Dressgate sends blogger to the brink of despair
LATELY I’VE BEEN READING some pretty bleak shit: The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti, (which was the philosophical basis behind the incredibly misanthropic, pessimistic character of Rustin Cohle in True Detective), and a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, the nihilistic writer who created the Cthulhu Mythos, a literary universe which focuses on humanity’s cosmic insignificance (True Detective arguably is part of the Cthulhu Mythos, both in terms of its tone and in its references to staples of Lovecraft’s universe like the city of Carcosa and the so-called “King in Yellow”).
Point is, the shit is bleak, and it has one particularly annoying side-effect: it makes it difficult to be an internet writer. The internet runs on memes — brief, passing trends that the internet collectively picks up, examines, analyzes, jokes about, and then tosses aside — and for an internet writer, an attunement to these memes is essential. Good internet writers are able to take these memes and use them to address the broader themes of their work: it’s why that Kim Kardashian butt pic was able to turn into a discussion of racial politics.
It’s a classic bait and switch: while a million people are looking at something, you try and get them to look at this other, tangential thing. It’s why the news site Mic constantly uses the headline, “This one Tweet perfectly sums up [why vaxxers will inevitably cause the spread of the zombie virus/America’s prejudice against people with bunions/Obama].” It’s like snapping your fingers and waving around a Beanie Baby next to the camera lens to get the crying child to look in the right goddamn direction so you can have at least one fucking decent family picture.
The Goddamn Dress
As a writer, though, this can get exhausting, especially when your interests are super broad. “Okay,” you say, “What sociopolitical lesson can I extract from this white and gold/blue and black dress?”
Ah, the dress. If you’re reading this and it’s not Friday, February 27th, you’ve already forgotten about it. It’s a dress that someone took a picture of, and apparently it’s black and blue, but in the picture it looks white and gold. Optics!
Slate’s coverage was the most comprehensive, but Buzzfeed really made it take off after the dress got some traction on Tumblr. People had debates! #TeamWhiteAndGold was trending! So was #TeamBlackAndBlue! Listicles formed! Quizzes formed! Science sites broke down the optics behind the dress and why it was one while appearing to be the other!
When it hit last night, I was dicking around on my computer playing Civilization V. I usually play it for like, two hours straight. When I closed the game, my Facebook feed was entirely about the dress. I looked at it. It looked white and gold to me. “What can I do with this?” I thought, “What deeper message about humanity does this debate have to tell me?”
If I hadn’t just been reading The Call of Cthulhu a few hours earlier, I might’ve said what my friend Cory said, that it was a good thing that people were actually questioning how they perceive things. But I had been reading The Call of Cthulhu earlier, and so the lesson I took was this:
Rather than coming to terms with the horrors of the universe and our ultimate impermanence — both as individuals and as a species — in it, the world had decided to distract itself from it’s oncoming destruction and annihilation with endless debate about the color of a dress. But, I then thought, if the color of this dress is a meaningless debate and is just trying to distract us from our inevitable oblivion, then isn’t every other debate we’re having equally meaningless? Are our meager attempts to forestall climate change simply an act of prolonging the inevitable? Are our furious, angry ideological debates really just smokescreens for the bleak, angry nothingness that awaits us just beyond the moment of our death?
It’s at this point, as I sit in my easy chair and rant to Steph about the meaninglessness of everything, that she patiently walks over, kisses my forehead, and says, “Well, we love each other, and that means something.”
Well… fine. Okay. Fair point. The dress looks white and gold to me. It’s good to be reminded to question my perceptions. I can probably get a blog post out of that.
Featured image by Sergio Diaz