Sunday, February 03, 2008

Shameless

My friend Rob and I were talking recently about how many newscasters have included on the news stations' sites links to their personal blogs and MySpace pages. So, in one click, we can go from today's headlines to finding out that "meteoroligist" Kris Crocker likes System of a Down.

This led us to a discussion of how the younger generation is becoming inexplicable to us. What makes them confusing is their predilection for exposure. Sure, I have a blog, as does Rob, but our discussions tend not to be of the personal type--in other words, our entries are about externalities like art and politics...they are not the stuff of psychoanalysts' couches.

Young peoples' lives, ergo their blogs, seem not only to be an open book, but a book they beg us to read. Further, these are not books of accomplishments like a memoir or an autobiography, they are compendia of every innermost thought and desire, of trial personae, of pinup photos...things that our generation is accustomed to keeping to ourselves.

I thought of this as I read a short piece on France's president Nicolas Sarkozy, who, at the time of the writing, had yet to wed his new sweetheart, Carla Bruni. Sarkozy had, right after being elected, divorced his wife and began cavorting with Bruni. What makes Sarkozy's decision so odd is not that a French president has a mistress. Mitterand's mistress was an open secret, and she even attended his funeral, standing next to his wife. However, his emphasis was on "secret." Sarkozy has decided to emphasize the "open" part of the phrase "open secret."

What makes Sarkozy so thoroughly modern, so exquisitely MySpace, is how extrovertedly public he is about his sexcapades. As Adam Gopnick of the New Yorker wrote:
What distinguishes the ballad of Carla and Nicolas from similar tales is that this time the media is not trying to pry into the private life of a public man; this time, a public man is trying desperately to parade his private life in front of the media. Sarkozy not only performed for the press, welcoming photographers along as he and Bruni holidayed in Egypt and walked on the beach in what used to be called bathing costumes; he insists, to everyone’s embarrassment, on talking about their bonheur and their approaching marriage at press conferences. This is not tacit complicity, of the Princess Di-and-the-tabloids kind; it is Presidential leadership. Sarkozy wants people to think about his sex life, in the way that Bill Clinton didn’t want people thinking about his. The Sarkozy moment is more like Tom Cruise pounding Oprah’s sofa; the gentleman is so vehement about his love that something seems weird about it.
I don't think his vehement love is weird. I think it is a harbinger of the times, and we must begin getting used to these unseemly parades of information that used to be kept private. This type of exposure started years ago. Heck, we even know what kind of underwear Bill Clinton wears. (Wouldn't it be interesting if a wag decided to ask Hillary the same question?)

I could lament the fact that, as Rob's friend Derek proclaimed, "there's no shame any more," but I fear that I have finally settled on the adult side of the generational divide, so my complaints just sound like the typical grumblings of an old man.

Read the Gopnick article here.

7 comments:

Grumpalump said...

I hope that's not Robert Archer you're talking about.

Eric said...

Mr. Grumpalump,

Mr. Archer will be my president some day, so I prefer to remain on his good side. I'm thinking I'd like to be Secretary of Education, though I think the stenography classes will be difficult.

Grumpalump said...

The day Arch becomes president is the day I circumsize myself with a brick.

dave starry said...

I know you had an interesting point Eric, but I couldn't get past the fact that Kris Crocker likes System of a Down. I fear I'll never think of weather in quite the same way again.

MLEinOly said...

Oh, woe is my generation. My psychology professor and second-favorite teacher of all time would say this: the increasingly confessional bent of our society (young'uns) is part of the greater American trend to blend religion and capitalism. We have our protestant work ethic (work yourself to death!) and now our public confessionals (myspace). I think we all still have shame, but for some our shame has no boundary.
By the way, I enjoy your blog quite a lot. Thanks for pointing me to it!

Eric said...

But if our confessional bent is a product of religion and capitalism, why aren't we seeking to get paid for our exhibitionism?

I'm glad you enjoy it. I look forward to more pithy comments from you.

mleinoly said...

Yes...we can get paid for it. That's why people put ads on their blogs.

Ah-ha!