black lives matter video. Yes, we will watch it, but Youtube has way better quality than your watermarked 320p rip. Besides, Youtube doesn’t bother with the boring article clogging up the rest of the page. No one reads words these days anyway.

“You really need a proofreader”. Shut up, I’ve already finished my bourbon so I’m almost done.

Now that the oppressed have reportedly “grabbed power” from capricious white men, the female and minority victors sit comfortably in nice, neat posturepedic office chairs tapping merrily away on keyboards undermining the foundations of the establishment one article at a time.

Yet when a movement has worked up this much energy and anger, over so long a time, then stands on the mountain top catching its breath, it’s really difficult to go back to normal life - whatever normal life looks like. It’s even more frustrating after they realise somewhere along the climb they were diverted onto a completely different summit. The feeling of victory and accomplishment is real, but fulfilment escapes. It's the wrong damn mountain. What exactly is the utility of being in the halls of power, if power has already moved on again? Your spot behind the computer as a CEO of some tech start-up or standing in front of 200 students at Princeton might sound powerful, but you’re only taking a spot vacated by the people who know where power actually is and how to get it.

So what do you do? The only thing old war fighters without a war can do: become the oppressor you fought so hard to defeat. No one blames feminists for attacking white males in power. However, after all those years firing shots into the mist, hitting one hydra head after another and seeing three more sprout in place, never once thinking about aiming for the beast’s heart - it’s gotta feel a bit disheartening that the system couldn’t be beaten.

The mistake most people will make when they read an article like this is to think this had anything to do with sexuality. Since everything in the culture wars is about power and all combatants are fighting on the wrong battlefields - on purpose - it shouldn’t be a surprise when they fail. From a women’s lib point of view they failed at gaining any real power or control over their lives. But from the system’s point of view they are successful at feeling like they’re in control. That was its goal. The power war was originally important but the trappings of power felt so good to attain, they forgot it wasn't true power, which is why they will never win.

I’m not saying I feel sympathy for this inevitability, but I do understand why it happens over and over again. The persona of being oppressed in 2015 while working in jobs and earning salaries one’s forebears would only have dreamt about - the frantic activity - keeps the dark, depressing reality of failure away. The reality of actually trying to change things requires work, or getting outside to throw rocks. Staying in an office writing articles in media you don’t own is never going to work. It never could. And since the last thing anyone in a movement that's this distracted by titles and gimmicks wants to do, or even knows they should do, is affect any real change in society.

The female journalist writing about some mediocre GoT actor is only the latest iteration of a long line of people fighting the wrong battle and winning exactly the wrong war. Her problem isn’t that the guy thinks he's feeling “sexually objectified”, her problem is that he represents the nagging feeling of complete impotence and diversion she can’t do anything to fix - hence why her strongest card is the defence of words. She probably could change things if: a) she knew what the problem was, and b) was prepared to give every up last benefit gained over the past 100 years if the cause required it. But she and the entirety of modern feminism is willing to do neither, and that is why my head is in my hands and Tumblr will earn a billion dollars by year-end.

At one point it looked like victory might bring more than the simple control of words, but the reality is slowly sinking in that words are all the modern feminist movement was ever allowed to have. The journalist is attacking an actor about his use of a word. If that’s not the definition of a lack of power, I don’t know what is.

  • Thus, even something as quintessentially female as sexual objectification is given a clumsy man-spin, turned into “male sexual objectification”, and hey presto, everyone’s in the same boat. Except they’re not.

Sure, say whatever you want. Make up whatever word you need to tell yourself this white man is representative of blame. Anything to distract from the reality that only the trappings of titles and perks - and none of the benefits - came with the supposed “power” your frantic activity spent so long trying to attain.

Sexual objectification might be a feminist phrase, but no one is very impressed when your realisation of failure leads to becoming exactly monster you fought against. Everyone except you reads loud and clear that the goals were never about equality and peace. The fight was about gaining power, and since it’s impossible to take power by force unless you’re throwing stones, all you got was this stupid t-shirt saying “I love the status quo”.

Good luck being the bully. Because if you don’t actually have true power, the kind of behaviour of the modern feminist movement exemplified in this article will get old real quick. Not that it’ll matter in the long run, because guess who profits from your yelling and screaming about a TV show? Have a think. It certainly isn’t the local zoo.

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