Is She or Isn’t She? Well, She May Be A Phony But She’s A Real Phony.

Published December 29, 2011 by jrm17

In my endless pursuit to capture the essence of all things OC (okay, it’s very Durkheimian with the whole it leaves me feeling a little anomic because there is not constraint with this), I picked up a copy of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman because he is one of Cohen’s favorite authors.  I’m not very far in (I had to finish my Truman Capote novellas first) but it’s a total eye opener…and I don’t know how I feel about it.

The first chapter left me feeling just pissed off at myself.  He goes into the issue that everyone is basically fake because we are always trying to emulate and base our lives on some fictional character.  Why does this piss me off?  Because I’ve always liked to think that I’m real and a lot of people who I know are fake because they follow all these trends and are mindless zombies to all things the media supports.  Okay, well, good job Klosterman: you’ve proved me wrong and now I hate myself.  He’s completely right.  I don’t love Ian Somerhalder.  I love Damon Salvatore–the fictional character created by LJ Smith and made even better by the writers of the show.  And even worse than that, I will openly admit that I love Seth Cohen and have spent my life (okay, since sometime in middle school when I found The OC) trying to be Summer Roberts.  Therefore, I’ve spent my life trying to find my Seth Cohen–a boy who would not just be perfect for me like Seth was for Summer but one like him because I like to think that I am like Summer.  And, shocker!  I am with a sarcastic nerd like Cohen.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it because before I tried being more like Summer, I recognized characteristics of myself in her but then emulating her just seems wrong after reading the first chapter of the book.  And I love a million other things about my boyfriend that isn’t Cohen-ish.  In fact, he’s not emo like Cohen and really doesn’t look anything like him. 

I’m not saying he is claiming to be better than any of the rest of us because he’s real and we’re all fake.  No, he admits that he’s just as bad as the rest of us.  In fact, he begins that book by saying no woman will ever satisfy him because he will compare her to some fictional character that he uses as the precedent for his ideal mate.  He points out that the best relationship he was ever in was fake in a way because they were compared to Sid and Nancy.  He said that they watched the movie on the two, laughing at the similarities and that the comparison was valid since “We fight all the time, our love is self-destructive, and–if she was mysteriously killed– I’m sure I’d be wrongly arrested for second-degree murder before dying from an overdose.” Screw it.  I’ll be honest and admit I’ve made a million comparisons between myself and other people/characters –and that includes all my relationships (My mom is Julie Cooper and I am Mini Coop). But still, Kolsterman just ruined something I used to pride myself in thanks to his being all…well, Cohen-ish (I’m getting the feeling Josh Schwartz totally based Cohen on this guy).

That’s pretty much the first chapter The second chapter is where he discusses how The Sims is basically an escape from the monotony of real life by playing a games where we do the exact same thing.  And how we think there’s the possibility of learning something about ourselves or how to live life by playing and succeeding (read: not becoming depressed) in the game.  I’ll admit to having played Sims.  And my problem with it is kind of what he pointed out.  It’s just simulating real life!  There’s no purpose to the game.  I can’t win.  And the other Sims always seemed to not want to be friends or screw me over by making messes over and over again that I had to clean.  And as far as learning anything about life and myself: Yeah, I learned some stuff.  I learned not to get douche bag roommates who don’t clean up after themselves.  And I learned that I get bored easily–especially when there’s not purpose to a game–and go find better stuff to do than faking living a real life.

Klosterman points out, as well, that Sims is pretty much teaching those playing to equate material items with happiness because unless you buy your Sim the most expensive stuff available, he pretty much turns into this little, whiny, depressed bitch.  According to the chapter, he called up the creator of Sims and had an extensive conversation about this.  The creator said that the point of the game is to show people that buying stuff doesn’t make you happy because eventually all you Sims cool stuff will break and cause them to be depressed again (I especially like the part where the creator talks about new players experimenting with their Sims by locking them in a room and starving them to death.  I never knew you could do this.  I figured Sims were kind of like Furbies in that they never died.  I might have to locate my game and try this).  Klosterman’s conversation with the creator even covered Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  I’m not a psychology major or social work major but this is something we discuss briefly in the sociology department and I can see how they reached this topic.  However, because of my background in classical sociological theory, I totally would have taken the game to the levels of Marx and Durkheim (I’m not a Weber fan so I tend to discount everything he says with the exception of the irrationality of rationality in dehumanization).  Marx would hate this game because it represents capitalism.  Your Sim must go to work for the bourgeoisie in order to buy stuff, which in turn makes him happy for a period of time.  Your Sim is alienated from the other Sims because they do not make him as happy as his stuff.  This is why consumption is the only norm everyone can agree on in America.  Durkheim on the other hand would be cool with the concept.  It is used as a constraint because he doesn’t hate capitalism.  He likes that it keeps everyone from feeling anomic (okay, I’m pretty sure my Sims were always feeling anomic and were ready to commit suicide no matter how good I treated them).  Durkheim didn’t care who norms benefit as long as everyone knows what’s expected of them.  Plus, he was really into that whole Organic Analogy thing where society is like an organism and every part plays an important function and without it society/the organism would die.  I’m not so sure that my little Sim is that important at his job but if we are equating the Sims to real life, then it’s completely applicable.

I know that I’m not far enough into the book to have an actual, worthwhile opinion or have any kind of expertise on the writing, subject and author but I can say without a doubt that someone has just surpassed Stephen King on my list of favorite authors and is nipping at the heels of LJ Smith.  I’m talking about you, Klosterman.  It didn’t even take you 20 pages to piss me off, question everything I like, and blow my mind.  I’m pretty sure we think the same way about a lot of things and, well, I like your writing style.  Just to play up how annoyed I am with your whole making me think I’m a fake for comparing myself to everything, I see my own style as being a lot like yours.  It’s very informal and it seems to basically be your thought process (not a whole lot of editing to sound more professional.  Just letting your logic process spew out on the page and hope other people get what you’re saying–and there’s a lot of side notes and rabbit trails because that’s what goes on in your head).  There’s a lot of comma splicing (okay, this really bothers me because I’m kind of the grammar and punctuation police when it comes to other people’s work but I’m sure in his case it was a stylistic choice so I’ll overlook it). Also, I’d just like to point out the connection between Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: OJ Berman asks Paul if he thinks Holly is a phony or not.  He then gives Paul the answer that she’s a phony but she’s a real phony because “she honestly believes all that phony junk she believes in.”  I think that’s what Kolsterman may have been trying to say.  We are all fake in doing what we do but we all believe that it’s reality or something like that so in a way, we are all being our real selves as well. 

Let’s just put it this way: I may not be finished the book yet and I may have a stack of books up to my knees (okay, it’s not that high when you are only 5’2″) but I can pretty much assure you that I’ll be buying more of his books in the next few days.  And I can be sure that if I ever got the chance to meet him, we would have some epic conversations.  Anyone who can relate a piece of our somewhat pathetic popular culture like the Sims to psychology and sociology is my hero.

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8 comments on “Is She or Isn’t She? Well, She May Be A Phony But She’s A Real Phony.

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