Posts Tagged ‘Media’

Trigger warning: some mention of rape

TMI warning: masturbatory themes

In Craig Thompson’s graphic novel Habibi (which is problematic to say the least), there’s a scene where Zam, a preadolescent boy, watches with horror as his female caregiver and sole companion, Dodola, is raped. As Zam and Dodola live alone in the desert – and as, through a strange twist of circumstances, Dodola is less than ten years Zam’s senior – his sexual awakening has thus far consisted of a burgeoning, awkward attraction to Dodola, who is quite literally the only woman he knows. But after he witnesses her rape, he starts to loathe his own sexuality. Because that single, awful, abusive image is Zam’s sole frame of reference for adult sex, it’s what he pictures whenever he tries to imagine himself with Dodola; instinctively, he recoils from it, but without any knowledge of what consensual sex might look like, he draws the conclusion that male desire – his desire – is inherently evil, not only because that’s his sole experience of it, but because that image has invaded his fantasies, turning them into something repugnant. He doesn’t know how to be aroused without linking that arousal to something vile, with the result that he ultimately comes to despise his own sexual identity.

This is both a fictitious and decidedly extreme example of negative sexual reinforcement, but one which nonetheless makes me think about a vastly different, non-fictional account of sexual awakening: that of writer Caitlin Moran in her hilarious, feminist biography, How To Be a Woman. To quote:

Coupled with the pan-sexual, freak-show silliness of Eurotrash – Lolo Ferrari, the woman with the biggest breasts in the world, bouncing on a trampoline; drag queens with dildos and butt plugs; gimps in harnesses; hoovering bored Dutch housewives’ flats – this is the sum total of all the sex I see until I’m 18. Perhaps ten minutes in total – a series of arty, freaky, sometimes brutal vignettes, which I lash together, and use as the basis for my sexual imagination.

Thinking back, my own initial exposure to sex scenes came from a similarly weird melange of sources. Like most Australian teenagers of my generation, I’d memorised the page-number for the bit in John Marsden’s Tomorrow, When The War Began¬†where Ellie and Lee had sex, while my copy of Nicholas Evans’s The Horse Whisperer¬†ended up with several similarly well-thumbed sections. Combined with a 1972 edition of¬†The Joy of Sex I discovered lurking in a forgotten corner of my parents’ bookshelves and the bit in Money Train where Jennifer Lopez sleeps with Wesley Snipes, this constituted the sex-positive end of my masturbatory spectrum. Somewhere in the middle was a volume of archaic erotic bookplates (shut up) that was similarly liberated from obscurity, the sex scenes from Shakespeare in Love and the sometimes-positive-but-usually-problematic-and-occasionally-outright-rapey sex in Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books and Sara Douglass’s Axis and Wayfarer Redemption¬†trilogies. At the far end were the disturbing and numerous glimpses of aggressive sexuality, coercion and rape that constituted the bread and butter of my favourite crime shows, plus the¬†aforementioned¬†rape scenes from writers like Douglass and, much later, Terry Goodkind.

In other words, it was a mess, and one which left me with a mental sexual landscape dominated by male ¬†aggression. It took me years to to understand that the dissonance between my private sexual fantasies and what I actually like in real life was, in large part, attributable to the fact that the overwhelming majority of sex scenes I’d encountered in my formative tweens and early teens explicitly situated male dominance as sexy, or at least as the default form of sexual instigation: I hadn’t realised I could fantasise without it. This bugs me less now that I’m an adult and can, up to a point, sort through it all rationally, but as Moran goes on to say in How To Be a Woman, most teenagers now don’t have to rely on strange, half-glimpsed sex scenes in adult books and TV shows: instead, they can just look up porn on the internet – and that’s a bit worrying, because as weird as all those pre-internet sex sources were, at least they involved some mystery and variety, to say nothing of everyday bodies, whereas the online porn industry is rife with institutionalised misogyny, fake boobs, vaginoplasty, airbrushing and contextless, unemotional grunting scripted solely for the male gaze. ¬†And that’s bad for everyone: boys because they assume that’s what girls both want and should look like as a default, and girls because they’re taught to try and emulate sex-scripts and bodies that are anything but natural. (That’s for hetero boys and girls, of course; I can’t speak to the experience of LGBTQ teens browsing porn online, but by and large, and particularly given the wealth of lesbian porn that is in fact produced for straight men, I’m going to assume it’s not much better.)

