What did the winner get?
I don’t know. I didn’t look. But I know what the loser got. I know what the loser got because I was the loser and I know what I got. I got beat. I got punched in the face. I got humiliated in front of my wife. I got laughed at. I got emasculated. I got a taste of the ground with my own blood as a condiment.
I got a chip knocked out of a tooth. I got a concussion.
I got a parting gift basket of insults. I got driven to the hospital in a brand-new car. I got sent behind door number three where I got what will probably be a lifetime supply of Neosporin. I got an emergency room bill for over one thousand dollars.
What did the winner get? I don’t know. But I know what I got.
Fear and Covert Giggling
Responsibility is the by-product of power. The mortal enemy of responsibility is sticking your fingers in your ears and singing loudly. The mortal enemy of power is silliness. This is true because nobody with power is silly. Or perhaps, more specifically, anybody who accuses somebody in power of being silly immediately gets shot. The people doing the shooting refer to this as “respect.”
This is a problem for those of us whom the world at large regard as silly (i.e., the art world). While artists are busy trying to take responsibility for the condition of the world, the world is busy giggling like middle schoolers at the latest dead animals we’ve pickled. Taking responsibility for a party requires that the party in question would be loathe to describe you with the same terms used to describe guys wearing black dress socks with flip-flops. If the party in question is headed towards almost certain destruction (say, the open mouth of a large alligator) and they regard you as a silly individual (say, Popeye the Sailor Man), they will not listen to your warnings no matter how many sheep you pickle. Vlad the Impaler, of course, never being one to pickle sheep, never had any problems getting people to respect him. This is not because the individual who was later the inspiration for Count Chocula was not silly. This is because Vlad the Impaler was scarier than he was silly. This is also because anyone who wouldn’t listen to him ended up as a decorative birdbath for his front lawn. The ability to turn annoying people into birdbaths and similar decorative objects is the primeval basis of modern political power. Therefore, responsibility, being inversely related to silliness, is directly correlated with scariness.
This presents an obvious problem for any party officially labeled as Not Scary (i.e., the art world). Luckily, in modern times, the key to scariness is not the actual impalement of individuals who call you silly. It is merely the implication that your decorative birdbaths were not purchased at Pier 1, which earns respect. However, inspiring fear rather than covert giggling requires some forethought. Running around selecting scary accessories willy-nilly could be disastrous, given the multitude of scary genres. For example, historically, there have been the Monosyllabic, Hairy, Big-Stick-Wielding, Loincloth Wearing variety (i.e., Attila the Hun), and the Inevitably Foreign, Inexplicably Wanting to Destroy the World variety (i.e., Nero). More recently, of course, the Undead and Sexually Ambiguous variety (i.e., Marilyn Manson), enjoyed popularity for some time, but lately have been replaced with the Irritable and Loud variety (i.e., Howard Stern and Eminem). The latter, in particular, seems to be very frightening to perhaps the scariest variety of the scary: the Wealthy Conservative. Given that the art world is not renowned for its fondness for conservatives, the ideal approach for the art world to achieve scariness (and thereby respect) would be a combination of the other most recent trends. That is, Irritable and Undead.
As Marilyn Manson and the religious right know, the first step in becoming scary is to look scary. In order to achieve a successfully scary Undead demeanor, artists might be well advised to begin with some tips on appearance from popular horror movies. Movies such as Evil Dead and Army of Darkness contain a lot of data on this particular topic. In particular, it would seem that one of the keys to being respectably scary lies in being very pale and having bad posture. To some extent, this also applies to the appearance of the Wealthy Conservatives. One of the other keys lies in dressing like a flood victim that has fallen into a cement mixer.
The necessity for a scary appearance in the context of the art world most particularly applies to Converse All Stars and black plastic-rimmed glasses, which neither Vlad the Impaler nor the evil Undead considered viable fashion accessories while terrorizing the populace. For the fashion-conscious artist, however, a popular scary alternative to Undeadness (looking like a flood victim) lies in Irritableness.
As can be observed from both Howard Stern and Eminem, the best method of being effectively Irritable is to publicly say mean things specifically engineered to offend large portions of the population (i.e., “Old people, puppies, mixed ethnic minorities, and quadriplegics suck”). Evidently, given the amount of effort which certain portions of the population have put into having them banned or made very rich (respectively), this is an extremely effective method of inspiring political fear and earning social respect (respectively). However, a somewhat subtler although equally scary alternative is available for the fashion-conscious artist. That is, having mean things printed on your clothing. This would work especially well for textiles artists, who could embroider or screen-print their own mean sayings (i.e., “I killed your kitten, you loser”).
When coupled with Undeadness, this could truly make the art world a scary and respectable force to be reckoned with. Instead of making paintings and covering them with elephant dung (which, although seemingly initially scary, only ended up inspiring more giggling) a scary artist could go to city council meetings, spray the audience with fake blood, and shout, “Aaargh! Eat complex carbs and polysaturated fats, you overzealous stoats! I stomp on small starving foreign children in your name!” While this is not guaranteed to inspire respect or fear from the general public, it is probably not any less likely to do so than pickling sheep. Furthermore, such messages might actually lead some Wealthy Conservatives to mistakenly support our cause. However, as long as the world at large continues to regard artists with an attitude not unlike that with which they might regard a gerbil attempting to devour a plastic lemon, the question of our responsibility for said world is somewhat irrelevant.