Everybody Wants to Rule the World

01 landscape

As innovative as they seem, I think these up and coming social media personalities (especially, the marginalized peoples) have hard[er] times ahead. Because the more likes/followers/subscribers they see will do little, if anything to aid them as they face a glaring disconnect. Seldom do they discern that their lived realities [from which they draw reference] will remain incongruous to the faceless, gratuitous reverence of their online lives.

I find this to be a sad debacle, but the phenomenon is nothing new. Alan, Kali, and Damon** are MGMT majors who were kind enough to share some insights on this with me. They’re no strangers to social media, networks, or marketing; and their understandings of connections have been further augmented by their own anecdotes.

02 hovel

Together, we scroll through some of the more popular feeds; feeds filled with profiles who, in the wake of disastrous house bills and vitriolic campaigns, have ascended with viral insights and have cited their positionalities in opposition. For the most part, they’re all stars. There are few people unfamiliar with their handles, bylines, or explosive exploits. Beyond the sedentary, salaried constellations appear to be charismatic figures on the rise. Their statuses have been shared tens, sometimes hundreds of thousands of times; many of which have been screenshot and shared longer and further. Some have been relayed offline to accessorize gigs and lectures. Others have been printed, then postered around to accentuate existent disparities.

The MGMT scholars I’ve met shake their heads. What strikes them are the crowdfunds, rustic crafts, and miscellaneous independent projects which are peddled by the creators—and drive home the callosity of capitalism wherein the survival of marginalized peoples is most precarious, visionary or otherwise.

03 cows under the oak

It’s the paradox of social capital, I gather. It means nothing if it can’t be monetized.

Alan shrugs, then shifts in his seat: “This is the difference between people like these and celebrities.”

Alan is from El Salvador. He spent the better parts of his life backpacking through South and Central America as a volunteer for several outreach programs. He describes himself as a rolling stone: shuffled between homes and schools after his parents were murdered by the Contras. Business came some years after he became more involved in community service. He found himself alongside diverse personnel amidst various grassroots initiatives, many of whom were stretched too far and too thin. Alan resolved to take business in an effort to further aid; and he was impressed with how entrepreneurs prospered through free-access, social media technologies.

We met two years ago through an academic support network. Sharing many of the same politics, frustrations, and rants against the institution led us to become fast friends. Back then, he was relatively new to social media. Not much has changed, but he made a point to join Twitter.

04 herd under trees

“Less than a tenth of the people who are seen the most are paid the most,” he shrugs. “Nobody ever stops to think that isn’t a coincidence.”

As resourceful as most graduate students tend to be, Alan started an independent marketing company last winter. It’s one of many side jobs he’s taken since his scholarships have declined and academic employment rates have become touch-and-go. The most important yet seldom mentioned aspect of grad school is how things very rarely stay on schedule, which results in what essentially become indefinite degrees. I suspect this is why graduate admissions now require payment [bank] statements and funding outlines prior to acceptance; because the academic industrial complex need be assured students are able, regardless if they are willing to pay in the instance of whatever (or whomever) may prolong their programs.

06 in the grove

Ceasing that tangent, I refocus on Alan’s marketing hustle. He retains several clients, all either founding independent brands or hopeful startups. Their biggest misconception, he says, is believing high numbers of likes/follows/shares are tantamount to success.

“It [this misconception] comes from celebrities,” he explains. “People see celebrities all the time. They think they’re seeing the whole picture, but that’s not even a fraction of the picture.”

landscape-1861.jpg!large

“I think it’s apart of social engineering,” Kali adds. She muses about how commercials wire us to process things in a weird way, as if we’re granted an exclusive look although everyone else is also watching. Her anthropology thesis spanned surveillance and state control. What I read as the main takeaway: the irony of how it takes nothing for unseen sources to moderate hypervisible masses. Kali says her research and the humanities’ precarious job sector led to her marketing. Like Alan, she earns extra income by providing consultant social media [marketing-campaign] services. It takes very little for her to profile prospective clients.

“The thing is, business is a constant,” she states. “So is the state of crisis.”

backwoods-1872.jpg!large

Essentially, Kali thinks that the world hasn’t—and won’t—stop turning despite how bad things become. This is evinced in how no scale of devastation unnerves how seamlessly capital is maintained by popular culture and celebrities. It’s something Kali finds jarring to behold. She also mentioned this last year when we met at a conference, then again once we reconnected this spring.