And nor, by and large, are TV and movies. The fact that there’s more visible sex and nudity in a single episode of just about anything produced by HBO (Deadwood, A Game of Thrones, True Blood) than I managed to glimpse in my whole adolescence cannot help but bring this comic to mind; but more importantly, the current abundance of televised sex is not the same as an abundance of sex-positivity. Almost exclusively white women being grabbed forcefully, raped and abused, or else being coyly and passively coaxed into sex by active hetero menfolk? That, we have aplenty. Women initiating sex, lesbian sex that isn’t written with heterosexual¬†voyeurs in mind, actual gay sex, loving LGBTQ encounters, men being passive in sex, sexiness being tied to something other than male dominance, and interracial or non-white couples having sex? That, we have not so much of, and in some cases none at all. Cinema is infinitely worse than TV in this respect, because television, for all its faults, is much less bounded by that peculiarly hypersexualised-yet-1950’s sense of ¬†what sex sells, or ought to, that so toxically pervades Hollywood. But even so, it’s far from the full and well-rounded spectrum of tastes it ought to be.

Which leaves books: both adult works that teenagers find themselves reading and, more specifically, YA novels. And even though this is a post about the importance of sex-positive sex scenes for people of all orientations and genders, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that literary sex scenes are particularly important for girls, not only because of the staggering number of teenage ladies looking to YA for romance and sexiness in the post-Twilight period, but because when it comes to the representations of sex in other media – porn, TV and movies, to say nothing of magazine ads and sex advice columns – girls are almost universally the ones being grabbed and raped, the ones depicted as passive sex-objects, posed like dolls or lusted after as unattainable conquests. As things stand right now, YA novels are pretty much the only place a teenage old girl can go to find the image of someone like her receiving cunnilingus from a caring, considerate lover, and when you look at it that way, the power of sex scenes in YA novels should instantly become apparent. In a sexual climate where women’s wants and needs are so often painted as secondary to male desire, and where male dominance, instigation and aggression are seen as sexual defaults, any medium where girls can lash together their sexual landscapes from scenes of female desire, mutual respect and non-aggression is made fundamentally radical.

Not, of course, that this always happens: while Twilight, for all its many troubling failures, at least produced a heroine with sexual agency, one who knew what she wanted and wasn’t afraid to ask for it, some other prominent novels haven’t managed even that much. Others, though, have, and that’s the point – that sex in YA novels can and does do what sex in other media doesn’t, namely: focus on female pleasure, needs and desires. Which is, I suspect, why the merest prospect of it freaks so many people out: because if there’s one set of bodies that puritanical conservatism has always yearned to shame, contain and control, it’s young female bodies. It’s not even a question of how graphic (or not) the sex/sexiness might be, though as with all matters of personal taste, YMMV – it’s a question of who the audience is. And absolutely every time I’ve seen journalists, concerned parents or censorship groups get up in arms about ‘inappropriate’ sexual content in YA novels, it hasn’t seemed irrelevant that the books in question have overwhelmingly been aimed at teenage girls. (Not that gender is ever mentioned as justification for the complaint – heaven forbid!)

