Normally, I stay away from commenting on current events in this forum. I will make an exception in the case of George Will’s latest column titled “Demon Denim”.
If you don’t read editorial pages or columnists, well, good for you. You’re probably happier that way. Still, I inflict this on myself occasionally. I won’t pretend that I until now, I thought of George Will as an oracle, and hung on his every word. Still, I thought he usually had something smart and interesting to say, and sometimes I agreed on it. And we shared one love: baseball.
But in this column, he chooses to vent his spleen at those who wear denim. He quotes Daniel Akst as saying that wearing denim is “symptomatic of deep disorders in the American psyche”.
As regular readers know, I’m all about the style. And you’d never catch this high elf wearing denim, it just doesn’t fit the high-elf mystique, you know what I mean? But I think of that as a style choice, you know, something to enhance my innate attractiveness, not an indicator of mental health.
He goes on to say:
Long ago, when James Dean and Marlon Brando wore it, denim was, Akst says, “a symbol of youthful defiance.” Today, Silicon Valley billionaires are rebels without causes beyond poses, wearing jeans when introducing new products.
Apparently, he’s mad at Steve Jobs. And in George Will’s mind, every Silicon Valley executive is Steve Jobs. Trust me, there are plenty of Silicon Valley executives who wear really boring slacks and polo shirts, although I have to say that in my time here, I’ve seen white shirts that make me (in my uber-slob alter-ego) think, “How did they get that so white, it’s brilliant!”
And I’ve seen a few in blue jeans. Sometimes. And yes, wearing blue jeans absolutely makes them much MUCH shallower than someone who decides what’s going on in someone’s mind by what they happen to wear on one day. I’m not a Silicon Valley billionaire, but I’ve met a few, and if George Will thinks they don’t have causes, all I can say is he must not have met any.
Will (and Akst) thinks that denim shows an obsession with not standing out from the crowd:
Denim is the clerical vestment for the priesthood of all believers in democracy’s catechism of leveling — thou shalt not dress better than society’s most slovenly.
Yes, George, have you ever heard the saying, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.” It’s Chinese. You’re pretty much channelling Alexis de Toqueville, too. That is America, it always has been.
But the thing that makes me think that he’s taken his cranky pills is that he goes on to trash computer gaming and action-adventure movies:
Seventy-five percent of American “gamers” — people who play video games — are older than 18 and nevertheless are allowed to vote. In their undifferentiated dress, children and their childish parents become undifferentiated audiences for juvenilized movies (the six — so far — “Batman” adventures and “Indiana Jones and the Credit-Default Swaps,” coming soon to a cineplex near you).
Ok, now he thinks that anyone who plays video games shouldn’t be allowed to vote? Or if you watched Batman or Indiana Jones. Here’s the thing, I know a gamer who is in Iraq now, driving a Humvee in convoy. My guildie, we call him Granpapy (that’s how he spells it), is there now. It’s his second trip, even though he’s in the Air Force. He has a wife and a baby who were moved to Germany in preparation for it. It’s not his first trip. He told me that he didn’t like to talk about his previous trip because some of the Army guys that were with them didn’t make it home.
And Granpapy isn’t the only guy in my guild who’s been to Iraq, either.
And if that’s too downscale for George Will, I happen to know senior management of several companies (non-gaming companies) I’ve worked for who play video games. I know one engineering director who’s standard email signature included the fact that he had finished Mario64 and got all 100 stars. I know another senior VP who has led international projects who was a raid leader for his WoW guild, and is a long time D&D (well, actually it’s Fantasy Hero, but do you think George Will knows the difference?) game master. These are people that could likely buy and sell George Will.
Maybe he’s jealous. Gaming, and by extension gamers, not only are mainstream now, soon, they will define mainstream. And that’s scary to a guy who’s spent a good portion of his life trashing nerds and geeks.
I say George Will needs to take a hard look at himself. When people talk about “a boy’s game played by men” what game are they talking about? Baseball, which George Will loves. His picture in Wikipedia shows him watching a ball game (in a visor and tasteful green polo, of course.) A wise man said to me, “We hate adults who are childISH, but we love adults who are childLIKE.”
Watching movies about larger-than-life heroes evidently disqualifies you, too. Too bad, Brian Bird’s “The Incredibles” made the same point that George tries to make in this column about the urge to not let anyone stand out. Only much better. And it’s funny, too.