On the surface, Kali relates to much of what’s said by these increasingly popular profiles; whose positionalities are also marginalized. However, she is cognizant of the reality that chafes beneath. Kali once comprised these ranks years ago. Before her accounts were resolutely suspended [due to notoriously faulty algorithms], then shut down after trolls doxxed her: her posts enjoyed a torrential traffic. Her virality earned her an occasional shoutout and invite to panels; and caught the eye of a publisher who solicited her manuscript. She remembers being awestruck after what felt like innumerable photo shoots, speaking events, and the odd compliment from an A- or B-lister who strayed into her mentions.

birch-grove-1896.jpg!large

This recollection makes her eyes glassy—because it’s bittersweet. What began as a somewhat cathartic outlet to rage against the machine and pride an identity she’d concealed in her small town, became a hollow testament. All she put out in the world—for every person she’d served as fodder or inspiration—had amounted to little, if anything in return. Almost every labour or appearance had been unpaid; and she could barely afford trinkets with the rare, modest honorarium. Despite what seemed to be avid fans, her book barely sold. Her publisher shortchanged her advance: a loss she’s swallowed since it was substantially less than what she would’ve had to pay—and couldn’t successfully crowdfund—in legal fees. Moreover, her transparency had proven for the worst since she was eventually outcast from her IRL community and couldn’t garner any aid from her online one.

pine-on-sand-1884.jpg!large

Kali and I have shared dark chapters with each other which I won’t detail, but I will say her spirit never ceases to amaze me. Nor does her ability to keep a clear head. In a rather objective fashion, she pegs a handful of profiles I’ve shared. Bound for hurdles, she says. That is, if they don’t log off indefinitely. She already recognizes two whose online presence have waned in the wake of IRL afflictions. She also notes their calls to aid and action which have been met with silence. Yet, their viral insights are crystallized. They continue to be shared, cited, and [I suspect] plagiarized.

the-gulf-stream.jpg!large

Damon attributes this to the market itself. He holds a degree in communications with a minor in history. Social media, he believes, is like Hollywood. Rather, what we’re sold as the image of Hollywood. He discerns how much the picture varies from the reality: how inessential glamour or ambition are against the grain of contracts, cliques, and callbacks. Damon says going viral is a matter of making lightning in a bottle, then cultivating something steady from the static. The common ruts people find themselves in are to get hung up on trying to build the perfect storm or to glean something similar from the ensuing charge. For Damon, thinking in terms of lightning is key. The jolt is a practical metaphor. It illustrates that the means to success are just as fickle as their constituents.

14 the coral divers

Damon grew up in Buxton, North Carolina: a small town with the lion’s share of attractions in a string of islands known as Cape Hatteras. The kind of place where no nook or cranny is beyond a nodded hello or goodbye in passing. It was also the kind of place that thrived on tourism, which is how Damon came to consider business in his sophomore year. Seasons saw the town littered with what he recalls were “obscenely wealthy and wasteful” businessmen. Once he befriended their kids—who were his age at the time—he followed their suit in ways to connect, and that was how he got on social media. Intrigued by the burgeoning personalities and debacles, he resolved to explore how advertisements could abridge what he understood to be long lasting impressions.

15 the water fan

In the winter of 2008, seemingly out of nowhere, Damon saw a dramatic shift online. Lightning had struck, then burnt out the cool kids. Scandals deposed royals whose reigns dated back to grade school. When tensions bled offline, the damage proved irrevocable. Damon recalls how the wave had been tidal, how nobody expected it; although in hindsight, he believes the outcome was inevitable. He muses that insecurity and malice underpin popularity; and that the public nature of respectability and social media graft a performative dimension which cheapen [what are purported to be] transparency or sincere messages. These elements would precipitate what people—players and onlookers alike—knew to be an unspoken creed of artifice and umbrage until they peaked to brew a perfect storm.

For Damon, this explained why and how easily the mighty had fallen—to be instantaneously replaced. He says the key in working social media to your advantage is realizing that inconstancy is the only constant. This is why many rising stars are fated to burn out. If they don’t wane under adversities on- or offline, they’re likely to dim against the lustre of shinier newcomers.

16 nach dem tornado

Unlike Alan and Kali, Damon works decidedly less in marketing. Odd, outdoorsy jobs—trades he’s learned from his family—make up the bulk of his extra income. In terms of MGMT, he strives for employment in the private sector. This semester is thankfully his last, he tells me.

