The OF Blog: Two Girls One Cup, Reactions, Pop Culture and Literature

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Two Girls One Cup, Reactions, Pop Culture and Literature

This post began as a dare of sorts made by Felix Gilman regarding a joking comment of mine in one of his posts, but as I thought about it, I thought I'd make a few brief observations about cultural expectations and how these might apply to SF to some degree.

I did not provide the actual video to "Two Girls One Cup," because coprophagia does not appeal to me at all. But after having endured being "rickrolled" into seeing Tub Girl and the goatse guy in years past, from the sounds of things this is the next, "logical" step in shock material. It seems the reader/viewer must want more and more explicit "nasty" stuff to view. Eschewing the moral/immoral argument, as I believe that would provide a false dichotomy here, I am interested in how developments such as Two Girls One Cup and the spate of "reaction videos" (there are literally dozens, if not hundreds of videos, on YouTube right now focusing just on how grannies react to this video) might be related to other trends, including those of writing styles in SF.

In the United States, sex and anything revolving around bodily functions and excretions is in turns both revolting and appealing. The fact that we such a schizo-like reaction to this, one moment condemning the violation of "standards" and the next watching with avid glee the transgressions of such "standards," is a fascinating field of study for sociologists and cultural historians. But that is a topic for another time and place. Violence, however, is part of the equation that is only discussed part of the time. What is it about the need to show things that violate our expectations, that transgress our "moral standards," that make us peel back the curtains to delve even further into matters of sex/transgression/violence?

Sickening as videos such as "Two Girls One Cup" may be (again, I refuse to watch the actual video, since I have no desire to see the described action play out before my eyes), are they not but extensions of other developments in our cultural lives? One may argue that there is little difference in substance between such a "shock" video and that of a "shock jock" radio show from 10-20 years ago; merely shadings of content, nothing else. Or what about "everyman" shows such as Survivor or Big Brother that show in full detail the machinations that drive so much of human power struggles? Are they not but just more visible manifestations of our inmost desires and cravings?

These are difficult questions to confront, but perhaps rather easy to formulate. What is it about many cultures today that has led to such a desire to peel back the protective layers and to shove all sorts of explicit (in the sense of it being raw and not covered with euphemisms) material in our faces? Have the days of the staggering shot man in the black hat falling down without anything more than a bullet hole in the clothing over? Do we have to dig further and further into what makes us react, what makes us want to vomit, shudder, or to engage in the flight or fight response in order to be entertained?

It is interesting to see how more and more there are books in a variety of genres, including epic fantasy, that seem to be peeling back those protective layers, all in the name of being "gritty." While I reject this term as being rather misused on the whole, what is it about having to show the violence, the sex, the neurotic and psychotic moments that makes for a "better," more "gripping" story than those that shroud these moments in allusion?

I am not a conservative at heart, at least not politically. But neither am I one who finds this (to me) puerile interest in the transgressions of sex and violence to be appealing or even all that interesting. I cannot help but to wonder where this ever more explicit focus is heading. Are we going to see elements of the most extreme "splatterpunk" become not a trangression that serves to reinforce our "right" to be repulsed, but instead just another part of everyday life? And if so, will we see a corresponding development in literature of all stripes to incorporate such directness in its prose? Shall be interesting to watch and see, perhaps with the same mixture of reactions as that grandmother in that "reaction" video embedded below.

6 comments:

felix said...

Now I'm trying to think of the first unarguably great work of world literature to contain extensive scenes of coprophagia. Gravity's Rainbow (1973) is an obvious starting place, but I can't believe it's really the first. There's a lot of shit in Rabelais (1532) -- does any of it get eaten? I don't recall.

I think I'd say the urge to shock/gross-out material is exactly as old as modernity.

(I've never been able to face 2 girls 1 cup either. tubgirl was my limit of prurient curiosity)

Larry said...

I wonder if the Marquis de Sade might have contained some, but I've yet to read any of his works, so I don't know. And yes, I've read those scenes in Pynchon and Rabeleis, but they aren't quite as graphic as what I understand this to be.

Yes, there is that tendency to shock in many eras, but it's usually with some veil over it, either due to the limits of the medium or to worries about repercussions in the form of arrests. Just interesting how it's getting to be more and more upfront and in one's face, no pun intended!

felix said...

Gotta be something in de Sade somewhere.

Prediction: Our hideous post-human great-grandchildren will look back on watching gross shit-eating videos on the internet as quaint and stuffy, the way we look back on 1920s dirty postcards; they'll all have genetically nanoengineered themselves into actual literal dung-beetles, just to annoy their parents.

Larry said...

Likely so. That or we'll have the "feelies" from Brave New World equipped to permit a full DRE-like experience for those who want to "cop a feel," if you will pardon the semi-pun there.

SQT said...

I made the mistake of watching the video, not knowing what it was beforehand, and let me just say, it's the vilest thing I've ever seen.

I can't imagine why stuff like that is made. I don't know why people have such gross out fetishes. Maybe it's some weird need to prove that yep, I can be grosser than you.

I just don't get it.

Larry said...

Not just that, but making grannies and others watch it? It's the video version of a dutch oven, I fear. Can't help but to see some parallels with the types of stories some people want to read. Needless to say, there are limits for me, standards even. Damn I never thought I'd be admitting to that even when I was 25!

 
Add to Technorati Favorites