Everything we know from the past is destined to come to an end. We’ve let our youngsters rule the world.
Back in the ’80s, I spent a long and wonderful time in the United States. One day I found myself at a Disney party accompanied by a Berkeley literature professor. He had a brother with a supporting role in a sitcom who had arranged the tickets for us. The party was in Disneyland, but it was a celebration of Hollywood and Michael Jackson. It was the opening night of a 3D movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by George Lucas. I swear Spielberg also had something to do with it.
Celebrities invaded Tomorrowland for the premiere of “Captain Eo” in the Magic Eye theater. The movie was a hybrid, a sci-fi fantasy coupled with a musical, in which Michael was driving away invaders, dressed in a Lycra and sequins uniform. It is considered to be the first 4D movie, with special effects in the theater as well as on screen, with smoke, lasers, and so on.
My academic friend, who much admired his brother, was so glad to be there that the party was akin to meeting good old Tolstoy, his favorite writer. It seemed that his brother was popular with women and that TV had made him a star. He was living in constant fear of low ratings, which could cause the show to be canceled, but until then he was the happiest man alive. I was waiting to meet this Adonis, but instead a paunchy, white haired man appeared; he had a kind smile and was telling jokes. He had wasted years as an unsuccessful comedian, so TV was like a fairy who gave him everything he had ever wanted: money and fame.
Until that moment, I had never realized the importance of fantasy and the entertainment industry in America. When I told my friend I thought his brother was average looking to have so much success, he said, “He is not gay. The good looking men here are all gay.” And in the Malibu beach bars, this seemed to be true.
That day at Disneyland, I could finally see in living color who was who. I have photos of me standing in line at the Magic Eye two steps away from Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Houston (she was playing a villain in the movie), two actors from “Dallas” and “Fame,” Spielberg and Lucas, and Isabelle Huppert, who was living in Hollywood at the time. It was a restricted party and the comedian brother was more star-struck than I was. The movie was poorly done, despite being commissioned by Coppola, so the excitement was only about one thing: Where was Michael? Was he going to show up? It felt like the whole world was holding its breath. I think that even the impenetrable Nicholson was feeling the same way.
We hung around babbling the usual idiocies: look at the guy from that movie, she is not as tall as she looks on the screen, and so on. We all felt deprived of the biggest celebrity when we found out Michael wasn’t coming. So, together with the comedian’s girlfriend, a local blonde, we went to find comfort in eating hamburgers and sweets all over Disneyland. We rode all the carousels, as if we were 15. I realized that America and childish teenage culture are inseparable.
This was Michael Jackson’s power; he was the adult who never grew up, Peter Pan. This is also the power of the Google, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter teenagers–the power of a very immature and creative culture, fed by hormones, gifted with intelligence, emotional intensity and intellectual immaturity. It’s the world of Disney, created by the visionary Walt, followed by the MTV world. Lady Gaga, a show-off who makes Michael look like a genius, is the latest avatar of this culture, a culture with no memory or history.
I read an interview with YouTube’s creator in the Financial Times. The interview is just like “Captain Eo,” an empty adventure, full of sound and fury. Chad Hurley (perfect name) enjoys fast cars and violent sports, and likes hamburgers and technology. He is a man who speaks like a teenager, with teenager tastes and attitudes, a man who dreams and transforms these dreams into profitable companies–a nerd, just like all the rest of them and just like their forefather, Steve Jobs, with Steven Spielberg being the sentimental mother. Hurley started out at PayPal and ended up a millionaire when he sold YouTube to Google for $1.65 million. He always carries a notepad to write down his ideas and does not impose discipline upon his children because there is always time for it when they grow up.
This is the wonderful world of Disney in which we live, and these people, who have nothing profound to say and are adverse to accumulated knowledge, despite their intelligence, rule the world. Michael Jackson was the first spokesman for this pop culture, as well as its victim. The teenage culture dominates the ephemeral and the insubstantial. Technology is designed not to last, and time and everything we know from the past, including paper, books and newspapers, is considered obsolete and destined to come to an end. We’ve let the children rule the world.
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