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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

3 Bad Comebacks

For the most part, when something leaves the public consciousness it’s for a good reason. We Americans might not be the most discriminating consumers when we anoint something as popular, but we’re a scathingly tough crowd, and as Kip Winger rightly opined nearly two decades ago: “easy come, easy go.” Our pop culture dump is littered with things most of would rather forget, from fashion (bell bottom jeans, moon boots & Members Only jackets) to music (Vanilla Ice, disco and the Jonas Brothers); and personal grooming (mullets, mustaches and visible chest hair). But there are a scant few items that survive this cultural gauntlet, and despite the best attempts of the learned minority to prevent their resurgence, they rise from the ashes like an idiot Phoenix, bathing us all in the light of their pervasive stupidity. And because I can’t stop them, I’ll simply sit back and tell you about 3 comebacks that I wish wouldn’t:

1. Bare feet. It’s been over 1500 years since the fall of the Roman Empire, and according to my estimation that’s the last time that the majority of people were walking around in footwear which accorded visibility of their entire foot to the rest of us. But, toga parties and Halloween notwithstanding, the visible foot is making an inexplicable comeback. In deference to those folks who actually get excited by them, can’t we all agree that feet are not the sort of thing that should generally be seen? And for people who are overweight, older, or generally prone to poor hygiene, your feet should rarely be seen. And yet, more and more, I see bare twisted toes, cracked heels and nails that look more like weaponry than a skin appendage being bared for all the world to see. There was a time when if you planned on baring a part of your body, you made certain to at least observe a modicum of grooming and care to it. But, as our cultural narcissism reaches a fever pitch, it seems that folks have to decided to bare whatever is there, world be damned. There is a place for mostly bare feet, and that is at the beach/pool or at home. As a general rule, unless you’re an attractive young woman getting a regular pedicure, nobody wants to see your toes. Do us all a favor and put on some damned shoes.

2. Chest Hair and Mewelry. As a society, we’ve mostly developed a collective shame with regard to the 1970’s that has kept that entire decade of style, pop music and general behavior in cultural obscurity, save the occasional lampooning party. And with good reason. We were never collectively more apparently and completely unaware of our own ridiculousness. No matter how somber the subject or storied the director, it seems like each film documenting that regrettable decade is a study in head-shaking disbelief on just how ridiculous we were. And perhaps nothing served as a greater talisman for the period’s over-the-top masculinity and hyper-stylized bravado than the display of chest hair and gold neck jewelry. One need spend only a few moments at an event encouraging 70’s era caricatures before this trend is dutifully mocked. And yet, despite what I believed to be almost universal disdain for this fashion behavior, I have noticed it with increasingly frequency amongst the general public. In general, it is never OK for a man to wear neck jewelry outside his clothing, and unbuttoning your shirt down to your navel is not an acceptable work-around for this rule. There is an acceptable number of buttons at the top of your shirt to have unbuttoned, and that number is two. In addition, chest hair looks about as sanitary a public toilet seat. Putting a marginally valuable gold chain amidst all this horribleness does not excuse or license it in any way. Listen Starksy, seeing your golden anchor half-buried in your barely viable chest-fro is only making everyone wonder just how big of a douchebag you are. Do us a favor and button your damned shirt.

3. Celebrity Righteousness. There was a time when show business seemed to those outside of it as squeakily clean as the stories that came out of it. The public wanted to believe in the nearly puritanical Cleavers, the sanitized kids of Bayside High and the lovable scamps of Taxi. Hollywood had a vested interest in having us believe that the world behind the curtain was identical to the world in front of it, and so they did. But as the media grew alongside our prurient interest in the celebrities that populated this stylized world, the curtain was slowly drawn back and the shine has since come off of the showbiz machine. Entire news organizations have been built around exposing the dirty underbelly of the life with unlimited resources and limited (if any) restrictions that these creatures live, and in 2010, we hardly flinch at the mention of parties in club VIP rooms with mountains of cocaine, gaggles of prostitutes and debauchery so profoundly perverse that Caligula might blush. We’ve become accustomed to short-lived romances, baseless tirades and entitled petulance at even the slightest of inconveniences. And yet, Hollywood is once again trying to sell us it’s new generation of singers, actors and models as the righteous few; rejecting the hedonism of modern day celebrity and embracing a time honored morality. Young pop stars proclaim abstention while hosting teenage groupies backstage, teen actors speak of refrain and then invite twenty-something extras back to their luxury trailers, and the latest magazine cover-models eschew underage consumption and are then glimpsed at hotspot nightclubs through velvet ropes and dark curtains in cloistered back rooms. Listen, you may have the tween crowd and Twilight moms convinced that nothing’s going on in these dark corners except pleasant conversation and Bible study, but I’m not buying. You show me a teenager with limitless funds and minimal consequences, and I’ll show you someone hosting a drunken donkey show and doing lines of coke off a midget.

* * *
As a sports fan, I love a good comeback. The indomitable will not to be defeated overcoming long or impossible odds may be one of the best things about sports and is surely one of the reasons we choose to watch in the first place. What’s more, as a dedicated economics geek, I can surely appreciate the cyclical nature of things - bringing what was weak back to strength, and turning buyer’s markets into seller’s markets. Best of all, I do so love when thing that go around, come around. But with all that being said, not all returns are welcome, not all reunions happy, and not all resurrections miraculous. As Danny Boyle has taught us, some dead things are better left dead. I don’t ever want to peg my jeans, wear multiple Swatch watches or slow dance to Yaz ... again. (Okay, I might want to slow dance to Yaz again) But the bottom line is that just as we were taught long ago, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Or, if you prefer a more modern approach, if you’re ever wondering about whether you should “bring something back to the old skool”, remember there’s a reason that it’s "old skool" in the first place, and don’t.


Anonymous said...

Amen with the bare feet shit! At least in Southern California everyone is so pre-occupied with how they look that they always have a pedicure. But even then at least 75% of the people need to put on a pair or running shoes. Forget the rest of the country. I'm from Vermont where all the hippies wear their frickin' Birkenstocks and believe au naturel is sexy. Gross.


Arlene said...

I have to admit, I was slightly offended at the first thing being barefoot, as I LOVE to be barefoot, but then you got to the feet that are NASTY, and I was in total agreement...I seriously think about offering to buy people pedi's in the summer!
Chest hair...EWWWWW. Seriously. Wax that shit. I like a little fur to run my fingers through, not a friggin field!
Is it too early to add reality TV to this? Once it goes away, I'd prefer it stay gone...

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