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Every week, my body seems to require one sleepless night and last night, I filled that quota. Normally the cause is reflection on the events of the day, too much caffeine, or those asshole neighbors across the street that never seem to shut up… but this time it was entirely own doing.
I’m currently staring at a sunrise with heavy eyes because of my love for a lesser-known Christian Slater movie, “Pump Up the Volume”. I got home, tossed my keys on the kitchen table, went to my room, settled in bed and closed my eyes expecting to sleep... but the urge to watch it for the tenth time was an unstoppable force. My attachment to this piece of young-adult cinema isn't because of the old-school Beastie Boys references, its cliché "mysterious geek" storyline, the conflict with school administrators, not even the jokes about chronic masturbation. It’s idea of a lone voice speaking for the underdog and being heard by society.
In the movie, Christian Slater plays a shy high schooler forced to move with his parents from the East Coast to a cookie-cutter suburb in Arizona. There, he starts his own late night pirate radio show as “Happy Harry Hard-On”, gaining a significant following by the kids at his school. The plot then grows into a conflict that is a commentary on media’s role in free speech in America. The last two words of the script, "talk hard" I found interesting, in a cheesy kind of way. Just like Happy Harry Hard-On, I dug it.
“Talk hard,” he said earlier in the movie, “I like that. I like the idea that a voice can just go somewhere, uninvited. Just kinda hang out, a dirty thought in a nice clean mind. A dirty thought is like a virus, it can kill all the healthy thoughts and take over.”
The premise of the movie got me thinking, as you might've guessed, but it also brought me down a bit. I took a quick look around and realized there is very little chance of something like this ever happening. Why, because the premise is unrealistic? Hell no. Well, not in 1990 at least. It won’t happen because it isn't 1990 anymore, its 2012.
Pause for a moment and think about all of the social media sites you’re involved with. Personally, I’m on five – Facebook, LitReactor, Red Room, Blogger, and WordPress – and considering the times we live in, that’s a pretty conservative amount. Off the top of my head, I can think of another six major sites that are along the same lines. These days, if the narcissist that dwells in every one of us wants to be heard… it will be.
The internet has become The Great Equalizer. There are all of these mediums for people to speak out, and most have nothing to say! It’s become this one loud noise of monotonous pseuso-self-expression and it takes a small miracle for someone with substance to surface among the huddled, noisy digital masses.
No, I’m not claiming to be one of those people. Cool your jets, Ace.
It’s not just the abundance of useless crap that’s clogging the pipes, either. It’s the ass-backwards popularity curve that has grown alongside the internet; the obsession with celebrity news over world issues. I’ve learned to tune out such things by avoiding the “Entertainment” tab on the CNN & MSNBC websites and skipping past the E! channel when I’m looking for something to watch on TV, but I’d have to live as a hermit in the mountains to not notice how many people are wondering if Kim & Kanye are going to get hitched. No, I’m not claiming to be one of these people, either. Pipe down, Bub.
Do you think Happy Harry Hard-On’s 2012 version would be talking about whether or not Travolta is gay? I should say not, Harry’s angst was how teenage angst should be; driven, original & creative and back in 1990, being the only kid in down with the means of reaching out to others on a grand scale was definitely possible. Today on the other hand, he wouldn't stand a chance against Perez Hilton's pathetic excuse for an abortion of a news blog.
Seriously, to hell with that guy. I sometimes feel actual pain knowing that he's making piles of cash for getting the scoop on a speculative boob job photo of a celebrity and pointing it out via Microsoft Paint's “Spray Paint Can” feature.
It saddens me, knowing that people with something meaningful to say are being drowned out by empty sensationalism. Will we ever get another lone voice like Happy Harry Hard-On? I like to think so. History always repeats itself and history has had a few of these guys already. From historical figures like Socrates, all the way to free speech advocates like Lenny Bruce, and the unfathomable number of others in between. Each one of these people had the need and drive to yell over everyone else and educate them at the same time.
The problem I see now is the drive that pushes that kind of person can, nowadays, easily be matched by technology that’s within the grasp of any asshole with an internet connection (guilty…). Being heard is too fucking easy, you no longer have to work for it! The ease of it means, while a few of these people saying something worth listening to are rising to the surface, they’re also accompanied by a horde of others that want to tell the world about their cat, collection of Elvis dishes, or their handful of Instagram photos they took of a chair. Fuck it, I’ll just cut through the crap and say it: It’s my belief that not everyone was meant to reach out to the world.
This may seem like a touchy subject for some people humping the United States’ Bill of Rights, saying "How dare you suggest that not everyone be given their right to free speech!" To which I reply, "That’s not exactly what I’m saying, however, it IS my very right to suggest that anyway. So please, go touch yourself to a picture of Thomas Jefferson and quit bothering people.”
I’m just saying that some people need to shut up.
On that note…
© Jeff Krawczyk October 2012
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