Cultural Imperialist

"Scathing Spats on Shallow Subjects"


Fri Jul 28




Slouching Toward Tenenbaum

I'm starting to see more men with the "Luke Wilson as troubled tennis star Richie Tenenbaum" look; this is comprised solely of dressing exactly like Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum, notable for the full, almost untended beard, BluBlocker-esque sunglasses, shoulder-length hair bound by an elastic, terry-cloth Fila sports headband, and wristbands.

This is not the look of a man. It is the future suicide of Western masculinity (so I guess the wristbands make sense).

Maybe I missed the boat somewhere along the way. When did the formerly successful, aging and over-the-hill tennis star look become, like the sport itself, bigger than it ought to be? Even Bjorn Borg, the patron saint of headband-wearing tennis stars, knew when enough was enough. He gave it up because he knew that the look belonged on the clay courts, not Abercrombie and Fitch.

Naturally, the look has been consumed by the trans-Atlantic culture which now deems that looking virtually homeless is now chic and to be emulated, and worse, revels in the superficiality of the past, imagining that even if it's not real, it's more real than the suburban fashion mythology posed by, well, people like me.

The Tenenbaum screams desperately for approval from the gods of retro-cool, and signals a lack of true identity in self; this is a look predicated upon the mistaken belief that if disaffected enough, one can transcend the sad void of existence and wallow forever in the cultural wasteland inhabited by zombie Wes Andersons and BeeGees band members. In particular, it presents an aesthetic vacuum of self-obsession: Look at me! it screams, but the "me" referenced is without locus or identity--it is an empty canvas painted by the brush of popular cinema and comic iconography--a being created entirely by Hollywood, the East Village, and a Cliff's Notes reading of The Great Gatsby.

So why are men carrying this look like a banner into the future? Why do American men persist in taking the low road every time they are offered a fashion and grooming choice? Why are we slouching toward Tenenbaumism? It's not progressive, it's stagnation.

The Royal Tenenbaums was about a clan of people who never learned how to grow up emotionally, about ambitious children who become failures as adults, about prodigy becoming apathy.

Sound familiar, America?

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