Art Beloved Only By White Men Over 35, Ranked In Order of How Much It Should Be Despised By Right-Thinking Americans

 I think the title tells you all you need to know.

 

6. Homemade Charcuterie

 

What is it about:

This is a good book, you should buy it.

This is a good book, you should buy it.

Salting, smoking and/or hang-drying meat products for preservation and taste.  Usually pork and beef products, but for reasons I don’t understand there is a class of white dude who will not stop with the duck prosciutto. And sure, we’re calling it art.

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

Chucking pig flesh in a $400 electric smoker makes doughy suburban dad feel like big penis manny man.

(“ Aw yeah, you’re a provider.  Your meat lasts marginally longer without refrigeration than other meats.  If the apocalypse comes, you’re going to live like four months longer than everybody else, baby.”)

 

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

Only insofar as you’re worried about the high carbon cost of meat and our impending climate doom. Or, like, animal pain or personal health or whatever. Otherwise, people seem to enjoy it.  Tastes good.

 

 

5. Howard Stern

 

What is it about:

Howard Stern was the quintessential “shock jock” radio host, interviewing strippers, little persons, and drug addicts to placate suburban commuters terrified of silence.  He seemed to enjoy antagonizing people to provoke a reaction. He has been nationally syndicated and his show is now more of a Larry King/Marc Maron-style discussion with serious guests. In the video at right, he talks with Conan O’Brien about how his show is really about the art of conversation and making deep connections with people. Rather, Conan seems to do the explaining and Howard is like “yes, I am great, please continue.”

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

Not universally.  Morning talk radio is not as popular as it once was, even among older white guys who commute from the suburbs--why do radio when you can have your selection of podcasts and fast forward through commercials.  I’ve just only ever heard 35-55 year old white “cool dad” types talk about actually loving Howard Stern.

 

Personally, I’ve never been able to listen to Stern for more than 10 minutes at a time before becoming intensely angry.  Then again, I’m not yet 35. From clips I’ve seen on youtube, he does seem to get good stories out of guests now and again. 

 

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

Like many shock jocks, he has succeeded in angering people on occasion.  That seems to be more due to the content of particular shows than his overall persona.  I’m sure plenty of regular people listen who are not white men over 35 (is there such a thing?  Or are white men over 35 by definition “regular”? More on that later.),if only because it’s the best thing on the radio at 6:15 a.m.  Howard Stern seems ok.

 

 

4. Sailboat-themed shit that is neither a boat nor a bathtub toy

 

What is it about:

Fun fact that might not be a fact: like long-legged humanoid aliens and allowing wedding guests to object to the super expensive party you just bought, sailing ship wheels are a pure Hollywood design conspiracy. You know how you turn a sailboat? You pull on ropes and furl sails and shit.

Fun fact that might not be a fact: like long-legged humanoid aliens and allowing wedding guests to object to the super expensive party you just bought, sailing ship wheels are a pure Hollywood design conspiracy. You know how you turn a sailboat? You pull on ropes and furl sails and shit.

Sailboats, motherfucker!  I mean, real sailboats are cool.  But only a true white man over 35 surrounds himself with paintings of sailboats, models of sailboats, books about white men over 35 riding in sailboats and doing cool sailboat things, and sailboat-themed clothing like “dock shoes.”  I’ve never seen someone wear dock shoes on a dock. No, wait, my father-in-law wears dock shoes on a dock. That proves nothing.

 

The coolest sailboat thing, other than a real sailboat, is clearly a sailboat bath toy.  My daughter has six of them, they are very cool. Everybody seems to like sailboat bath toys except white men over 35, because they hate fun.

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

Coastal white men over 35, and wealthy white men over 35, quite a bit.  Others not so much, but who gives a fuck about those guys.