Sifting through choice feeds, he adds: “The problem is…they forget there are people behind the profiles.”

the-portage

This statement holds true as users wade through the drag culture online that fosters immediate albeit erratic esteems; a culture characterized by varying degrees of deprecation and harassment—often under the guise of tough love or comic relief as an offshoot. But Damon says this to address platformers directly; noting how particular figures peddle empowerment, but actually thrive upon the misery of others since they are unable to monetize or romanticize their own. He discerns that there’d been countless falling outs amongst the cool kids, many of which ended either amicably or in blocks. People buying their own hype is what set it ablaze, he says. Rather, too many people.

Alan, Kali, and Damon conclude that bearing in mind the people is key: real people exist within and beyond whatever discourse or canon they assume. Social media has afforded people relatively accessible platforms whereupon one might speak, be heard, and resonate apart from a world at large that silences them. It enables people to connect with one another, learn, educate, in addition to cultivating local and international initiatives.

18 shooting the rapids

However, the individualism of profiles is contingent upon the falsity of [what I’ll call] ‘lone supremacy’; that is, the misbelief of one being invaluable or holding inerrant mastery. Pillars within communities (however sincere or disingenuous) fail to grasp that people and therefore, ranks are interconnected. The engagement—likes and shares; subscribers and followers—that subsist profiles is no exception. Whatever social capital is generated becomes indistinct since all capital is controlled by the state. This is why voices alone prove fruitless for speakers. Mere statements, however insurrectionary or insightful, are rendered vacant once they manifest upon platforms which themselves are a form of enterprise.

17 the woodcutter

Which goes back to Alan’s earlier distinction between these figures and celebrities. The latter are integral to (and consequently operant through) imperialist propaganda; endorsed by conservative corporate interests. Conservatism strives to conserve, not equalize or challenge modes of power. In contrast, independent figures tend to clamour for clout; marked by misadventures as they aspire to become ringleaders in the online circus—a futile distinction as hegemonic powers have commodified and now define the carnivalesque.

little-house-in-dusseldorf-1856.jpg!large

Neither prosper on their own merits, but the individual figures are discerned as particularly unremarkable. The world doesn’t revolve around them and under no circumstances will it cease to turn. Moreover, their virtual support systems are intangible; dislocated by the industrial complex wherein they struggle to survive. Those who pay them lip service pay them little, if anything else. What marks the circus is that it’s definitively performative. Whether audiences boo or applaud, their presence is always in passing. Their lives process beyond the tent. For the attractions, there’s not much beyond the ring.

Fame is a long, if not endless trivial pursuit for public figures of any variety. The same could be said about seeking validation. Catharsis is an even rarer prospect. People seem more intent to press forward than process lessons learnt from times past: another mortal flaw upon which social media thrives and exacerbates. The cursory ovation it corrals doesn’t hold up in the long run. The same can be applied to the historic decline of actual circuses which grew obsolete against entertainment technologies; and further into what derision, poverty, and isolation characterized the offstage lives of performers. We need only look at trenders to see that not much has changed in this vein.

summer.jpg!large

Alan identifies this as a principle in advertising: “Everything is always great—even when it’s not. Happy or sad, people are on a soapbox.” The platforms imbue everything with a sensational aspect. People fall short as they yield wholly to the immediacy of social capital and what whims it bolsters therein, despite no operative prospect of what comes next.

Kali suspects this also relates to audience retention since the pretence disinclines people to look away. Because enmity coexists with fascination, people goad and gauge unhealthy or unrealistic behaviours. She says this is why folks muster little, if anything for the [figure’s] rise whereas they relish the downfall. This is an important dimension as marginalized peoples may be consumed as well as surveilled to the amusement of more privileged positionalities, only to be placated by saccharine acclaim. The truth is unspoken because it’s inconvenient.

13 shark fishing

As an avid reality TV fan, Damon agrees; nothing that independent figures are different than contractually obligated (and remunerated) personalities. Certain whims can be indulged within the realms they are dramatized. Lone figures aren’t so much “indulged” as they are misled to believe their adversities are mere brooks to pass. He thinks back to the circus parallel, saying that history really repeats itself.

We pride ourselves in this day and age for our “progress”; as if our modern technologies and sociological strides enable us to live easier and repress less than our ancestors. But the old world has a way of coming back to haunt us, whispering within until we are likewise aggrieved; and our foundations in life as we know it fracture, stone by stone. What we’re faced with is a myopic weight we can under which we may yield or moderate.