And maybe it’s just a consequence of the fact that YA is a genre currently dominated by women writers, women who perhaps grew up with few or no books to read whose heroes were in fact heroines like them – a problem they likely also encountered in TV and movies – and who subsequently have set out to rectify the disparity; and maybe it’s because society carries a tacit but biased expectation that teenage boys are inevitably going to buy magazines like Zoo and FHM¬†and look at boobies on the internet, and are in any case less interested in romance than they are in pure, abstract sex, with the result that there’s less of a perceived market for sexy books for boys, and hence fewer books of that type and minimal objections to the ones that do exist. Or maybe there’s as many sexy books for boys as for girls, and it’s just that people are more freaked out by the latter than the former, perhaps because the raging, overtly romantic teen-girl fandoms outstrip in their sudden visibility the quieter teen-boy fandoms, because caring about stories and fictional couples and queuing for hours to see your favourite literary idols are all acceptable things for girls to do, but which for exactly that reason boys are likely to be stigmatised for doing, even though that sort of sexist double standard is, well, a sexist double standard. But the point, the point, is that whenever I hear someone talking about how it’s wrong to have sex and sexiness in YA novels, what I actually hear is this:

I’m terrified that the first fictional sex a teenage girl encounters might leave her feeling good about herself. I’m terrified that fictional sex might actually make teenage girls think sex can be fun and good, that reading about girls who say no and boys who listen when they say it might give them the confidence to say no, too – or worse still, to realise that boys who don’t listen to ‘no’ aren’t worth it. I’m terrified that YA novels might teach teenage girls the distinction between assault and consensual sex, and give them the courage to speak out about the former while actively seeking the latter. I’m terrified that teenage girls might think seriously about the circumstances under which they might say yes to sex; that they might think about contraception before they need it, and touch themselves in bed at night while fantasising about generous, interesting, beautiful lovers who treat them with consideration and respect. I’m terrified of a generation of teenage girls who aren’t shy or squeamish about asking for cunnilingus when they want it, or about loving more than one person at once, and who don’t feel shame about their arousal. I’m terrified that teenage girls might take control of their sexuality and, in so doing, take that control of them and their bodies away from me.

Which is also why I get so angry whenever I come across negative sexuality in YA novels: books where the brooding hero treats the heroine badly, ignores her when she says no, abuses her trust and feelings and slams her bodily against walls, and where she’s made to feel uncomfortable about and disquieted by her feelings, because not only do such romances fail at sex-positivity, but if that’s your bag, then every other form of pop culture is ready and willing to oblige you.

Sex/y scenes in YA matter because YA novels aren’t contraband. It’s not like sneaking a glance at the late night movie, then frantically switching channels when your parents inevitably walk in during the naked bits, or covertly trying to hide a Mills and Boon under your bed, or having to clear your browser history and check that the door’s locked if you want to look at porn or read slashfic on the internet. You can read YA novels openly – on the bus, at school, at home – and never have to worry that someone’s going to find your behaviour suspicious. Sex/y scenes in YA matter because, by the very nature of belonging to a permitted form of media, they help to disassociate sex from surreptitious secrecy: they make it something open rather than furtive, something that rightfully belongs to you, the reader, because the book was meant for you to read and remember. It doesn’t matter if the scene is detailed or not, if it’s only fiery kisses or much, much more: the point is that you’re allowed to have it, allowed to enjoy it, and that perhaps for the first time in your life, you’re viewing something arousing that doesn’t make you out to be a sex object in heels, but an active, interesting heroine who also happens to have a love life.

To quote one of my favourite ever YA novels, Laini Taylor’s utterly brilliant Daughter of Smoke and Bone:

‘I don’t know many rules to live by,’ he’d said. ‘But here’s one. It’s simple. Don’t put anything unnecessary into yourself. No poisons or chemicals, no fumes or smoke or alcohol, no sharp objects, no inessential needles–drug or tattoo–and… no inessential penises either.’

‘Inessential penises?’ Karou had repeated, delighted with the phrase in spite of her grief. ‘Is there any such thing as an essential one?’

‘When an essential one comes along, you’ll know,’ he’d replied.

No wonder the conservatives are terrified.

