I'm a dude. Before the internet unintelligencia commences homosexual accusations, let me nip that in the bud by saying -- if only. My heterosexuality has driven me down the very unoriginal path of attraction to women. Being born gay would have gone a long way towards satisfying my all-consuming desire to have as different a life from my parents as possible. But for whatever it's worth, I love breasts. Love em. And the women in Game of Thrones are all very attractive. There are compilation videos on the internet of their nude scenes that are worth checking out, because they're exquisite. Outside of the context of the show!
But within the show, they're distracting, occasionally insulting, and almost always annoying. Why?
Because HBO is supposed to be goddam commercial free!
Every unnecessary bosom in Thrones is a glaring advertisement for subscription cable. It would be less distracting to have Jon Snow turn to the camera in the middle of a wall battle and take a long refreshing swig of Pepsi Cola. Hardworking Americans are attempting to enter a richly layered narrative about the inhumanity of power, only to get sidetracked during every episode by a perky pair of reminders to sign up for the Home Box Office.
I'm not a prude. There are moments when nudity actually serves the story. A recent walk of shame comes to mind. And, during the post-Mad Men era of endless on-screen introspection, nakedness can be effective at portraying vulnerability.
But for christ sake, I don't need to see some brunette extra who's gonna be shot with a crossbow in 20 minutes take her clothes off just because the showrunners are required to remind us that this is premium cable. It ruins the whole point of the show. And that point is that that fantasy worlds would have their own logistical and existential nightmares, humans have no free will, drugs and crime in Baltimore are a systemic living institution, everything is nothing, and escapism is futile because there is no escape. (And now for some mud wrestling by the Duff Beer girls!)
Every time Petyr Baelish interrupts my sprawling political science / economics / history / philosophy epic with a back-room meeting in one of his goddam brothels, my amygdala sparks up like a Lite Brite saying "Booobies!" It's undignified. But then maybe that's the ultimate message of Game of Thrones -- that dignity is an illusion, and even pleasure is suffering.
But get this. You know what I love? Watching Netflix. Eating junk food. Being told I'm right by people on television. Feels great. Compared with going to the gym, my couch seems like a no-brainer.
Only one problem -- I end up emerging from each new year as basically the same person. Which would be great if I were perfect. But that's the thing with my generation. My parents didn't have to deal with a war or a great depression, so they were free to spend lots of time with me and tell me they loved me every day. With too many needs met too early, self-improvement was never allotted much mental or emotional bandwidth.
But it turns out that comfort is oppressive. It's a spider web, snaring the central nervous system into an illusion of freedom. (It's literally the Matrix. Remember how much the bald guy loved that fake steak?)
Now luckily, because I was an obsessive over-eater since preschool and my chubby physique neutralized my athletics, I was spared the often fatal personality-guillotine of being great at sports. But the damage had been done. I still had the self confidence to make a decent amount of friends, and that's super great for any high-schoolers who don't want to prioritize studying.
In 2001, the world of academia -- which always boasted the modest liberal bias that comes naturally with any amount of reading, discussion and thought -- was still a refreshing contrast to the American mire of Jesus and guns.
Skip to 2016, and universities have lost their fucking mind.
I feel the need to constantly remind the more organic, non-gmo sector of liberal thinkers that there's a difference between safety and health. My staying home from the gym -- plenty safe. (In fact, at my weight and cardiovascular age, it's probably safer than strenuous activity.) But boy is it unhealthy.
Safety is the concern taken to make sure significant injury doesn't occur in any given fell swoop. Health is the strengthening of the underlying framework.
The thing about health is that it's empowering. It allows for greater variety of life experiences and personal agency. But it's a huge bummer to achieve and maintain.
Safety is important but it's also the death of narrative. It's a hedgefund that wagers memories against a trip to the hospital. It's sterile and facile but incredibly relaxing.
A university is supposed to be an intellectual gym. You're supposed to shed the cognitive baby fat from however many generations your family lived on the same block, and experience the mental equivalent of world travel at eighteen years of age.
In the physical world, people need to be protected. This is especially true of women and minorities, because white males (like me) are sorta the reason we can't have nice things. In the realm of meat and bones, we're all as special as our mommies and daddies told us, and we require health-care, shelter, food, crisis-therapy, companionship, etc. etc.
But in the intellectual world, it's ideas that are important and your own identity is beyond worthless.
I really don't have the writing talent to stress that last part enough. I'll make it easier by putting it on myself. My voice, my gender, my religion, my ethnicity.. BEYOND WORTHLESS. It's in caps now. It can't be overstated.
Anything of value we have to contribute will rise to the top of the discussion by virtue of its own merit -- we're merely conduits, meaty incubators for those select projects and experiences which might just help further human understanding so we can end needless suffering and explore space.
Everything else will rightfully be forgotten for all eternity.
Social justice war and identity politics are fine, even important, in a certain context. That context is civil rights. But -- like their cousin, affirmative action -- they can be compared to cancer-treatment. An appropriate and targeted dose of radiation or chemotherapy is necessary to raze the rotting infrastructure. But an endless system-wide battery of chemo or radiation will rot all the infrastructure on its own, and right quick. Which is basically the intellectual and emotional situation we have on campuses today.
Colleges are only supposed to be physically safe spaces. But they need to be intellectually dangerous. Dangerous ideas are very important. Think of knowledge as birthing process. You know what feels comfortable? Staying in the womb. You know what's incredibly loud, bright, harsh, dank, sometimes exhilarating, often depressing, and ultimately fatal? Being born. But you need to actually breech the chrysalis. The event is never pleasant.
I feel no small amount of empathy for girls in college who have been raped and then have to sit through class discussions about whether rape is an appropriate topic for satire. Or LGBT students whose puberties were an unparalleled hellscape of pain and confusion. Those are undeserved emotional handicaps, and they should get every ounce of extra consideration outside the classroom doors. But the sad truth is that college is a gym. If you show up with a handicap to a gym, it's perfectly acceptable for you to sit out certain workouts. But to create a climate where everyone is encouraged to just sorta take it easy, in order not to alienate anyone... Then it's no longer a gym for adults. It's gym theatre performing the illusion of growth.
If you attempt to honor everyone's beliefs and everyone's feelings, you run into trouble when it comes time to convince people to fund a super-collider in Texas. Beliefs, feelings, and identities are the precise reason Galileo dragged his feet on insisting that the earth revolved around the sun. (Now there's ten years of history we sure wish we could have back!) Pluralism is a concept, and every concept requires trial by fire in a university building designed for the sole purpose of amassing and carving away negative space from the sculpture of human knowledge.
The next time someone complains about cultural appropriation, remind them that cultures are fun, not important. And certainly not sacred. The only thing important about them are whatever elements they generate which help advance a spirit of insufficiency regarding yesterday's wisdom. They're a buffet; if yoga helps a college professor better explain to 18 year-olds why Vishnu isn't real, then yoga is the nut. If you're a post-op transexual, you deserve all the dignities of adult life, of which first and foremost is the fact that nobody's sexuality matters and genitals are stupendously meaningless.
Good talk. I have to go hit the gym and work off thirty three years of churros with forty five minutes on a goddamn gerbil wheel.