**Names have been changed in this story for personal reasons and to avoid associations with clientele

List of Illustrations

Ivan Shishkin
Swiss Landscape (1866)
Hovel (1861)
Cows Under the Oak (1863)
Herd Under the Trees (1864)
In the Grove (1869)
Landscape (1861)
Backwoods (1872)
Pine Forest (1866)
Pine on Sand (1884)
Little House in Dusseldorf (1856)
Birch Grove (1896)
Summer (n.d.)

Winslow Homer
The Gulf Stream (1906)
The Coral Divers (1885)
The Water Fan (1899)
Nach Dem Tornado (1889)
The Portage (n.d.)
The Woodcutter (1891)
Shooting the Rapids (1902)
Shark Fishing (1885)

 

No Wonder in Wonder Woman

ww-1

Wonder Woman was the last Justice Leaguer I met when I was a kid. I spent most of my afternoons watching TVO, Fox Kids, and YTV: the latter of which featured debuts and reruns of the iconic DCAU Batman and Superman series. Between the stellar superheroines (even antiheroines) in X-Men and Spider-Man, I wasn’t exactly thinking too hard about the absence of women when it came to action and adventure; but I also wasn’t keen on the difference between DC and Marvel, the latter of which seems to have an endless erection for Wolverine despite its notoriously vast and diverse galleries of narratives.

Wonder_Woman

I met Wonder Woman in the early 00s when the Justice League animated series came out, and became more acquainted with her through cult coverage in documentaries or comic conventions. She seemed like a powerful character: a literal Amazon whose allies and nemeses were themed through Greek mythology, which appealed to me since I liked to read those classics in middle school. Her star-spangled costume with its trademark tripartite of red, white, and blue iconized her in the vein of Captain America: appealing to Americana and fashioning the heroism ascribed to the Allies whom ultimately won WWII whilst championing the USA. She was also strong and intent. Despite the chauvinism that marks faculty and fandom that surround a lot of canon, compared to her male cohorts, Diana was ironically less flushed or furious than forthright. What struck me about her story was how I felt it could parallel the X-Men [my favourite series tbh]. Her narrative was driven less by justice than discovery. Sure, she fought for ‘justice,’ but she was driven by a sense of urgency and reckoning that was yielded from an irresolute identity and past. She left Themyscira to war past and despite a realm of reservation, forged friendships, cultivated mortal enemies, and discovered the dynamics of being beyond duty.

31305__2

I’m sure there would’ve been an abundance of insight into that development and likely legendary enemies or allies added to her roster had she’d been picked up with her own DCAU series—but she wasn’t. Neither were a bunch of my beloved favourites, even if they did manage to earn the odd DCAU movie special or motion comic. Which is why the recent Wonder Woman movie was so ground breaking. Not only did it grant Diana her deserved debut to the big screen, it also reaffirmed the revelatory ethos she stood for and dignified her as a feminist icon: a beacon of light and strength amidst the otherwise all-male Justice League and spotlighted narratives. Wonder Woman was never a feminist idol of mine, although I did think she was a feminist and likewise represented feminism. I was keener to Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and Zatanna when it came to DC; while Storm, Rogue, Jean Grey, Black Cat, and Calypso were my faves for Marvel. Wonder Woman was great, but I felt a bit conservative in how she emblematized Americana and idealism whereas my picks were pronounced through power, prowess, and prerogative.

maxresdefault

That doesn’t make Wonder Woman a ‘bad’ feminist or superheroine by comparison. It just means that I hold respect and space for Diana in a different way. Admittedly, I looked at her with new respect when the Injustice games came out. She not only mobilized the misguided Amazon army to rise above an autocratic regime against her evil twin, but she inclined people to discern between independence and interpersonality as well as pride. Her feminism was explicit rather than just implied according to her prior incarnates. She spoke directly of how men can convolute women: how misogyny drove the adoption the autocracy of Superman, and how any allegiance to him was self-destructive as well as superficial against the ethos and hubris of real warriors. And, she did actually say this stuff. Not word for word or quite as abstract, but there’s a portion where she declares these principles during the story mode. It was then my heart took a dive as she proceeded to emphasize ideas the clank of her sword against her shield, then knocked her evil twin out cold, and led the charge of her warrior sisters against Aquaman’s army. This Diana got me thinking. I could get into this side of Wonder Woman.

