Thursday, October 02, 2008

Millions Are Not Enough, Suri's Lonely, and Maybe Elitism Needs a Boost

Last night, Friday Night Lights began its third season, this time on DirecTV. The show's first two seasons were on NBC, and this one will be, too, starting in February. DirecTV gave NBC some scratch to have exclusive first rights, hoping to drum up some business. All of this risk-sharing is necessary because Friday Night Lights -- one of the smartest, most well crafted shows on TV, which I understand is the definition of damning with faint praise -- has an average audience of only a little more than six million viewers.

When six million fans isn't enough to make something a success, it gets you thinking about just how large the lowest-common-denominator mob has grown.

For the past week or so, in bookstores and bodegas throughout Brooklyn, I've stared several times at the cover of Star Magazine, which features a photo of Suri Cruise -- unsurprising, because what could possibly be more fascinating than the vacant, one-in-two-billion countenance of a toddler? What is surprising is the copy that accompanies her. A headline claims that the poor little thetan-clearer is lonely, and the first thing it offers to reveal is "The secrets she tells her dolls."

The secrets.

She tells.

Her dolls.

There are real adults who see a promise like that and rush to have it fulfilled. Last year, Star sold more than $175 million worth of magazines. If you combine the top five celebrity-driven magazines, you get a number topping $1 billion. That's a staggering tower of dumb.

These adults who can't wait to discover the secrets that Suri tells her dolls . . . their vote counts as much as yours does. (If you don't live in a swing state, and they do, you could argue that their vote counts more.) And it's very hard, at moments like this, to resist the feeling that elitism, pace the speakers at the Republican Convention, isn't voiced enough. (I won't elaborate here on how alternately hilarious and disheartening I find it that Republicans play the elitism card. Proper elitism is an upper-crust, Republican-brand trait, reflected in someone like William Buckley, who was virtually a walking ascot.)

In this week's New Yorker, Adam Gopnik reviews a new biography of John Stuart Mill, and he writes that Mill and his wife, Harriet, were so successful in changing the minds of their time that they "made a world in which there is not much of a role for people like him....
Mill and Harriet, to a degree that they could hardly recognize, flourished within a whole set of social assumptions and shared beliefs. Respect for the mind, space for argument, the dispersal of that respect throughout the population, even the existence of a rentier class who could spend their time with ideas—all of these things were possible only in a society that was far more hierarchical and élitist than the society they dreamed of and helped to bring about.
Yes, I'm surprised that Alanis didn't work that into "Ironic."

I'm just blustering here. I'm glad Mill existed and that he argued for what he did. I'm glad we're not ruled by a cabal of people who have never heard of Suri Cruise. And it's likely that Mill would have looked askance at my love for a football-based TV show about hot teenagers. His era's idea of elitism might have been to take away my vote. Fine. I'm just saying -- if giving up my vote means we might also take one away from whoever is currently sitting, feet up, reading about what Suri tells her dolls, I might be willing to make that trade. For the sake of the (more limited) republic.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The secrets. She tells. Her dolls.


Your very well-said thoughts about Star-buying, swing-state voters have just put me off my morning coffee... Uf. But hey! Mad Men won the best drama Emmy! There's hope...

5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well done. well done!

4:58 PM  

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