 

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

It’s a pretty inoffensive design choice, but I’m always weirded out by people who need to design their interiors to match their simplistic conception of the local culture.  It’s only vacation homes. Native American-themed houses owned by vacationing Canadian oil executives in Montana. Tropical fish and lighthouse-themed houses owned by vacationing New Yorkers in Florida.  And obviously, nautical-themed houses owned by vacationing WASPs in New England. Dude, you own a second house, you win. Only a white man over 35 needs a painting of a sailboat in the living room of his Cape Cod beach house to tell you “no, really, it’s a Cape Cod beach house.”  We know, motherfucker, we’re there!

 

My wife says that white women who attended Yale University in the 1970s also appreciate sailboat-themed interior design.  I have no reason not to believe that. 

 

Also, I know the term is “nautical-themed.” Horseshit. Decorate your house with six starving Philipino dudes eating cat food under a Sudanese flag, moving 100,000 boxed salad spinners from Beijing to Fort Lauderdale, then you can call it nautical-themed.

 

 

3. Any biography of Winston Churchill

 

What is it about:

A white man born into a political dynasty grows up to be a white man from a political dynasty.  When the Nazis come and some pussies who lived through World War I are like “maybe let’s not have a World War II,” he’s like “fuck that.”  Fortunately, he is correct.

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

Oh my God, such boners. 

This one seems fine.

This one seems fine.

 I remember one summer three different white men in their mid-50s told me they were reading a book about Winston Churchill and it had taught them a lot about leadership, and I should read it too.

 

I get the appeal.  White men who aspire to leadership positions in American society can point to precious few non-partisan political heroes.  We have Abraham Lincoln--even Trumpists are not allowed to openly mock Lincoln--but Lincoln was a long time ago and if you go too far down the Lincoln path you have to confront uncomfortable racial issues like, I don’t know, shouldn’t we be nicer to brown people, in, like, today times.  You’re allowed to say that he kept the country together, hooray, but now we have to wonder was that even a good idea.

 

Winston Churchill had a nice stoic look about him, and he drank whiskey and smoked cigars and didn’t work out, and so a lot of middle aged white men seem to think they could be like Winston Churchill even if they weren’t born into a political dynasty, because they do those things too.  And he united his country and fought the Nazis. Fighting the Nazis was morally pretty clean, and when we have pictures and books and movies about the European part of World War II, even the bad guys are nice clean white people. Everybody wears crisp uniforms and respects their opponents even if they understand on some level that it’s bad to kill Jews.  The Pacific...not such a sexy war. 

 

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

I don’t know, it’s not like our country is run by a wealth-born, self-aggrandizing fat white man with a fetish for military hardware, so I guess it was adequately despised.

 

Fine, Churchill was the right man at the right time. So was Abraham Lincoln. But the times came to them. When old white guys talk to me about how great they were, particularly Churchill, you can see the gears grinding. These are men who are going to model their political lives after men who, if not for the coincidence of their presiding over era-defining crises, would have been forgotten. And by emulating those guys and seeking out men who emulate them in inappropriate circumstances, we creep not toward the ideal of leadership but to avoidable crisis.

Many great and good men sufficiently qualified for any task they should undertake, may ever be found, whose ambition would inspire to nothing beyond a seat in Congress, a gubernatorial or a presidential chair; but such belong not to the family of the lion, or the tribe of the eagle. What! think you these places would satisfy an Alexander, a Caesar, or a Napoleon?—Never! Towering genius distains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.—It sees no distinction in adding story to story, upon the monuments of fame, erected to the memory of others. It denies that it is glory enough to serve under any chief. It scorns to tread in the footsteps of any predecessor, however illustrious. It thirsts and burns for distinction; and, if possible, it will have it, whether at the expense of emancipating slaves, or enslaving freemen. Is it unreasonable then to expect, that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time, spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, and generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs.
— Abraham Lincoln, 1838

 2. Ghostbusters (1984)

 

What is it about:

Quite a few things!

Ghostbusters_(1984)_theatrical_poster.png
  • Heroic small-business mercenaries hired by the government to “bust” minorities to clean up New York City;

  • The evil environmental regulator who tries to stop mercenaries armed with nuclear weapons from destroying the world;

  • A random black guy who shows up halfway through the movie and is permitted to speak so we may be assured the white hero mercenaries are men of the people;

  • A white man over 35 who wins a woman’s heart by lying to her and stalking her;

  • Notwithstanding that the rest of the movie posits that ghosts are evil and must be “busted” without further inquiry--a ghost that performs oral sex on our hero; and

  • The literal defeat of God himself by plucky white male job creators.