ww-01748c-h_2017

Then, some years later, Wonder Woman was announced. Knowing that it was going to be run and adjunct to the lackluster series of films which comprise the latest DC hero franchise, I wasn’t exactly thrilled. For me, the recent movies—Man of Steel and Batman v Superman—bastardized any original character or canon which kind of undercut the source material. Not to mention we saw Superman and Batman on the big screen many times. Given the span of time, the frequency and continuance of their reboots was becoming more of a nuisance than a running gag; a lot like Wolverine. So, a Wonder Woman narrative which shared a similar budget and campaign was refreshing, if not surprising. It wasn’t just going to be great to see an alternate take; it was going to be epic because it hadn’t been done before. Yet, I still found myself mildly unimpressed with the promos and previews—and eventually, the actual movie. Diana was reduced to romance and rebellion rather than strength, urgency, and undertaking. Themyscira read like an afterthought to her fascination with the outside world. She embarks to eviscerate not because she can, but because of clumsy attraction. This Wonder Woman was nothing like the champions I’d read into or watched onscreen over the years, and she was the polar opposite of the star Injustice had made me fall in love with. I still don’t have the spoons to do a film review, but all I can say is that she was like a caricature: a witless warrior whose quest wasn’t to innovate or liberate, but to become one of the guys.

ww_gif

Which is accentuated by Gal Gadot. She was briefly scandalized for being a Zionist, but people could’ve cared less once Wonder Woman broke. The movie captivated critics and was acclaimed by audiences as revolutionary. Folks fancied that it was a text which transmuted the mainstreamed misogyny and signal boosted ‘feminism’ as a matter of representation. Little girls and teens could now assumedly identify with this genre because it had afforded them a leading woman. As if Wonder Woman’s regalia hadn’t already afforded them that before this film. As if everything would’ve been undermined had it featured another actress.

Wonder-Woman-trench

Consequently, Gadot was iconized akin to Wonder Woman by fans whom thereupon imposed their ideologies. She became an avatar of ‘girl power’ in light of her casting, and further assumed the role when she refused to work with Brett Ratner whose sexual harassment was exposed in the wake of callouts which followed Harvey Weinstein. I honestly don’t think much of celebrities when it comes to activism or advocacy, especially the declaredly ‘feminist’ ones whose social justice is operant upon their social capital. For me, Gadot’s Zionism and cult of celebrity discredited any likeness to Wonder Woman and feminism as I knew it. Because, the personal is political. Politics inform and reflect our worldviews, and their principles signify encoded values we abide and legitimate. Zionism is not merely problematic nor can it be divorced from someone’s personality; and given historical horrors and current events, I don’t think it should be taken lightly, especially when its assumed by a prominent celebrity who is cast as some symbol of feminism or revolution. I also just don’t think it’s wise or realistic to levy that much likeness upon one person or one text. The personae of Wonder Woman and similar heroines related as feminist are vast in and of themselves. Gadot and Wonder Woman are simply singular instances, however informed they purport to be by the whole.

tumblr_static_duc4608p4i88w0gsk8ow8w8wg

Which is why when this story broke, I was unmoved by the shock and outrage it has elicited from Wonder Woman and Gadot fans. Regardless of the script, Gadot’s correlation to Zionism spoke to a degree of amorality and antipathy which was evident in her deliverance of the role. I could also note that she seldom spoke of feminism or politics beyond that in real-time—which made all these assumptions of her feminist fervor all the more ludicrous, if not unfounded.

Comic-Con International 2017 -

When it comes to the hype of Hollywood and celebrity, prospects aren’t so much limited as they are sustained. If something is made, it’s bought. Its dislike doesn’t discount its dollars. Which is why Wonder Woman and others like her can be commodified and commercialized through any means. If their stories are ever dignified, they’re applauded. Their mere existence is seen as radical even if there is nothing particularly innovative in how they are delivered or conceived, even in considering their constituents or market objectives. I don’t know if Wonder Woman will ever get the diverse, continued cinematic treatment equivalent to her comic counterparts. What I do know is that I’m not the only one displeased by this one as it stands; nor am I the only one who discerns between the face of the character onscreen and whom or what that face belongs to IRL. Diana might not have had the profound, perspective feature film I’d hoped for; but she has had a good run and I won’t let Gadot or any other casting discredit that.

Off With Her Head!

