It is amazing what we will do to avoid letting a particular state of mind just be like it is without trying to change it. Why drink a liquid that costs a fortune and makes you fall down, unless you believe there is something seriously wrong with what you would otherwise feel like? I think we underestimate how uncomfortable we are with most of our normal, unadulterated states. We try to have a lot more control over them than is really possible
By HANNAH BLACK
The Overly Attached Girlfriend’s desire isn’t oriented towards sex or even a boyfrend; both are just means to maximal intensity of feeling
This is the age of intensity and not of duration. The implicit premise of the Overly Attached Girlfriend, a popular YouTube series that originated as a meme in 2012, is this: A pretty young white woman has absorbed the lessons of pop music without irony, in an atmosphere of total surveillance prescribed by Facebook and the NSA, and now believes that love should be conducted in conditions of panoptic intensity. Each of the videos by YouTube star Laina, in her guise as the Overly Attached Girlfriend, have at least six-figure viewing numbers. Not a single one is all that funny. She remains very popular.
Jameson says of Warhol that if the work isn’t critique then he wants to know why. Laina isn’t making an explicit critique, and here is the reason. One side of the joke — that a woman would have to be crazy to long for entry into a couple — is negated by the other — that a woman who can’t negotiate her way into a couple is crazy. The coin turns on the woman’s possible worth and worthlessness, both of which are unstable even though the Overly Attached Girlfriend is a young, attractive white woman. Even (or perhaps most of all) in the gated community of middle-class white womanhood, women not only can’t have what they want, they are barred from frank expressions of wanting.
The Overly Attached Girlfriend began as a single image, multiply inflected with different captions. The logic of the meme: It must be instantly understood. Her huge eyes are fixed wide open in her otherwise unremarkable face, a face that avoids censure by being white, untroublingly pretty, young, etc.; all that could be condemned is held in the eyes, which won’t give up their object. She is a contemporary spin on the ancient European slur against women that they desire too much. Now, at least in most mainstream discourse, feels-shaming is more common than slut-shaming: the shame of being too much or too little, too warm or too cold, too ambivalent or too certain. Successful attachments, we are told, are pragmatic fusions of compatible values, something to work on, replete with quasi-contractual obligations to tell the truth, empathize, etc. Unsuccessful attachments, on the other hand, are failures of competence, embarrassingly lacking in the reality principle.
This essay makes me thing troubling things about myself even as it discusses a parody nominally far from my own taste. anyway.
(Could do with a tighter edit tho’. Hope it gets one so the talking points therein can go further)
So there we have it; an Australia where the sentiment “haters gonna hate” is actually enshrined in law, and the respect Australians were once obliged to show to those from different backgrounds can now go to their social superiors. On one level, this looks like a planting of the LNP’s unapologetically conservative flag, and a slamming of the Overton window hard to the right; on another level, it seems almost calculated to create a lot of smoke. Which makes me wonder: is this a prologue to more substantial conservative legislation (perhaps a ban on abortion, the privatisation of the ABC, tougher censorship laws or something), or a distraction from something that’s decidedly not culture-war red-meat and would give the Silent Majority of (Occasionally Casually Racist But In A Mately And Acceptable Way) Suburban Battlers little to celebrate? Like, say, harsh industrial-relations laws to go with the symbolic feudalism in the imperial honours system?
The biggest downside to the state-avoidance habit isn’t that it costs us our money and our time. It’s that we are constantly forfeiting personal power. By reaching for the hammer (whether it’s a beer or a remote control) every time we’d like the moment to be a little easier or more interesting, we are training ourselves to be needy and dependent on circumstances. By learning to allow different types of discomfort to simply stay in the room with you, without your scrambling for a button to push (real or metaphorical), you make discomfort matter less. The pool of things you’re afraid of shrinks. It becomes a lot less important to control circumstances, because you know you can handle moments of uncertainty or awkwardness or disappointment without an escape plan.
Take the field’s crucial finding, the so-called Easterlin paradox. Cross-country data seem to show pretty consistently that, on average, happiness increases with income, but only up to a certain point. In the developed world, for example, people are scarcely happier than they were in the 1960s. The evidence for this claim consists of surveys in which people rate their happiness on a scale, typically from one to 10. …This sounds like quite a discovery: happiness is relative! But in fact the result is probably an illusion. To see why, just consider this puzzle. Suppose you wanted to establish whether children’s height increased with age, but for some reason you couldn’t measure them directly. One way to start the investigation would be to interview groups of children in different classes at school and ask them the question: ‘On a scale of one to 10, how tall are you?’ You’d find that kids who were old relative to their classmates would tend to report higher numbers than those who were young relative to their classmates. After all, the older ones would mostly be taller than the younger ones. So far, so good. After you had surveyed a few classes, you might start to notice something rather odd. As you moved up through the year groups, the average age would keep increasing but the average reported height would not change much. …What to make of that? By analogy with the ‘happiness puzzle’, you might conclude that height is a subjective construct depending on relative, rather than absolute, age. But, in reality, we know that height actually does increase with age throughout childhood. The problem is that asking for a subjective mark out of 10 is a silly way to measure height. Each child is likely to score himself relative to his classmates rather than to any absolute scale, with the result that comparisons between age groups are meaningless. Does happiness keep rising with income? Nobody can say. But, since we don’t have any absolute scale of mood, it certainly seems plausible that people judge it in pretty much the same way as the children judged height in our imaginary investigation….
What Nigerian scams are to your grandfather, Bitcoin exchanges are to the 20-30 semi-tech-savvy libertarian demographic.
Manliness is no longer necessarily stoic and stolid, it must also be virile and athletic, preferably with explosions.
This means that to strive for a structureless group is as useful, and as deceptive, as to aim at an “objective” news story, “value-free” social science, or a “free” economy. A “laissez faire” group is about as realistic as a “laissez faire” society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of “structurelessness” does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones. Similarly “laissez faire” philosophy did not prevent the economically powerful from establishing control over wages, prices, and distribution of goods; it only prevented the government from doing so.