Consider the following four articles on the dangers of youth exposure to too much digital culture:

iPod Safety: Preventing Hearing Loss in Teens;

Twittering brains withering, expert warns;

Teens flaunt sex, drugs on MySpace; and

Too much PlayStation causes painful lumps,

all of which cropped up in today’s online news. Together, they pretty much exemplify the fears of the Builders, the Baby Boomers and, to a certain extent, the elder members of Generation X, not just as regards their own offspring, but concerning¬†all of modern society. Loud and clear, they’ve been wringing their hands for the past few years over the perils of digitisation, and every time, I’ve experienced a disqueting lurch of anger. It’s taken today’s media¬†quartet for me to understand why this is: after all, cynic though I may be, I still put a certain base faith in the opinions of scientists and sociologists, especially when backed up by established studies. As a member of Generation Y, I’m hardly an impartial observer, and to a large extent, my negative reactions stem from a sense of being personally maligned, even where certain behaviours or criticisms don’t apply either to me as I am now, or to my historic teenage self. Rather, I feel outraged on behalf of my generation and those younger: that we are, in some sense, being fundamentally misunderstood. I can hack criticism, yes; but the sheer weight of professional authorities whose time has been purposefully devoted to proving that almost everyone under the age of 25 is steering themselves on a course towards social oblivion has begun to seem less like the amalgamated findings of unbiased research and more like an unconscious desire to demonise technology.

When it comes to growing up, it’s human nature to get fixed in whatever era raised us. Modern society is shaped, by and large, to ensure this happens – advertising and television timeslots, for instance, aren’t shown at random, but painstakingly catered to particular demographics. Thus, once we lose interests in the trappings of a given age and progress to playing with a new kind of gadget or watching a different kind of film, we effectively graduate from one type of newsfeed to another. Not watching weekend and afterschool cartoons, for example,¬†means that we no longer learn which shows are cancelled and which will replace them, and that certain products, like the latest toys and games, will no longer form part of our daily media experience. Because our interest in such things has waned, we don’t notice the dissonance: rather, we assume that things have remained static in our absence, and are often startled in a moment of later nostalgia when, flipping on the TV at 3pm, we recognise none of the cartoon characters, none of the hosts, and none of the merchandise. Such disorientation provokes outrage: who are these strangers, and what have they done with our childhood? This biases our opinion of the new product towards hostility and skepticism from the outset; and even when we take the time to watch these new shows, the magic is missing, because we are no longer children. Wrongheadedly, however, we don’t immediately identify this as the problem, and tend to believe, rather, that the product itself is at fault. In fact, it becomes difficult to fathom what kind of person such programmes are catered to, and so, by extension and quite unselfconsciously, we have already taken the first steps towards discrediting the intelligence and taste of the next generation. This outrage slumbers in us, omnipresent but quiescent, until we have children of our own, or are forced to deal with someone else’s. Nonetheless, it is there.

Consider, then, that the technological advances of the past few decades have¬†leapt ahead¬†at unprecedented speeds. In the space of twenty years, we have moved from cassette tapes and walkmans to CDs and discmans to the now-ubiquitous mp3s and iPods of the new millenium. For a generation who started out buying their albums on LP, this is triply disconcerting, while for the generation who thought themselves blessed by the miracle of radio, it seems like a kind of magic. This is all common knowledge, of course, and therefore glossed with the shiny patina of frequent repetition: by itself, the comparison doesn’t provide an explanation for the hostility of older generations. Until, that is, we combine it with the above example about treasured childhood cartoons, because in this instance, not only are the new characters unrecognisable, but they don’t even appear on the same device.

And adults struggle with this. They are disconnected from their offspring, from their students;¬†more important than connectivity and reminiscence, however, is the loss of firsthand advice. They simply cannot guide today’s teenagers through the digital world, which leads most youth to discover it on their own. Most of us who grew up¬†with computers and videogames are either several years away from reproducing or blessed with children still in early primary-school: in other words, we are yet to witness what happens when a generation of adolescents is reared by a generation of adults anywhere near as technologically literate as their teenage progeny, who remember what it was like to hang out on Trillian or MSN chat all night, to experiment with cybersex, to write achingly of school crushes in their LiveJournal or to download music at home. Members of Generations Y and Z, in other words, in addition to being¬†burgeoning iFolk, are also a social anomaly: a group whose own adolescence is so far removed from the experience of their caretakers as to prevent their parents and teachers, in many instances,¬†from adequately preparing them for the real (digital) world.