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

Oh my lord, do they come all over their sailboat-themed undies just thinking about it.

  

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

Nobody likes this movie other than white men born between 1962 and 1989.  That includes a few white men who are currently under 35, but, and I want to stress this, it does not include me.

 

I can’t stress enough how much I loathe this movie.  I was going to write a whole post about how awful it is, until I looked into it and realized that the 2016 female-led remake had spawned a jillion thinkpieces, so I’ll be brief.

 

Ghostbusters came out in 1984, and the cartoon show a few years after that, and I was born in 1986.  So by the time I started going to school in 1990, the Ghostbusters toys and universe were ensconced.  The other boys at school had Ghostbusters lunchboxes and action figures and stuff. But my parents forbade us from watching tv for the most part, aside from the occasional PBS show, so I never really got the references.

 

My older brother and his friends did play Ghostbusters and begrudgingly let me play too.  When we played, everyone wanted to be Winston Zeddemore, the black guy, because he was the cool black guy who stood out among the white guys.  I was always Ray. 

 

(Here’s what you have to understand, if you’ve never seen Ghostbusters: there are 4 of them.  Egon, the nerd who builds the cool gadgets that allow them to actually be Ghostbusters.  Venkman, the smirking asshole know-it-all who is too cool for school and allows the group to function because he can deal with politicians and shit.  Ray, who “has heart.” Winston, who is black.)

 

I was Ray because there was nothing for Ray to do and nothing to be said about Ray. 

 

(Similarly, when I played Captain Planet with my older brother’s friends, I was the kid with the “heart” ring.  We run around, the older kids shoot fire and water and wind at the imaginary bad guy and we’re all blown away by the awesome powers and cool explosions, and then I point and yell “heart!” and they laugh at me.  My childhood, folks. If only we’d had Robot Chicken, Captain Planet would’ve been way more fun.)

 

So when I finally watched Ghostbusters in the mid-1990s on a Saturday afternoon when it was on tv and my parents were busy, I was floored to find that (a) there were basically no ghosts in it, it’s a movie about Reaganomics with a marshmallow guy at the end, and (b) Winston, the black guy, is almost not even in the movie.  He gets shoved in toward the end, for no apparent reason, and has almost no lines. More than that, the audio of his lines is poorly recorded, and he’s even shot from camera angles that make him into a spectator character (at best an audience surrogate), not a real member of the team.  For instance, check out this scene, in which the camera is basically sucking Bill Murray’s dick:

 

And here’s the scene where a ghost literally sucks Dan Aykroyd’s dick:

 It bears emphasis: that scene has no explanation within the movie. We never see that ghost again, we know nothing of Ray’s sex life, and it’s literally the only ghost in the movie that the Ghostbusters have no desire to “bust.”

 

Now here’s Ernie Hudson delivering the movie’s single funniest line (worth watching the whole scene):

 

Notice how at the beginning of the scene, the white guys lead the way. When Zuul attacks the Ghostbusters, Winston is physically separated. As he reads his line, he has his back to the audience, and he’s speaking to Ray, essentially from the position of the audience. Unlike all the other Ghostbusters, he doesn’t get a closeup. In fact, the scene is so poorly lit it’s hard to make out Winston’s face at all. Winston is not his own character and he’s not a member of the team, he’s at best an audience surrogate. Also, the audio sucks.

 

This is a movie about the awesome white men who kick butt, create jobs, and don’t take shit from no environmental regulators.  Winston Zeddemore is graciously allowed to take a paycheck from them. And there I was, thinking he was the coolest and most important Ghostbuster!  (This is the difference between liberal and conservative racists.)

