Sunday, February 03, 2008

On Wanting

I had a startling realization this morning, waiting in a too long a line for an over-priced latte at my neighborhood fair-trade coffee shop. My tastes have always been subject to great contention and I’m typically just as confused at my impulses as onlookers. In a recent conversation with a friend, over margaritas and a flat screen televising the Primary Democratic Debates, I offered my views on why I choose Hillary. There are a few really, and all stem from the “wrong” reasons. I was out to dinner with another friend the night she won the New Hampshire primary. It was a quaint little restaurant with 3 tvs sitting in various corners. Hillary graced the screen just behind my friend’s head. Her lips were curled outward in the most delirious of smiles. She scanned the crowd with the rabid victoriousness of a child who received not merely the train-set but the baseball bat too. For an entire year, that child pined for those objects and imagined his hands, encircling the wooden curvature of the bat, his eyes circling round and round, tracing the imaginary trajectory of that would-be train.

I was that child – not with bats or trains, god knows – but his wanting is something I know as instinct. So Hillary, with her glib grimace touched something innate and perhaps horribly awry within me. I want Hillary to win because she wants to, bad enough. This is something she has wanted, I imagine, from the outset, from the moment she uttered her first word: “President.” When others were attending to state of the union speeches, lil’ Hil was glued to the set, circling the oval office with designs of her own. She would do anything to get there – prompting more than a few in-poor-taste jokes amongst friends of Hillary’s many by-hand homicides or her drinking of freshly drawn baby’s blood. She wants this presidency the most, I feel. Because of her want, I want for her to have it.

It’s not just about Hillary, I realized as I changed Kylie tunes on my iPod, still eyeing the barista, 10 or so people ahead of me in line. I began to think about all the choices I’ve made in the obsessions I foster, musicians I cherish, actresses I adore. I can always trace it back to the Disney villain. I think of Aladdin’s sorcerer, Jafar (and I could also think of Ursula, the sea witch – but there’s a whole trove of problematics there that would need more hashing than I plan on doing here). I don’t recall his particular yearning at the moment – it was probably what most villains strive for when the going gets simple: Power. But damn did he want it. And while Aladdin and Princess Jasmine cooed to each other on their magic carpet, happening upon delightful things while Celine Dion piped in overhead, Jafar was out there being proactive about his desires. Aladdin stumbles upon the lamp and gets what he wants. Jafar tries to get shit done. Of course, he’s condemned for his productivity. If god will it to be, it will happen.

But I say fuck that. If I want that leather jacket, I’m going to do everything in my power to make it happen. Am I a horrible person? I’d like to think not. In the movie version of me, would I be a villain? I suppose that’s likely. Is it petty? Totally, but I know it. I own that. I know what makes me tick, and that should count for something. There are lots of people who have endured from their implacability. I think that’s part of the reason I am an avid Kylie Minogue devotee. She skipped onto the scene in 1987 with her hollow cover of the Locomotion. 20 years later, she’s not the toast of Great Britain because she sat on a carpet and pointed out wonders as they passed her by. She took. You can see it in her smile. Her whole image is lite, sincere and girlie. But girlie fades at some point and her giving and perky smirk has acquired a particular undertone in recent years. You get a whiff of calculation, that whatever you’re thinking, she’s trying to be 2 steps ahead. Whatever she does, she’s in it to win it. Does this make her wrong? Is she a villain because she yearns for success?

I’ve always hated the requisite moment of those movies, from Babyface to Mahogany, where a woman comes out on top and, right when she has that raw pulse of success beating in her jaws, she packs up camp and goes back to the mister. I guess if you don’t you infringe upon Mommie Dearest or Fatal Attraction terrain. Is the libidinal really all that wretched? These are some alarming polarities. Of course, when it comes to the woman, success will always be aligned with emasculation (again, Ursula). But I have a great deal of respect for those who wear their desires on their sleeve.

In short, I suppose I’m saying that I like people who want. They need not be good at what they do, even – I think of Maria Montez’s acting attempts. She’s not fabulous because she’s good (far from it), she’s fabulous because she’s going to be a star whatever it takes. That fire burns in her Technicolor eyes. I’ve never been attracted to the seamless. Aladdin and Jasmine just have it too easy. I don’t get that they appreciate what they have. They stare out at the great wonders of the world with their just-so-almond-eyes AND WHIR RIGHT BY THEM! Their journey seems so effortless. These things happen to them. This is the appeal of destiny or, to another extent, what people hope for when they imagine “The One” as if there is a single being out there who has been crafted to perfectly compliment you and that fate will be the determining factor as to when this transcendental union might occur. Is this not far more self-centered than one who involves themselves actively in their narrative?

I like things, of that there is not doubt. A great part of my ideology might be clouded with an innate consumerism, but there’s also a horror to passivity that rests at the center of our culture. The strength of a commodity culture – and one that this article might, admittedly, be a testament to – lies in the act of acquiring (or wanting) and not in the object per se. Baudrillard: Affluence is, in effect, merely the accumulation of the signs of happiness. I get all of that, but I live in Los Angeles. I’m not in some pastoral New Zealand landscape where Beyonce is as far from my mind as filtered water. I distrust the casual far more than the yearners because I cannot relate to them. There is always a motivation lurking beneath of which I am terrifically suspect. When Kylie smiles, I see the nakedness of her enterprise. On Hillary’s glistening caps, I see writ the arrogance of a woman 10 times smarter than I ever hope to be. And I appreciate that. Most people are threatened, but I know where they stand. I know their intentions because they seldom drift farther than themselves. Everyone’s got an angle.

Frankly, if they don’t want it, why should I? If they’re not having a good time, chances are, I’m not either. I don’t have the time to wade through indifference. I like that Hillary knows what she wants, that Kylie can play the game. Give Ursula her damn crown. Much like this insipid wait for my artisanal double latte, she’s earned it.