OF DREAMS AND DUST
By MICHAEL PERKINS
IN A WORLD THAT SO SURGICALLY SORTS ALL MORTAL PLAYERS into winners and losers, it seems inevitable that we would devise systems by which the ”L”s might aspire to join the “W”s….some kind of schooling or preparation that transforms some of us, the one who are coal, into The Anointed, the ones designated to be Diamonds. Often, that sorting process comes in the form of commercial consumption, and one of its Meccas is Hollywood.
A photographer on the loose in Tinseltown becomes aware early on that all its shops and attractions, all its tour stops and theme parks, are actually one big Academy Of Making It, a huge machine that models the behaviors of the Chosen, a tutorial on how to persuade the Choosers to ask you into the club. And the most obvious cues occur at retail level.
Across every souvenir stand and shirt shoppe, the message is clear: winners buy this: winners wear these. If you don’t see anything here that looks like your look, your look is wrong. Hollywood purports to be about dreams, but it is also about nightmares, like the fever dream of not belonging to The Crowd, of not being plucked out of the chorus.
Whether the scenes we encounter on our streets are of victory or despair, the camera bears witness to the ongoing emotional high wire act. Hollywood is a uniquely American construct, which, like this all-night souvenir stand, encompasses both our desires and our defeats in the single act of selling us stuff…symbols, myths, ways of keeping score. It’s a special kind of envy-driven loneliness that’s also an industry that feeds on itself.