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December 10, 2004

Vapid & Annoying Meme Alert

A couple of weeks ago, I did the unthinkable: I watched ten minutes of Topic A with Tina Brown. I know there were at least six or seven other people in the world watching too.

And I know that at least one lazy television critic from the amateur leftist webzine Slate was, too.

Tina Brown was vapid as usual, but in a slightly interesting way. She chirped that the re-election of a Republican President in the mold of Reagan, and the popularity of Trump and conspicuous consumption (note: conspicuous consumption never goes out of style, really, the same as miniskirts never do either), meant that the eighties were, in fact, back. (Finally!)

Now, this was a pretty silly thesis, and she had to strain to make her analogies and points and everything, but I have to admit, as far as light bullshit chatter, it was vaguely a fun idea. If I were drunk and at a bar, for example, and I had nothing else to say, I might just find myself repeating this bit of bubbleheaded cultural analysis.

As Mickey Kaus informed me, however, one incidence is just happenstance, whereas two incidences constitutes a trend. And we now definitely have a trend in lazy cultural journalism, because gushing Margaret Cho fan Dana Stevens now strains even harder than Tina Brown to spread the meme that The Eighties Are Back! (And Did They Ever Really Leave?) .

At least Brown was working with kinda-sorta "I can see that" type evidence. Stevens, on the other hand, both copies and strains to make her own case:

I Love the '80s

Barbara Walters' special was a throwback to a decade when greed was good.

It's official: As of last night, it is once again the '80s. Barbara Walters' heavily hyped year-end special, The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2004, was an unrepentant throwback to that decade of guiltless consumerism and craven celebrity worship. Three of the choices from Walters' list—Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and Mel Gibson—have been around since the '80s; Walters even showed clips of herself interviewing the latter two in their big-haired heyday.

They've been around since the eighties? That's your hook for this claim? I don't want to defend Tina Brown -- God, I don't want to do that -- but 1, she already hit Trump, Dana, and 2, she also explored the "Reagan's Heir" angle.


When the list was announced, there was a media outcry at Walters' choice of the hotel heiress and reality-TV star, fresh from receiving her VH1 award for "Catchphrase of the Year": "That's hot." (Here's my new "catchphrase" for '05: "Good morning.") In fact, though, the choice of Paris makes a lot of sense, given the show's philosophy and retro-'80s feel; Paris, after all, looks like the long-lost love child of a character from Dynasty. In order to find entertainment in the Paris persona, one must simply accept that materialism, greed, and a naked desire for fame are highly valued attributes in our culture.

Okay, I give her props for making fun of Hilton's "catchphrase." But notice how hard she's straining to re-state Brown's thesis.


With the exception of a few humbler nominees (like Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling or Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings), the overall tone of last night's celebration of venality could be summed up in Michael Douglas' mantra from the '80s epic Wall Street: "Greed is good." If we've really come full circle, maybe that can be next year's catchphrase.

I'm pretty damn sure Tina Brown mentioned Gordon Gecko, too.

At any rate: there's the dumb new meme we'll be hearing from a thousand other lazy bubbleheads in the weeks to come. Maureen Dowd, I imagine, is writing her own idiot burblings about it right now.

It was a silly throwaway observation when Tina Brown made it-- silly, but innocuous. But now all these nitwits, starved for something to say, are going to take this ball and frigging run with it.

And Dana:

Next time, try a H/t, for "Hat tip," to the person you're citing. It's what we amateur internet opinionators do.

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posted by Ace at 03:20 AM

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