But the gap will close. Already there are¬†children in the world whose parents own game consoles, who will guide them online from a young age, and whose joint mannerisms both in real and virtual company will be drawn from a single parental source. Navigating away from certain parts of the internet will be taught in the same way as stranger danger and the implict lesson to avoid¬†dangerous parts of the local neighbourhood. We teach what we know, after all, and yet large number of commentators seem not to have realised this –¬†which is why I react badly to their writings. They never purport to be talking about teenagers now so much as teenagers always, or from this point on, a frustrating alarmism that takes no account of what will happen when such adolescents leave home, stumble into the bright sunlight, go to university, get jobs, fall in love and maybe have children of their own. In short, they have no sense of the future, or if so, they picture a world populated by antisocial digital natives, uprooting the fruits of their hard labour out of ignorance, apathy and poor management. Either they¬†can’t imagine us growing up, or fear what we’ll turn into.

I’m speaking here in broad-brush terms. Obviously, the distinction between those who are technologically literate and those who aren’t can’t simply be reduced to their year of birth. Every generation has its Luddites (and, if we remember the political motivations of those original iconoclasts, this is often a good thing) as well as its innovators, its geeks and scientists.¬†And many such worried articles, irksome though I may find their tone,¬†are still correct: listening to your iPod on full volume will probably damage your hearing, just as it’s not a wise idea to post intimate details of your sex life on MySpace. The latter concern is markedly new, and something teens certainly need to be made aware of – indeed, professionals new to Facebook are still themselves figuring out whether to friend coworkers or employers, thereby allowing them to view the results of various drunken nights out, or to keep a low digital profile. Such wisdom is new all round, and deeply appreciated. On the other hand, parents have been telling their kids to turn down their damn music in one form or another ever since Elvis Presley first picked up a guitar, and while the technology might’ve become more powerful in the intervening decades and¬†the studies into auditory damage more accurate, the warning remains identical (as does the inter-generational eye-roll with which it tends to be received).

In short, the world is changing, and people are changing with it, teachers, teens and parents alike.¬†And I cannot help, in my own curious optimism, to see this¬†as a positive thing: that in a world where technology moves so swiftly, older generations must constantly remain open to the idea of learning from their younger counterparts, while those in the know must become teachers earlier. There is so much to be gained in the coming years, and so many problems, both great and small, to be solved. The gap between adults and adolescents has never been so large, but while it always behooves those in the former category to teach and aid the latter, this should never be at the expense of at least trying to understand their point of view. And this, ultimately, is what causes me to bristle: whether playing videogames can hurt your hands or spending too much time online can damage your real world social skills, such passtimes aren’t going anywhere. Rather than condemning or sneering at such things outright or tutting sadly, the more productive path is to consider how best they can be incorporated into modern life without causing harm, or to study how they work in confluence with real-world interactions, and not just fret about what happens if they’re used exclusively.

Because technology – and future generations – aren’t going anywhere. We might not look like Inspector Gadget, but baby, we’re his heirs. Or rather, Penny’s. You get the idea.

As has been mentioned previously, I’m heartily¬†sick of the media dubbing each new scandal a Blahgate. I’ve contained my rage at Troopergate, if only because it appeared to be an election-spawned one-off, but no. Now we have Auntiegate, with the revelation that Obama’s half-aunt (on his father’s side) is an illegal alien. I mean, Christ on a bicycle, Media – can’t you think up something original?

Wait. That was a stupid question.

We’ve had Iguanagate, which couldn’t be redeemed even by the wonderful, ludicrous¬†phonics of the word ‘iguana’. We’ve had Gong-gate, wherein the entire Woollongong Council proved themselves unfit to govern a white elephant stall, let alone¬†handle real cash-money. We’ve had Grannygate and NAFTA-gate. We have, in fact, had it up to here with gates, fences, walls, doors or perimeter-keeping objects of any kind.

