Vacuous celebrity driven consumerism and criminality repackaged as a cool lifestyle choice
In the Bling Ring, Sophia Coppela’s captivating take on a gang of real life teenage celebrity wannabes who steal from the young rich and famous in order to be like the young rich and famous, the overwhelming sense is of functioning dysfunctionality. Of a people so immured by their sense of ennui and inertia that without their daily fix of celebrity gossip and consumerism, they would ossify and die.
Here young girls covet the trappings of Yamaoto and Manolo Blahnik, Westwood and Prada et al as if they were the nectar of the Gods, as in many ways they are. Taking Paris Hilton’s shoes and Rachel Bilson’s dresses were only part of the attraction, by wearing the clothes and jewellery these thieving cognoscenti were taking on both the trappings of their victims and becoming them at the same time. They were also, bit, by stolen bit, becoming what they coveted most, celebrities themselves, and that notoriety and that excitement , reported in breathy terms night after night on the local Beverly Hills TV channels, only made them want more.
The same sense of desperation for excitement and dissipated consumption was at the centre of Harmony Korine’s film Spring Breakers in which four bikini-clad teenage girls rob cafés in order to get enough money to party like there’s no tomorrow at the forthcoming Spring Break week. Here hedonism ceases to have any decadent higher plain or search for self, it is instead a decent into oblivion. Days and days of drug and alcohol fuelled partying, where pleasure is transformed into an end in itself, almost as if one arrives, and having arrived, must be seen to party, so that partying is the beginning and the end. There is no middle, no pause, no faking or resting, just relentless, continuous, ceaseless pleasure, until the pleasure, like those pursuing it, nolonger has meaning or purpose, it just is.
Ours is a world of fast connectivity and instant likes and dislikes, where gratification is almost a right and where vast wealth and glamour are paraded and flaunted, and are in turn coveted as proof not just of ones status but of ones existence. Into this mix has now been added celebrity, not fame for being famous, but celebrity of self, of the I, and the me. We are now living in a world of the vainglorious and shallow, where coveting the expensive trappings of celebrity gives succour to our fragile egos, and adorning ourselves in a veneer of celebrity-lite chic only masks our desperation to be someone more than us, or other than us.
Social media is ME media, where Instagram selfies and Facebook fantasies of our exciting lives aspire to the celebritisation of the Self and the elevation of the nonentity into an entity. Here our online ME is the new ME, the exciting ME, the it’s all about ME, me. Here we can be anything and everything. Yet most of all we want to be them, the celebrity on the front of The Sun or Closer, falling out taxis, being cheated on, or six months gone, with pictures that make us gawp. This is what we want and what the teenagers who stole from Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom want, we want what they have because no amount of fantasising on Instagram and Facebook or posing in a selfie can hide the fact that they have and we haven’t.
The alternative to the want is oblivion, to turn I want into I wasted. The heroines of Spring Breakers, drink and tease and in a drunken haze one nearly naked girl (Rachel Korine) writhes on a floor covered in the detritus of the party, singing and giggling over and over again, “you’re never gonna get this pussy” while a gang of lusting, leering boys look on. You can look but you can’t have.
Soon the girls hook up with a clichéd gangsta, all dreadlocks, tattoos, guns and slurred catchphrases and the girls are donning Pussy Riot style masks and making their gangsta boyfriend suck their guns before they start shooting rival niggas like real badass motherfuckers. Cute, drugged-up and celebrated the girls drive off towards the distant neon lights of the big city. Celebrity, money, and happiness awaits.
So the aspiring celebrity, self obsessed, consumer driven wannabe has three choices, the I, myself, me route of delusional Instagram selfies, Twittering and Facebook postings; stealing the trappings of celebrity; or total oblivion.
The alternative is to walk away…
© Nigel WIngrove 2013