She died for your sins... er, entertainment
During my interval of homelessness in Berlin, several acquaintances were kind enough to lend me their couches. Far be it from me to look a gift horse in the mouth (beggars can’t be etc.), but one of them had an ulterior motive: access to the second season of Twin Peaks I’d inexplicably decided to keep in my backpack. She’d only recently seen the first season, and had never seen Fire Walk With Me. Given the chance to watch the show without someone who had no idea who killed Laura Palmer, I was more than happy to proselytize. Good times.
Anyhoo, recently my wife was in touch with said acquaintance, who spent the better part of the conversation bragging about her recent purchase of the Twin Peaks “Gold Edition” dual-season boxset. O! the extras, she gushed. What a treat for true devotees…
For some reason, this bugged the shit out of me. But why? Shouldn’t I be pleased with any purchase that would put more money in the koffers of my favourite filmmaker? Or was I in fact the kind of commodity-fetishizing whore I spend most of my life lambasting?
Well… probably not. One of the benefits of moving between countries constantly is that it puts a premium on how material a person you can be. Moving’s expensive, stuff is heavy*, and if you’ve got internet access, there’s very little in terms of entertainment or media that can’t be had. After all, isn’t the defining feature of the so-called Information Age that the most valuable commodity is no longer material, but… information?
This is certainly why everyone seems to be an expert on everything these days. One-time cultural curios of specialized interest – Balkan brass, Zizek, Chan Wook-Park – make overnight entries into the lexicon thanks to the likes of Wikipedia, IMDB, YouTube, and viral blogging memes. As my wife once said, “There are no more questions, thanks to the Internet.” But as our cultural Darwinian drive has shifted from ovens & autos to MP3s and hit counts, so to has the superficiality. A great many rely on brand-name clout without caring about the particular criteria for quality. You know the type: they bought Ray-Bans in high school, insisted on attending an elite uni (be it MIT or RISD), and now name-check Takeshi Miike films or the new Justice album, without once wondering why (or even if) such things are impressive or important.
So perhaps my fit over the Twin Peaks box stems from a detail I’ve so far omitted: during one of those introductory, interest-exchanging conversations, the acquaintance launched the boomerang question of what movies I watched. Upon the mention of his name, she swooned, “Oh, I loooooooove David Lynch!” Yet at the time, she’d only seen Mulholland Drive. Dandy. I once spent 10 hours in the Auckland airport, but that doesn’t mean I know shit about New Zealand. She was a tourist, a squatter, and this rankled every proprietary bone in me.
How to guard against this kind of toe-dipping intrusion on my turf? Well, it would probably behoove me to acknowledge that ideas & information aren’t property and I can stop with the territorial pissings. But if something – an experience or work of art – becomes more common, what’s frustrating is not that it decreases in value (by what standards, anyway?) but that it increases in banality, mundanity, the Who-Gives-a-Fuck Factor. And that is a fate most ignaminious.
*For commodity fetishism at its worst, ask musicians about their gear. Yeesh.