More importantly – and I say this with feeling – Watergate was the name of a hotel, you ignorant bastards! It was a scandal that brought down the Presidency in an unprecedented fashion, not just an amalgam of popular controversy! Fall in a well and die!

OK. I’m calm again now.

Among other things, I’m getting well and truly fed up with celebrities, politicians, organisations and newsworthy individuals blasting one another. The term is becoming so rabid with overuse that, were it Old Yeller, we’d already have taken it quietly out back and¬†done the decent thing, only without remorse.

Just witness:

PETA has blasted Jessica Simpson for wearing a T-shirt.

Mel B has blasted Eddie Murphy in a new song.

The AMA has blasted the Rudd government.

U.N. blasts celebrity drug use.

Pope blasts Europeans.

Kevin Rudd blasts the Chaser.

Anthony Albanese blasts Brendon Nelson.

A quick Google reveals blasting headlines as far back as 2000, but in the past year or so, there seems to have been an explosion. From memory, it feels like blasting¬†began as¬†a common gossip-mag headline, the kind of sensationalist claim that implies a killing verbal tirade without actually necessitating one.¬†For instance, a¬†headline like Shirely Temple Black blasts Paris Hilton gives a cozy, familiar sense that the next story over will be something equally vacuous, like teen ‘pregnancy pact’ has 17 girls expecting. You know. Trash, of the morbidly curious, staring-at-a-trainwreck ouevre.

But when did blasting go mainstream? Did I miss the memo? Was there a memo? And can I slap whoever was responsible?

In other news, the sixth human foot to wash ashore in British Colombia has been found, on closer examination, to be an animal paw. Which is all very well, but I’m still none too happy wondering where the other five¬†came from.

Who knows? Maybe they’ve been blasted.

At long last, behold! – the real Iguanagate.

Goddam media. Just couldn’t resist, could you?

I look forward to Wednesday night¬†on the ABC¬†– in fact, it’s the only night I¬†plan¬†on watching actual broadcast content. The Young Inventors, Spicks and Specks, The IT Crowd and The Armstrong and Miller¬†Show are all great fun, and given the premise of going backstage with advertising experts, The Gruen¬†Transfer seemed like a promising addition to the line-up.

In hindsight, Will Anderson should have set alarm bells ringing. As much as I loved The Glass House, Dave Hughes and a series of witty guests carried that show, because Young Master¬†Billy, as his abysmal performance at this year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival made apparent, is ratshit without an autocue and¬†some interesting sidekicks.

Which leads us to¬†the advertising representatives who, it seems, will make up the weekly panel.¬†It’s worth noting the apparent effort at diversity in their ranks: Dee, the¬†sole woman, comes off as creative-by-nature, cynical-by-necessity, and¬†easily the most intelligent and well-adjusted participant. Granted, however, this is not tricky when compared to her fellow marketeers. Russell has the self-contradicting, overly-enthusiastic sheen of a man suddenly forced to rationalise¬†ethical issues he hasn’t actually thought about. Todd appeared¬†genuinely interested in the¬†psychology and studies behind why advertising works, but¬†took a credibility hit from being paired with Dan,¬†the vile, sleazy epitome of corporate selling, whose¬†cringeworthy humour¬†left the audience wincing and Will Anderson with a glazed, almost manic desperation to¬†change topic.

The humour of The Gruen¬†Transfer¬† was hard to pinpoint: watching advertising high-flyers hold forth on how to market beer (or, at one point, whale meat) held an awful fascination, because none¬†of the panel seemed to realise that their willingness to do so, rather than any jokes they might make, was what people had¬†shown up¬†to laugh at.¬†Anderson himself was uncertain of which side to take, alternately egging on the advertisers and asking¬†sharp questions of them.¬†But this only achieved awkwardness:¬†laughing with the panel alienated the audience, while laughing at them provoked unease. Having tuned in to watch marketing practices exposed as immoral wank and their practitioners called scum, I maintain the latter tactic is the most viable means of success, but it’s undoubtably difficult¬†to¬†make four professionals¬†show up for¬†a weekly ridiculing of their chosen industry.