 

Although I am a white man and although I sometimes got to pretend to be Ray, I never felt like Ghostbusters was for me, or included me, any more than it includes Winston or really anyone who isn’t a white man.  And although I now understand all the ways the world is deeply for me, and includes me to the exclusion of others, I don’t feel the need to celebrate that in art.

 

Fuck this movie.

 

 

1. Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979)

 

What is it about:

It’s about a 42-year-old white guy who dates and fucks a 17-year-old girl.  He kind of falls in love with someone his own age, but decides he doesn’t like her as much, and goes back to the girl.

In addition to statutory rape, this movie features excellent clarinet music.

In addition to statutory rape, this movie features excellent clarinet music.

 (“It’s about Manhattan!  The city is a character! It’s about the wealth of humanity! It’s beautifully shot and the music is so perfect!”  No. No. No. It is about a middle aged guy fucking a 17-year-old because he can’t handle people his own age.)

(According to A.O. Scott, women like this movie, or used to. I just can’t imagine that being the case anymore. Anyway, there are many hot take links to click in that article, so I’ll stop there.)

 

How much do white men over 35 like it:

This is another take I wish I’d put out years ago, because until #MeToo it was perfectly acceptable for white men to openly adore this movie, and they did.  More the over-50 crowd, the people who fancied themselves sophisticates in the 1970s and 1980s when Woody Allen’s films were considered “good” by people who were really into both (a) film, and (b) old white men fucking young girls.

 

(Really, it’s not just Manhattan - Manhattan is the easy target among a class of art about older white men fucking young girls, that has been considered normal in art for so long.  Like, nobody greenlighting Hollywood movies for the first 100 years Hollywood existed was like “hey, maybe that 55-year-old guy shouldn’t be fucking a 22-year-old in this movie, that’s creepy.” 

 

The problem is arguably larger in literature.  How many novels are there about male authors and literature professors falling in love with their female students?  And you’re supposed to sympathize with the man in those novels!  The guy with lifetime tenure in a prestigious job, with enormous control over his students’ academic careers and financial and emotional development, he puts his penis inside one of them as if she could really  consent, and then his wife leaves him and you’re supposed to think “aw, well that’s too bad, he has it hard.” Jesus Christ.

(What to think about art made by white male artists about white male artists, generally: “Fuck, no.”)

 

I still occasionally have conversations at barbecues and fundraisers so on - the rare occasions when I’m forced to interact with men outside my immediate peers, and we seek common ground for conversation - where some dude will talk about how hot Ariana Grande is.  It makes me shiver. (At least it’s usually Ariana Grande or someone famous, and not like, the guy’s own daughter or someone we know. That shit happens too.))

 

Should it be despised by right-thinking Americans:

Very despised, and increasingly openly in the #MeToo era.

 

I’m going to brag here - I always have thought it was creepy.  Long before #MeToo, when I was about 23, I watched Woody Allen’s Manhattan for the first time.  My only critical reaction was deep, deep alarm that it is a movie about a 42-year-old man not just fucking but seriously dating a 17-year-old.

Just look at that. Oh lord. Why is he even talking to her. And don’t tell me the fact that he’s conflicted about it excuses it in any way.

 

I was 23.  I had been 17 years old only six years prior.  I still knew some 17-year-olds and remembered what I was like at that age.  I did not want to spend time with 17-year-olds, or have sex with them. THAT WOULD BE INSANE.  People grow a lot in those years. You learn a lot of stuff! You learn how to be good at sex! You learn how the world works!  There is no reason, once you are past that age, to engage romantically or sexually with someone that age, unless you are attracted to their childlike qualities.

 

A 42-year-old who wants to date 17-year-olds is not a quirky Manhattanite who is the star of a socially acceptable film.  He is a delusional predator and very arguably a rapist. There is no appropriate reaction to Manhattan, and similar works of art, other than disgust and deep concern. 

 

But in the past few years, when the public started debating Woody Allen’s sexual history again, the focus of discussion was (a) did he or did he not molest his stepdaughter, and (b) can we still enjoy his classic films like Manhattan?

 

Motherfucker no, you cannot enjoy Manhattan.