Thursday, 15 June 2017

Recollection of the Image Nation
by Skips Wayback

I imagine America as an unfunny but popular sitcom whose character played by Charlie Sheen is struck dead by a train and replaced with a strikingly Ashton Kutcher-like character eventually to wring four more seasons out of the franchise. I imagine the suitable TV trope to be jumping the Shark Tank.


In point of fact, I have never seen this sitcom. I say this not in the way of people who smugly claim to have never watched something when you know they really have, but to clarify smugly that I know nothing of the show outside of the brief dramedy surrounding its production; if I was ever made familiar with its content, it remains a residual memory via spoken promos during NFL broadcasts, and it's been so long since I've seen a football game or been in a room with one on in the background that I'm unsure whose voice would have intoned what I imagine now to have been the plot-line & title among others of the relevant evenings' programming.

It's possible, likely even, that the voicing of the title in question is a construction of my imagination conflated with other sitcoms from a time when I still had a television, which would make me less familiar with the show than I was fully aware. Okay, in truth, I constructed that conflation for effect, the point albeit being that I have heard, as well as seen, too much come out of the idiot box to draw consistent distinctions.

This accounts for an awful lot of fog, or static or fuzz even, so that the clearest detail of this kind I can dial into hearkens way back to the building hype surrounding the transition from Shield to Storm (of Desert distinction) in the winter of 1990-91. It is only down to repeated viewings on video cassette that this memory has not faded for good. It comes by dint of a David Brinkley voiceover during the closing credits of Twin Peaks that promised for the coming Sunday the tackling of the concern "Will there be war?" If you know his voice you can imagine the upper register squelch that punctuates the question. I don't imagine that Angelo Badalamenti imagined that he would be scoring a teaser for war drum propaganda. Then again, all is fair & nothing is sacred in war & teevee.

Back in the 21st century and my opening analogy: There's plenty of bicker & forth in the building of the most fitting metaphor for this or that thing worthy of amusing or thought provoking comparisons. A notable recent example was acted out by the dueling factions of lesser non-virtuousness, which can be seen in the desperately clingy rift in the Democratic Twitterverse:

My guess is that Bernie-bro-bots and Hills-hath-furies might be of one mind in associating the image of a coked-up & out-of-control whore-monger Charlie Sheen with the character of Don-John Trump, 45th usurper of a haughty concept, and 44th denizen of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave (42nd if you don't count Ben Harrison's one-term trashing of Grover Cleveland's aesthetic).

Would my analogy have it that the current President is Ashton Kutcher? Not exactly. Ashton Kutcher rather represents the paradox of the stated uncertainty of the day: the occupant of the premises, not the embodiment of the occupant. The drug fueled egomania of Charlie Sheen is a tempting juxtaposition, for sure, but his is a more apt effigy to the type of celebrity apprentice who would wrap himself around the Don's pinky finger in order to hold on to the teevee gig that services the binge.

Still, as one can deduce from his infamous Battle of the Chucks, Sheen's desperation didn't deign to flatter the boss. Remember that the producers had him written off his own show per offscreen tragedy with a train. No doubt the fans of the sitcom had been following the actor's public-private trainwreck. Get it?

Am I therefore saying that the President or his presidency is the proverbial trainwreck? Not quite. I'm saying that the President epitomizes a sordid crash parodied into a storyline befitting all precedent decadence.

That same sitcom featured another junior icon of the 80's who cared enough about his status inside Hollywood's buddy system that he once had a publicist spin his affection for Republican politicians into the apolitical desire to hear "both sides", which, if you haven't yet noticed, is the nomenclature for the Overton window that — when tooled toward the easily controllable opposition of partisan politics — allows for the scripting of any public policy that isn't good (aka "good" - that which you shouldn't allow yourself to be the enemy of, and which, featured along with the forever fogging window is the offscreen threat that lesser-decline is no worse than lesser-improvement until such time as lesser-improvement has the votes, at which point we should not lose sight of the relative worthiness of lesser-decline, lest something worse happen along if we were to "take our eyes off the ball").

This represents the ostensible sensible middle that the party elders loudly laud every time they lose the big chair, and often when they win it. It is staged in terms of a seasonally swinging electorate. In reality this room-to-oscillate is, over the long haul, not coincidentally shrinking in one direction: Comedy. Bad. Severely.

If you've found yourself in a dream not knowing when, where, why, or how it is you are going to complete a task likewise unknown save for the fact that you believe you have to carry it out for some reason, surely reasonable, know that this is remarkably similar in affectation to the actor's nightmare, real or imagined, asleep or awake, of standing on stage, in this case a sound stage, having forgotten his or her lines, or, more fittingly, without an inkling of ever having learned them. Cue laughter, sweetened to replicate authenticity.

At the stage where the audience is conditioned to respond predictably, the distinction is diminished.