I have a disproportionately high number of gay male Facebook buddies (although I may lose some after this post). J and I did a lot of theater back in the day, an extra-curricular activity that seems to attract more homosexual men than in the general population. J’s college theater group, come to think of it, had the additional draw of being all-male, which meant that any female roles were played by guys in drag. That may explain some of my Facebook demographic.
Perforce, I was among the first to learn about Bea Arthur’s passing. It seemed as though half the gay contingent of my Facebook crowd was posting about Bea Arthur before I heard about it from any mainstream news source. For reasons I don’t quite comprehend, Bea Arthur seems to interest to my particular subset of gay male friends. I am sure there is an interesting sociology paper in there somewhere.
While I cannot explain Arthur’s appeal to Homosexual Men Who Know Emily (HMWKE), I can explain why they ought to care about Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick. She was a pioneer of queer theory, a woman who helped earn LGBT Studies a place at the table. Yet, only one of the men who posted about Arthur’s death had posted about Sedgwick’s two weeks earlier.
But, you argue, they didn’t know about her.
And this is exactly my point. For all the hoopla about the internet expanding our news sources and Twitter being the way we’ll all get our news in the future, we’re still just paying attention to the Entertainment section. All hail the power of the New Media! We are using it to… gossip about the old media.
Now, before you get all huffy and call me homophobic, please understand that my point is simply that of these two women, both of whom could be for one reason or another significant to this demographic (HMWKE), only one was repeatedly posted about on Facebook. I am not saying gay men are especially vapid; in fact, when I compare HMWKE to SFWAKE (you know, Straight Folks Who Also Know Emily), I find that no straight people posted about the groundbreaking scholar at all, but there were plenty who jumped on the bandwagon to post about the actress.
As far as actresses go, I liked Bea Arthur fine. She was tall, she was funny, she gave good face. Maude was pretty damned feminist, and Dorothy was without a doubt my favorite Golden Girl. And I loved the Golden Girls, although they seemed a lot older back when I was a lot younger.
But, come on, people. Don’t try to tell me the New Media is changing the world in meaningful ways. If you didn’t know who Sedgwick was back in the days when we all got our news from CNN, you still don’t know who she was. No one re-posted my link to her obit, that I saw. We’re all still as celebrity-obsessed as we were back when everyone sobbed over Princess Diana and John-John Kennedy.
Don’t believe me? Go search for #beaarthur and #evekosofskysedgwick or #sedgwick. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
You’re preaching to the choir here. I’m perfectly happy being able to see my friends’ quirky musings or quotidian activities once or twice a day, but I agree the discourse is not often elevated beyond idle gossip. I don’t see how saying what you have could in any way be construed as homophobic. Not without some real effort, anyway.
I honestly had no idea. I didn’t know about her and missed your link, but boy did I know about Bea Arthur, and while I was saddened to hear about her passing, was amazed at the response rate. I do rely on people who know things, such as about Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, to enlighten me in spots such as Twitter and Facebook, but instead, it’s like Us and people—just as you said—with an emphasis on Oprah (as usual).
But, then, every now and again, a little gem—such as the Living Small movement—and I cross at just the right moment and what do you know, I find a solution for cooling my house in a more green way. And believe me this is essential where I live starting NOW.
So yes, as usual, the bard had it. It’s much art, with little matter, but I’ll scroll quickly past the art for that matter, because it is grand.
Maybe we can start a Post Significantly movement.
We can swarm meaningfully just as well as we can pointlessly.
Next time, do a share with certain friends for significant things, such as Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, and we can all work together to spread the significant word.
You have an important point here. It isn’t technology that changes the interests or values of a society. New technology merely creates new possibilities for existing interests. Hence gossip about celebrities. Also hence distribution of child porn. And mobilization of activism. People who are interested in the same things can more easily connect for better and for worse. If we want to change our society’s values, we can use the technology as a tool but in and of itself it does nothing.
Wow. Color me a little embarrassed to be part of the masses who not only hadn’t heard of Eve, but had no idea who she was. Time for some Google-based edjumacation! 😉
Have to say though, that this:
All hail the power of the New Media! We are using it to… gossip about the old media.
might be one of the most spot-on comments I’ve ever read.
GMWKPM (you know, replace the E for emily, add the PM… you get it…) posted a lot about Bea as well, but i saw nary a thing about eve. Although admittedly I didn’t know who she was either until I read your post.
and this “although they seemed a lot older back when I was a lot younger” is so true
Okay, you done made me look up Sedgwick. I’m sorry to say that I hadn’t heard of her, at least before news of her passing reached me on Facebook. (I know I saw at least 2 mentions of her death, one of which was probably yours. Another was from a friend who is a siociology professor.)
Thanks for prompting me to learn more. And to think about the bigger issues…
I didn’t know Sedgwick had died and I’ve read her work, for goodness sake. Not a whisper over this side of the ocean about her. I couldn’t agree more – it’s the same old news, same old preoccupations and same old dumbing down across the board.
I’m thinking about that old saying about the media and the message.
When I was 10 or 11, I’d heard from my parents about this new technology that would allow people to communicate and research different topics. I was obsessed with Greek mythology and the sources at my public library weren’t doing it for me anymore. I practically salivated over the idea of being able to get more information about my topic and talk to people who care about it.
Geeky as that may be, the original usage of the Interent was much less sexy, and as we all recall, it didn’t really go full-tilt until Netscape and AOL came up with a way to present the information with pretty visuals. That’s how they sold it, and that’s why other people bought it.
Still, there are plenty of people who care about things more important than celebrity, and I do believe that this medium can reach them more effectively than they could have been before.
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