I’m going to utter the one statement that will single-handedly ruin my career in the media business: I’m getting old. I’m not just talking about physical age, but in personal interests: I’m more interested in the Queen Mary than the latest ship from Disney.
Last night, I was watching the awful Lifetime movie, Liz and Dick, the “story” of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and trying to decipher why the movie was so bad. Was it the poor casting? The stunted dialogue? The slow direction? Then it hit me — I was expecting a movie about Elizabeth Taylor when the film was about Lindsay Lohan playing Elizabeth Taylor. This was not a secret; the producers were open about the fact. It was advertised as “Lindsay Lohan IS Elizabeth Taylor.” The film was created for an audience obsessed with the trainwreck exploits of Lindsay Lohan. And since my fascination over Lindsay Lohan runs shallow, I found the movie dull.
Modern consumer culture is hard on the past. Selling requires “the new.” If everyone kept driving their 1995 Honda Civic until it died, the auto industry would collapse. We are taught from an early age to convince our peers that an old car is an embarrassment to our friendship. This consumer culture has a lot to do with the persistent racism and sexism in our society, since we become friends with those who can afford the same status class car, or send their kids to the same private school.
It was funny to see so many bloggers wringing their hands last week over the blatant consumerism of Black Friday, especially the mocking of all the ugly fat Americans waiting in line for hours outside Best Buy to buy a cheap Microsoft Tablet. WE are the media now, obsessed with the new — even the Betas and Updates! We make our money hawking products in sponsored posts! If anything, we should pat ourselves on our backs for having the “influence” to convince our poorer friends to wait in line at Best Buy for a cheap tablet, just so they can become as cool as us! The point of this rambling post is not to knock consumerism. I am as guilty as you in buying into the system. I am even PISSED that Sophia now has an iPhone5 while I am stuck taking photos with my Iphone4.
That said, I hope our love for the new over the old — the Lindsay Lohans over the Elizabeth Taylors, the iPhone5s over the iPhone4s, the under 30 over the over 30. the beauty of youth over the glamour of maturity, doesn’t turn us AGAINST that which isn’t easily commodified.
Sure, the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach, CA, is a mediocre tourist attraction, a pseudo museum/hotel/brunch spot. It tries to be relevant, but the old ship is more like your Aunt Bessie who thinks she is a teenager because she watches The Voice. But I love the old. The old have stories.
I love old cars, old airplanes, old planes, old sewing machine, and old people. I’m getting older by the second, and I have no choice. I can feel my own connection to modern culture ossifying, as I find more joy in listening to songs of my youth rather than the latest hit. Sure, I fake my interest in Lindsay Lohan, because she is what we discuss.
But I’m more interested in Elizabeth Taylor.