August 15, 2012

Annals of Childish Behavior™ (continued)

Cat Marnell

In proportion as men can command the immediate and vulgar applause of others, they become indifferent to that which is remote and difficult of attainment.
William Hazlitt (1777-1830)

As noted in my post on blogging yesterday, in theory it's possible to strike a reasonable balance on the web between contributing something worthwhile and naked self promotion. I also noted that in the technological society striking a reasonable balance is not a priority. Case in point: the notoriety of the Internet's latest "It" girl, Cat Marnell.

The second of three articles on Marnell in New York magazine called her "the famously drug-addled beauty editor." She gained a substantial following, we're told, covering cosmetics for the web site, where she wrote as much about her addictions as she did about makeup. Her employers asked her to enter rehab. She did, briefly, got bored, resumed her habits, and left Soon thereafter she landed an agent, a lucrative book deal, and a position as the "narcissism and pills" editor at another web site. Reality television producers are said to be in hot pursuit.

A few quotes convey the range and depth of Marnell's persona:

On the symbiosis between cosmetics and drugs: "I’m bad all of the time, and beauty products are fixing me. Without beauty products, I would have never gotten through my life. I owe everything to them. They’ve afforded me unlimited debauchery." (New York magazine, April 15, 2012)

On leaving “I'm always on drugs. I couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends and writing a book, which is what I’m doing next.” (New York Post, June 14, 2012)  
On why her blog posts became so popular: "I think what people really want to see right now is someone who’s being honest about being a complete mess. I’m really, deeply unhappy all of the time, but I just work it. But I’m also on speed all the time, like I'm on speed right now, so I never shut up. So like, people get to hear about it and I think they like that. It feels like a running narrative.(New York magazine, June 18, 2012)

On why she was an hour and half late for an interview:I’m using drugs very heavily this week, O.K.? And it’s screwed up my whole body.” (New York Times, August 8, 2012)

Marnell demonstrates the maxim that nothing succeeds like excess, the coarser the better. It's a formula that's become infinitely more relevant in an age of information overload. On the web, only the loud survive. As mentioned above, Marnell left, but a quick look at the site reveals that she's far from the only writer there who's learned that Outrageous = Attention = Success. A deputy editor named Mandy, for example, offers a piece headlined, "I Can't Stop Hate-Masturbating to Paul Ryan." Here's an excerpt:

I mean maybe the porn-loop in my brain goes like: "Hey Paul Ryan, my name is Mandy Stadtmiller, and I'm going to change you. You are no longer going to be a hate-swilling, personhood-advocating, steal-from-the-poor-give-to-the-rich-propagating, right-wing, complete and total messenger of Satan dickhead lying evil Republican asshole because we are about to have the most penultimate fuckfest in the history of fuckfests."

And maybe he's like, "------."

Because he doesn't say anything at all. Because THAT'S WHEN HE JUST FULL ON FUCKS ME. He lifts my skirt up, moves my panties aside, zips down his trou and fully just goes for it while we're on top of the Lincoln monument and stuff.

In the "news you can use" category there's a column headlined, "Every Month Is Anal Sex Month With These Simple Tips." Its author, Emily, is's managing editor. She's also an anal sex enthusiast. "I love everything about butt sex," she gushes. "I love having it, talking about it, fantasizing about it."

I offer these examples not because I find them shocking but because I find them stupid. Apparently they're intended to convey an attitude of freedom and empowerment. The profile for's namesake, celebrity editor Jane Pratt, says that her motto is "Live and let live." Her "Anti-motto" is "Judge." Her site's mission statement reads as follows: is where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded.

Now that's a formula for success.

Is modern culture being overwhelmed by an epidemic of childishness? José Ortega y Gasset, writing in 1930, thought so. Annals of Childish Behavior™ chronicles contemporary examples of that epidemic. The childish citizen, Ortega said, puts "no limit on caprice" and behaves as if "everything is permitted to him and that he has no obligations."

Photo Credit: New York magazine/Mint&Serf at the Broadway Chapter/Courtesy of Cat Marnell

©Doug Hill, 2012

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