The Reviled Royals of Versailles

photo_01

Life is a curious construct. Regardless of the colorblind Pollyanna people like to preach, we are discerned by positionality and praxis. Nothing conveys that better than media. Social media compounds this curiosity as it inclines individualism in its technologies. People pander through performative portals with not a sense of purpose, but profit as they negotiate using consumptive and innately corrupt currencies. The user objective is to platform more than resonate, and one’s capacity to succeed is determinant on their power.

Success isn’t about passion, pride, or principle. It’s about privilege. You create [sometimes, coercive] connections and exploit their esteems, even if it’s disingenuous. This is definitive of celebrities, elites, as well as the one percent. They attain acclaim through a friend of a friend. Their lives change thanks to a key contact. They’re plucked out of poverty and obscurity by idols or execs. The rest is history.

 

queen

Of course, the reality of superficial stardom makes for a stale narrative. Tales of luck or hard work downplay privilege in favour of selling passion and perseverance. The rhetoric is not simply remarkably romanticized, but also earnestly accepted because people strive to sympathize. Rather than argue against adversities and fight for a feast of fortune, people instead settle for scraps and uncritically revere hyper visible personalities. The knowledge that all the world’s a stage means that personage is a matter of patronage. Surveillance and surveying our social capital creates a compulsion for complacency. It becomes easier to idle insights, trivialize time, and force laughter as we fare against humorless hubris. Learning to lie is simpler than dignifying or tempering our truths.

After I did my first thesis, I started to see how conformity was connected to comfort. I read into Max Weber’s theories of rationality and authority, and hadn’t understood his focus on religion until then. Because, he wasn’t exactly interested in religion per se as he was religiosity. Most of his famous contributions revolve around the rationales and ways in which people worship. What struck me about Weber was that he noted that nothing was above conformity or more specifically, social engineering—which is why religions, theologies, and divinities can be sold to further man-made values. Anything can be sold. Nothing is sacred.

But, people like the think they’re special. Few can admit, let alone face their flaws. Everything has to be extraordinary or outstanding otherwise, hardly anyone avails the average. People are eager to glamorize excess and the salaried sloths whom lead lives of leisure, more than they are to thank everyday heroes. This is why people happily conform to a hive mind: because, obliging orthodoxy makes easier to reconcile the reality of life as an insect.

This was all I could think of as I watched The Queen of Versailles, a documentary chronicling the dissolution of a corporate empire and its blissfully ignorant home. The film follows the Siegels, the family whom own Westgate Resorts, a once booming business that the economic decline now renders a not so lucrative conglomerate of timeshares. I found the family like a caricature and the more I watched, the more I wondered if I was watching a documentary or a classist comedy sketch. Between David Siegel fulfilling the typecast elder patriarch with a penchant for cleavage and profit; and his wife, Jackie, whose divorce from reality overshadows their marriage; along with their bratty camp of kids: we’re afforded glimpses into the poignant perspectives of their hired help whom are simply resigned to the reality of the Siegel’s overindulgence.

The documentary was originally intended to cover the construction of Versailles, a palace property the Siegels were in the process of building and planned to move into, but the film ended up covering the family’s—and their business’—debility as the economic decline plummets their profits. David copes by closing himself off in his study, rummaging through stacks of papers, perhaps hoping to find something salvageable in the figure’s margins. The decline doesn’t deter Jackie although her smile cracks in accordance to the fissures in her family, notably when their shrinking budget forces them to halve their housekeeping staff. The younger children prance about as usual with the odd tantrum for toys, while the two oldest appear acutely albeit apathetically aware of the altered dynamic.

The documentary was originally intended to cover the construction of Versailles, a palace property the Siegels were in the process of building and planned to move into, but the film ended up covering the family’s—and their business’—debility as the economic decline plummets their profits. David copes by closing himself off in his study, rummaging through stacks of papers, perhaps hoping to find something salvageable in the figure’s margins. The decline doesn’t deter Jackie although her smile cracks in accordance to the fissures in her family, notably when their shrinking budget forces them to halve their housekeeping staff. The younger children prance about as usual with the odd tantrum for toys, while the two oldest appear acutely albeit apathetically aware of the altered dynamic.