Ultimately, The Gruen Transfer seems like an insupportable concept.¬†As long as it remains unable to strike a working balance between self-pity,¬†mockery and flagellation, it will¬†act as a discomforting metaphor¬†for society’s relationship¬†with advertising:¬†hate-love, with¬†lashings of smug immorality, ignorance and guilt.¬†¬†¬†

Gather ’round, children, and I shall tell you a Grim Fairy-Tale.

Back in the grand-old dinosaur days of print, radio and television media, there was a thing called Editorializing. Editorializing was discouraged, because¬†it meant putting ‘personal interpretations or opinions into an otherwise factual account’¬†–¬†and this was right and proper. If someone wanted to express their own views, special parts of the media were¬†set aside just for the purpose, and these¬†were called Editorials. This meant that if¬†a person¬†were reading, or watching, or listening,¬†they knew straight away if the piece was¬†entirely factual or someone else’s opinion, and could form¬†their own thoughts accordingly.

The ban on Editorializing didn’t always work, and it wasn’t the only problem. Sometimes¬†facts were presented wrongly, or omitted with an agenda in mind, so that some of what people¬†assumed to be true, wasn’t. But because the media kept watch for Editorializing, the system tended to work.

But one day, the Cult of Celebrity emerged. People became so fascinated with what actors and sports-stars were doing – particularly if it was scandalous – that they stopped looking out for Editorializing in their media.¬†Over time, Editorializing started to creep back in,¬†even into new areas. Suddenly,¬†weather-reporters were talking about¬†‘lovely’¬†days and what people¬†could do on them; crimes¬†became ‘shocking’, ‘horrific’ or ‘terrible’ outside the quotation of those involved; sporting victories became ‘hollow’, ‘lucky’, ‘narrow’, ‘resounding’¬†or ‘controversial’ depending on the score margin. Nowhere seemed safe – but the worst-affected subject were Celebrities themselves.

Based on little more than gossip, photos and speculation, articles declared this Celebrity or that to be ‘fat’, ‘desperate’, ‘depressed’, ‘ugly’, ‘in hell’, ‘grieving’, ‘shallow’, ‘crazy’ and even worse still.¬†Protest was raised, but¬†the Cult had grown strong. Too many now cared for sensationalism¬†over fact; too many embroiled themselves shamelessly in the¬†flaws of the rich and famous. As Editorializing in the Cult of Celebrity made more and more people wealthy, and as it became more and more deeply entrenched as a legitimate form of media, it became harder and harder to guard against elsewhere – until, one day, it had won. Every newspaper article, radio show, magazine column and TV piece had became an Editorial, and if there ever was a piece¬†with just the facts – well, it slipped¬†quietly by like the ghost of a thing¬†long dead.

People¬†forgot that Editorializing had ever been a problem; that¬†keeping¬†guard had ever been necessary. For a while, they were content,¬†but dark times loomed ahead. When the world turned grim, they had no means of discerning truth, no way of telling whether the fear they felt was based in fact, or merely echoing the fearful Editorials of others. As more and more people became afraid,¬†Editorializing bloated their worries, spreading the infection far and away, a dirty needle¬†deep in¬†the media’s veins. When the shadows thinned, people clung to their doorways and shivered, uncertain of who to trust, or where the world was headed; and even now, the pall remains, rank and rife as ever. The Cult of Celebrity still¬†seeks – and receives –¬†its pound of sweet, unyielding flesh; and everwhere news is passed, the force of Editorializing prevails.

A faithful few still linger, fighting quietly in the hope that soon, the old watches will be kept. Then, they pray, the ancient guardians will sweep forth, reforming media standards until Editorializing is once more banished to the darkness whence it came, and all Editorials are marked and known as such. But until that day comes, the people continue to sleep with one eye open, wary of both the media Рand themselves.

Here endeth the lesson.