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What Hits the Most

by David Toussaint
Sunday Feb 13, 2011

It was all over the news, and I wasn't the only one terrified. There were screams of protest, threats, support and hope and Internet postings asking for God's intervention, and, underneath it all, the unthinkable fear of mass chaos. It only lasted a few days but it seemed like forever. In the end, Anderson Cooper made it back intact and America felt good about itself again.

If there was a real winner in The Coop's Dry Look rescue, it was CNN, who probably hoped they could hold him in an "undisclosed location with a makeup artist and a stylist and wardrobe and a publicist" for a few more harrowing days. There was a time when reporters reported, but the rules change when America's anchor-symbol gets mussed.

We saw the video where he was "punched and pummeled," which was almost as frightening as those paparazzi clips of Britney Spears leaving her house. We heard him recount the incident 24/7, and then we saw the clip in which he admits to being frightened, and, to emphasize the point, keeps his hair in a subdued coif. We even saw him on "David Letterman," where he said his instinct as a reporter was to "slap back" at his assailants (Apparently, Cooper honed his survival skills in the perilous streets of Chelsea.) There was so much to keep up with I had to stop reading about the Egyptian journalist who was shot and killed.

I thought the Super Bowl might relax me, but once again witnessed fights and threats and un-American ramblings and claims of treason, and a story so big it knocked Anderson off the air. It wasn't until after Christina Aguilera flubbed her National Anthem lines that the more civil game of football could begin. I'm not sure when the world first flip-flopped, but I'm pretty sure it was before Hosni Mubarak told ABC, "If I resign today, there will be chaos." Sidney Lumet's classic 1976 film, "Network," could never be made in 2011. Like Faye Dunaway's face, what was then original now looks like everything else you see on the airwaves.

"Entertainment Tonight" covered the Anderson Cooper Pummeling, but when I turned to E! I was relieved to discover they had far more important topics on their mind. That channel devoted an entire special to Natalee Holloway's 2005 Aruba disappearance. Naturally, I was heartsick, as I've never seen a single film of hers. Let's hope she gets a coveted spot on "Dancing with the Stars" so we can catch up with her on Twitter (a word of caution: I've been told a lot of her earliest Tweets turned out to be written by an imposter).

I don't know when American news first flip-flopped, but I'm pretty sure it was before Fox News started showing maps of Egypt in the Middle East. The new GOP is creating jobs by eliminating abortion access. Representative Christopher Smith of New Jersey introduced a bill that would only make "Forcible Rape" [victims]* eligible to get an abortion through Federal funds. (*"Victims" is the author's term.) Forcible rape? As opposed to, what, "Dad, do you have to tuck me in again tonight" rape? The ads for "Winter's Bone" should read "The Republican Plan for America."

In other screwed-over news, the country is swept up in Reagan's 100th birthday celebration. I never understood how fitting it was for the GOP to call themselves the Party of Reagan until it was revealed that the President had early signs of Alzheimer's while in office. They even forgot that Stem Cell Research might have helped him with his disease.

I would still love to know which part of Reagan's legacy the U.S.A. is honoring; the massive defense build-up that still exists, the soaring deficits that still exist, the corruption and cronyism of Iran-Contra that still exits, or his utter lack of AIDS empathy that still exists. If I were to pick, I'd say they're celebrating the fact that he championed all of this and still managed to carve out a legacy of heroism. That's the real Elephant in their living room.

Don't think I'm one to say Washington screws up everything: The Smithsonian just announced it acquired Farrah Fawcett's "The Poster" swimsuit, and I think there's a wonderful ying-yang quality to the announcement. D.C. gains one treasured torso, while another one loses his Craigslist shirt.

I was thrilled to hear that at least people outside of Hollywood were honoring Farrah, but then another rebellion broke out. Lady GaGa released her gay anthem "Born This Way" and the masses were so steamed even Anderson and XTina were left in the Little Monster dust. Elton John hailed it as the "gayest song ever," then GaGa's record producers called it her greatest work ever, and, not to be outdone, the Lady herself told MTV "I'm on the quest to create the anthem for my generation for the next decade, so that's what I've done." I'm not sure when the music world flip-flopped so that perfection was decided ahead of the public, but I'm pretty sure it happened way before Lea Michele's "Glee" voice was so perfectly auto-tuned that chipmunks started committing Hari kari.

By the time we, the unimportant consumers, finally heard our new anthem, there was one slight problem: "Born This Way" already gave birth two decades ago under the title "Express Yourself," the anthem by that bleached-blond Italian-American pop singer gay-icon from Michigan Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. God may not make mistakes, as GaGa claims in the tune, but that bleached-blond Italian-American pop singer gay-icon from New York Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta sure did. The only thing more offensive than telling a queer what's going to make him feel good inside is to cover it in a 22-year-old wrapper.

Always one to tell the truth, as GaGa told a re-booted Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," the Lady performed "Born This Way" on the Grammy's, and accepted her award donning a strikingly familiar Madonna Blond Ambition ponytail and bullet-bra pose, and made sure she thanked her muse...Whitney Houston. GaGa is pop music's GOP; she's hoping her public has cultural Alzheimer's.

The cyberspace chatter turned so vicious I decided to go to the movies, but ended up seeing "Black Swan" instead. The producers of the film are so psyched for Natalie Portman's presumed Oscar, they've nixed ads showing a clip, and now have the actress telling the camera that she rehearsed the dancing for an entire year before filming began. Forgetting for a moment that Portman's chances of being a legitimate ballerina are as about as realistic as the film's plot, there was a time when actors won awards for acting.

If you want an Academy Award now, make sure you cry on cue and have lesbian sex. Annette Bening did the same thing in "The Kids Are All Right," but the poor thing forgot Hollywood's Golden Rule that comedy means squat. Did she learn nothing from not winning the Oscar for "Being Julia," or for not winning the Oscar for "American Beauty," or for not winning the Oscar for "The Grifters"? If she loses again at least she'll realize she has nothing left to laugh about.

It was all so unnerving that I plugged into Facebook to find a voice of reason. Not the network, mind you, but "The Social Network," David Fincher's semi-sort-of-maybe-who-knows-it-could-have-happened-that-way drama. Everyone thinks the film is too smart to win the Oscar, kind of like, well, "Network," but it's the most accurate film portrayal of life today. "The Social Network" isn't about Facebook per se; it's about our incessant need to communicate via reflex. No sooner do we hear anything, read anything, get wind of anything, than 6 hundred million people share the news and reactions with "friends" all over the world. Half the time what we're responding to is false, or heightened reality, and, like the questionable biographical roots of the film, it doesn't matter.

In the time it took for you to read this column, you could have witnessed Anderson' s hairy escape, Egypt's fall, Christina's flub, Fox's fuck up, Holloway's haunt, Farrah flaunt, Chris Lee flex, GaGa imitate, Madonna and Natalie express themselves, Bening's bio, and Facebook's fixed position as reality's arbitrator. And you could have added to the conversation a fact created on someone's computer.

The film's best conceit turns drama into science fiction then back again. Real-life Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's screen alter-ego, played by Jesse Eisenberg, faces off with real-life arch-nemesis twins Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, played by Armie Hammer. One actor portrays both men, delightfully I might add, and the special effects are so good you'd never be the wiser. Sure, Fincher could have hired actual twins and saved a lot of money, but Hammer is perfect for the parts. The technical wizardry heightens the authenticity of Facebook's Photoshop narrative. It's a little lie that exposes one of our biggest truths.

David is an established columnist with EDGE. Follow him on Twitter at @DRToussaint.


  • , 2011-02-14 18:12:56


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