Despite the avaricious abstracts, the characters in The Queen of Versailles have no catharsis. Jackie merely pines to perfect her plastered smile as faraway friends, acquaintances, and associates seldom call; while the more David’s tasked, the testier he grows. The children don’t make do, but continue to gorge themselves with gourmandise. And, most of the staff has either left to pursue their own professional ventures or manage their already modest livings in resignation to the Siegels’ surfeit. The dismal economy only prompts them to anchor themselves downward amidst an opulent ocean rather than rafting together, counting their blessings, or pragmatizing what’s left of their assets. Financial strains not only afflict, but define them.

Stripped of their security and surplus, they continue to treasure tenets instead of one another. All the more reliant upon the illusion of inimitability, Jackie remains airy and artless as her kids float around. She refuses to be grounded, localized or normalized. She lives to peddle and pacify her pedestal, musing on how seemingly callous her ‘friends’ are whom remain distanced or otherwise disengaged as her castle crumbles. Meanwhile, David begrudges his family as their overindulgence translates into overdependence; as they heedlessly spend instead of save. He stews in isolation to the chagrin of his wife and curious cohorts, and chastises his children for prodding into his private time. The only company he can tolerate is that of Jackie’s small show dogs, whose feces litters and moulds into miscellaneous points of the mansion since the lessened housekeepers cannot tidy up after them and the Siegels are apparently unable to clean for themselves.

However vacuous the Siegels seem, their umbrage and updates prevent viewers from gleaning any sincere satisfaction. They manage to retain and revalue their riches instead of dwelling on their depletionand the suicide (?) of their eldest daughter casts them in a sympathetic light as adrift advocates against bullying and for suicide prevention. The Siegel empire is salvageable enough to afford each child a sizeable inheritance and indefinite income, while the help still scurry behind the scenes, unappreciated as usual. Their immoderation remains idolized instead of critically considered. The Siegels’ story makes us coldly cognizant of just the inequalities in the capital world, where a sustainable and fair redistribution of wealth remains to be seen because we are blinded by the decadent bourgeoisie. One can’t help pondering the poverties of our world as the camera pans over the ruins of their still, far from unfinished Versailles palace.

The Queen of Versailles illustrates how waning wealth enrages the elites whom are already entitled, but parses how they are nonetheless upheld by meandering masses and paying personnel. The stuffiness is cyclical as craven consumers vie to live vicariously through fettering figures like Jackie or David, or even one of their bored and bratty children whom need only ask to receive. People figuratively and literally buy into the furnished façades of those like the Siegels despite the hollow, haughty and hawkish, personalities that lurk behind the mask.

Narratives like this are why I feel ambivalent about viral callouts, drags, etc. They’re often resultant of people getting fired and otherwise forced into being accountable, but they’re also relatively one dimensional. People guilted don’t become enlightened, just embarrassed and further vindicated in their hate as the wrath it yields from the masses or bandwagons that dug them down. Odds are their employers and the like will drop them to disassociate, but they’ll get a good reference nonetheless—and on to the next one.

Given the religiosity with which we hail personalities, I don’t think people really get how easy it is to recover from a social media demise; how not seriously these things are taken in the long run as nothing seldom changes. It’s never truly “one less racist,” “one less classist,” or “one less sexist,” etc. because these people lead lucrative lives beyond their profiles, and are upheld by a wide selection of peers (who likely share their views) as well general institutions.

This is why that biracial Black woman can go viral after taping, then sharing her ex’s rant full of n-bombs; and nonetheless, engage in antiblackness herself as she reaps social capitalThis is why tons of Black men espousing violent misogynoir can maintain a platform of followers and bounce back after deactivation. And, this is why businesses/corporations/companies manage to thrive and retain idealistic clientele despite low ratings. Because, it’s one thing to cancel someone or something, but it’s another to make sure they stay canceled.

Moreover, I always find myself wondering just whom and what gets to go viral. There are countless instances of discrimination that are shared online each day, countless trash cans, but only a select few are widely shared or acknowledged. I wonder what it takes to get that visibility or community wherein I can actually count on people to either share or shut down in solidarity, instead of just my being a nobody whose qualms or ventures go unnoticed.

Y’all are out here trending celebs and quirky catchphrases, and making it rain for hucksters or suits, while your disinterest or distraction is figuratively and literally starving those about that life; albeit you don’t think twice to reference or reap the benefits of their sacrifice.

While leadership matters, it ultimately doesn’t take a mayorIt takes a village. And, all these mansions and bridges being built for “the cool kids” and Spiegels of the world while those of us live in shanties makes for a crap village.

Which is why nothing can or will ever come of this “community.”