Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Is This All There Is?
What does Lindsay Lohan's odd New York magazine photo shoot with Bert Stern, emulating Marilyn Monroe's 1962 session, have to do with the new study on the front page of The New York Times showing skyrocketing rates of suicide among 45-to-54-year old men (and increasing at an even faster rate among women of the same age)? You know it would have something to do with death and prescription drugs, as everyone is urging Lindsay not to pull a Marilyn, and the Times was hunting for a cause for middle-age suicide's popularity amidst all the Lunesta and Ambien floating around.
But I'm seeing something broader and eerier, touching on a subject Adbusters magazine has been hitting on for years. The Canadian anti-consumer journal, which has tended to be anti-script-drug without going all Tom Cruise about it, warns that corporations lull consumers into believing so utterly in the power of products and pills to provide meaning in their lives, that it can send some people into a spiral from which they never recover. The harsher analysts watching baby boomers go all morbid in midlife say that they're crybabies compared to the Greatest Generation, those stoic folks who put up silently with the Great Depression and WW2. Adbusters would respond that the silent majority never had to put up with the barrage of unhealthy messages telling boomers they could have it all, that the capitalist cornucopia would never end, and that there would never be a lull in success or a time for growing old.
Well, hell, now we've got a recession and a massive national debt, corporations are cutting out mid-level managers and making middle-agers feel worthless, and none of those prescription pills do jackshit except cause Ambien zombie driving. Need anyone ask why suicide is more popular among this segment?
And what about the young? If the Lohan-Spears syndrome is any indication, the 20-somethings are more narcissistic than any generation before, and more prone to turn every bad wrinkle in life into a drama-queen crisis -- and one publicized on Facebook and MySpace, thank you very much. Lindsay's seen the craziness of her peers, the accidental death of Heath Ledger, and seems to be saying that if all the wheels fall off her Landrover, she wants to turn it into a marketable item. Hence the photo shoot. To envision what comes after the boomer suicide craze, remember what Karl Marx said about how "history always repeats itself twice, the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce." The farces are omipresent already, except that there's nothing very funny about Marilyn Monroe retakes or campus massacres, just as there's nothing very funny about a lonely 53-year-old man filling his garage with carbon monoxide.