Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Tequila = Lights Out

This weekend's tete-a-tete between San "Whale's Vagina" Diego's Shawne Merriman and famous for being famous's Tila Tequila gives us an opportunity to rhapsodize on more than what actually happened. There's a little thing called subtext that potentially draws more insight than did he or did he not hit her. It is relevant, but not for this conversation. This is more about Pop Culture at large. The Macro of it all, in other words.

You could almost even argue that Merriman and Tequila represent an intersection of two model post-2K archetypes. One is the 'roided up franchise player, beset on ending his career through self-destruction, and the other is a self-promoting not-celebrity, whose only fame comes from being famous (in an ironic circular sort of logic that somehow makes sense in 2009). They are equal parts of the same pie, in essence, and it gets right to the heart of celebrity culture today.

See, what Merriman - and definitely Tequila - don't realize is that they are but players in a much larger game. What they did or did not do has already become irrelevant, because their actions have only given rise to a discussion about gender as a whole, and about celebrity, and about blame and the media (and so forth and so on). They are the backdrop for what has become the cracked, self-loathing mirror America has held up to itself, and it is both startling and shocking.

Women, on the whole, believe that A) "Lights Out" Merriman tried to do just that or B) Tila Tequila is a whore because she gave a lap-dance in newly-released photos. Men see it in a decidedly annoying - and not surprising - opposite manner. Blah blah blah. It's these reactions that sort of reflect what we see in ourselves here, and these comments are as much an indictment of American culture as they are these two individuals. It's just easier to point out that Tequila is a whore for doing what 99.9 percent of women do at a club than for indicting club culture, or that Merriman is yet another sports star with way too much time and money on his hands than is deserved for a single person, rather than that he may just be one shining example of a league run amok.

I know it's a muddled point, but that's just what makes it so difficult to talk about this. Even the way we talk about celebrity, in all of its magnificently overindulgent forms, has become polarizing and politicized. People, and not necessarily the media, have built up sports stars and, well, hmm, "celebrities" (sorry, Tila) so that they are not just the uniform-clad people on the field or the television personalities. It's as if we've run smack-dab into some bizarro world, where the drama onscreen just isn't enough for us. How long can we go before the texts - sports and movies/tv/reality tv - become subtexts or backdrops themselves?

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