Oh the Anne Hathaway Internet Traffic
March 9, 2007
Several days over the last week, though not everyday–perhaps suggesting something about the way we organize time–Yesterday’s Salad (a title, I believe to be untranslatable into any languages other than Tagalog, Esperanto, and Cinema, the only real international language) receives the beneficence of dozens of readers searching for Anne Hathaway. And while we’ve mentioned princess Anne many times, the post that actually receives the most Anne Hathaway traffic is this one, Notwithabang…’s unravelling of the JT mystery. I have to say I’m confused. Were the number one Anne Hathaway page on YS to be, “Anne Hathaway, Supercriminal?” or even this posting on her movie Havoc, I could at least understand the relevancy. But the rambling post about JT (a perfomative of JT’s own rambling)? As it stands, I’m incredulous.
What makes this whole affair even more mysterious, nay sordid, is the fact that I can not reduplicate the results. Yesterday’s Salad is not within the first 200 hits on google for “Anne Hathaway” (though, thankfully, we are still number one for “Anne Hathaway extradition”), nor are we even close to the top for “anne hathway BREasts” or “princess of Genovia nipples,” unfamily friendly search terms that are only tangentially related to YS’ Anne related posts. I do hope that someone led here from a search for Ms. Hathaway will explain.
But our moment in the Anne Hathaway limelight does call for some sort of celebration, or at least the parallel phenomenon of commemoration. I answer the call for commemorating, which is in itself the call to mourn the passing of the event–even if the event itself did not occur–into memory. I’d be remiss not to say a few words about the death of Baudrillard. I somehow think he would like my connection with him and Miss Hathaway, the way the celebrity of one gives me the appropriate audience to celebrate another.
The obituary in the times covers most of his major claims, or at least the major claims associated with America, and ironically, although this is endemic to obituaries, serves as a necessary introduction to his work. It is a shame that we are often only introduced to people so intriguing and important at the moment when we can no longer be introduced. The obituary, much shorter than the Times’ piece on Derrida, a piece which acted more as an attack on Derrida than as notice of life in death, ends with the same sort of criticisms the Times published against Derrida:
Like other postmodernists with whom he was often associated (despite their differences), he was frequently criticized as obscure. “If the texts seem incomprehensible, it is for the excellent reason that they mean precisely nothing,” Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont wrote in their 1998 book “Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science.”
As you may have noticed, the Saladeers are divided on the issue of critical theory. I whole-heartedly support it, Notwithabang… hates it, and this whole discussion must be making ibiteyoureyes angry (though what doesn’t). Critical Theory appeals to me as a field, not as a credo. I enjoy reading it and thinking about many of the topics raised by a Baudrillard, a Barthes, a Benjamin, a Beyond the Pleasure Principle, a Bakhtin, or a Benito Santiago (a joke). Criticism fails at precisely the moments Sokal and Bricmont discuss, the moments where critics try to move outside of the humanities and make claims about science or actualia. Baudrillard’s theory that the Gulf War did not take place may be crazy, but the argument behind it, that we live in a world where media images are both so controlled and saturating that it would be possible to fake a war, is worthy of consideration. To me, he has a major point to make about the distancing of wars from the private lives of citizens, a subject also addressed by Benjamin in “The Storyteller”. Consider the great lengths taken by this Bush administration to hide images of caskets in this Gulf War. The government tries to control citizens views on the war by extending the distance of soldiers and citizens. The true monumentality of the Abu Ghraib scandal was that it showed a way around the official lines of communication. Word spread through new technologies and the increasing of voices. It was a belated rebuttal to Baudrillard, if you will.
I also believe that most of Notwithabang…’s hatred of post colonialism stems more from Columbia and people employed there rather than a lot of the field’s claims. There is such a thing as post-Colonial literature in addition to post-Colonialism. Midnight’s Children is written in such a way as to refer to both Indian and British traditions. It’s also in English, the primary tool of colonialism. Post-Colonialism will ultimately prove to be a fleeting field, I’m sure, as its premise is temporally bound.
But to return to a topic at hand, literature is a world without a language of truth, and it is in this world where critical theory is most interesting and effective. There are only readings, and interpretations are a literature as appealing as what inspired it. The Times ended their obituary with Baudrillard himself, and I will co-opt their quote and let him speak here as well.
“What I’m going to write will have less and less chance of being understood,” he said, “but that’s my problem.”