“The bastard form of mass culture is humiliated repetition… always new books, new programs, new films, news items, but always the same meaning.”
This is a note to my long-suffering readers. And to Mark Simpson in particular (though I don’t know how much he reads me these days).
I have had an idea for quite a while, for a book-length project based mainly on Simpson’s work. I am going ahead with it and will name the piece after my other, less-visited blog, Death At The Mall
As you all probably know by now, I have found myself in the rather strange position of being the lone advocate of Mark Simpson’s work, an ‘ardent Simpsonista’ with no comrades, a ‘disciple’ with no brothers. And I am the only person I know of, who places his work in a tradition of theorists, not only of gender but also of culture, that include Freud, Foucault, Butler, and of course Barthes. In the promotional material for Simpson’s last book, Metrosexy, I called him:
‘“A Roland Barthes for the i-phone generation. Simpson is our very own ’meticulous observer’ of the contemporary world, who somehow manages to make the death of culture sound seriously sexy.”
More recently I added: ‘And yet nobody cares about this Roland Barthes. Nobody places him in the ‘canon’ of media theory and post-structural semiotics alongside his predecessor. Nobody reads him. Except to meet deadlines and steal from him.
But I do. ‘
This echoed Simpson’s own sense of himself as a successor to Barthes, expressed in the introduction to his 1996 text: It’s A Queer World. He wrote there:
‘It’s A Queer World sets out to decode what did not at first appear coded, bring out the strange in the familiar, the odd in the ordinary, the uncanny in the canny. A kind of Barthes’ Mythologies, if you will, but with a few more gags.’
Metrosexuality is of course Simpson’s key ‘discovery’. For that alone, regardless of what he has written on the subject since he first uttered the ‘m’ word back in 1994, he should be acknowledged as a major contributor to gender theory. As I have written:
‘Metrosexuality is the contemporary era in terms of gender. And it has a major theorist. If we don’t acknowledge Simpson’s role as such, we are hastening the end of reading, and writing, and thinking. I know I sound like an old relic even writing those words. So be it. The new world may be the prettiest it’s ever been, but it’s ugly to me.’
I don’t know yet what form or content Death At The Mall will take. I don’t know if Mr Simpson, who is often a reluctant ‘object of study’ welcomes my project or not. He can always tell me if he has any misgivings. But if you have been reading my blog, and if you have spent any time on his too, where I used to scribble all over his lovely clean walls, you will know I am passionate about his work, maybe, as he has said, more passionate
than he is himself:
‘Elly gave me enormous encouragement and support in putting together Metrosexy
, which in all honesty probably would never have seen the light of day without her. She also proved tireless in spreading the word about it.
Elly is not only extremely enthusiastic about the concept of metrosexuality, she’s one of the few people to really engage with it and grasp its import. Perhaps more so than even Metrodaddy himself, who remains something of a deadbeat dad. This is why Metrosexy is dedicated to her.’
Ideally I should like the next book about Simpson’s ideas to be by Mark Simpson. But I think I’d be waiting a long time for that to happen. Meanwhile, men’s tits are getting bigger, and more orange, and masculinity is changing at such a rate, that something must be done to try and capture it, understand it, document the change. Simpson has written
‘in the 21st century men’s tits have not just rivalled but replaced women’s as the touchstone of sexy in mainstream pop culture, even when the audience for them is other men’.
The picture at the top of this post is a Toulouse Lautrec print, entitled ‘La Chaine Simpson’. Just as I see Simpson in a ‘chain’ of writers and thinkers that includes Freud, Foucault, Butler and Barthes, so I see myself as part of that chain. The next link. I have private correspondence from Mr Simpson, suggesting he agrees with me. And based on that, as well as my own instincts, I think I am the right person to, for I am the only person who can, continue developing and advocating his theories and observations.