Capital is eyeballin’ you

Since being back home I have been cranking the pay-tv my folks have. I caught _Dog Soldiers_ this morning, dang, that is a cool movie… Anyway, on the Cartoon Network they have this promotion running at the moment called _Eyeballs 2_. Here is the login page.

Fly Buys points and all the other consumer incentive programs operate as an apparatus of capture for networks/circuits of consumption. That is, they simply do not encourage people to buy something from one shop, they commodify entire chains in the networks of consumption. Capitalists call this ‘synergy’. The clearest example of this in Australia is the relatively recent melding of petrol/service/gas stations with supermarkets/grocery stores. It is recent because it didn’t exist when I worked at a service station up until early 2003. Spend a certain amount ‘here’ and you get money off your fuel bill at the linked servo ‘there’. I think these circuits of consumption are very interesting as commercial interests are not simply investing in your patronage, but they attempt to commodify a massive chunk of your life. Your lifestyle becomes a resource – a resource that is strip-mined for everything your got and don’t got (via credit).

They sucker you in with the only simulacra that exists anymore with any meaning (ooh, the paradox): the ‘bargain’. The logic of the ‘sale’ or the ‘bargain’ motivates consumers to lease out their lifestyles – represented as circuits of consumption – to themselves so commercial interests can accrue rent, i.e. produce surplus value, over a network of consumption rather than a single point transaction. The bargain is a simulacra in one of Baudrillard’s modes (I can’t remember which one??). It is the logic that fools people into believing they are producing value by spending money. Is that retarded or what? Advertising seduction merely prompts consumers to desire something. The recent developments in consumer incentives organises this desire into seemingly self-perpetuating locuses of consumption.

Getting to my point, the model for this is not some fantastic business venture schemed up to rip multi-millionaires off. I argue the model is derived from children’s television programming. At some point in history the story became subsumed to these networks/circuits of consumption. The circuits of consumption were once derived from the fandom generated by a show to become the motivating force behind the show. So now these circuits of consumption organise fandom. Disney has been on the ball for years, it never really made the final step though… There is a dialectical tension between the principle of organisation implicitly promoted by the commercial interests and the organisation of fandom immanent to itself. I talk about this in my thesis with the car dudes and their enthusiasm. Some fandoms/enthusiasms are more autonomous than others. For example, computer game modders probably have more autonomy in terms of im/material production that sustains their fandom than does, say, an eight year old kid playing with his Pokemons.

Perhaps the best example of this is the US re-produced Japanese anime that was known in the US and elsewhere (including Australia) as Robotech. The fellows at Harmony Gold (US re-production house) had the genius to reconstruct three separate anime series from Japan into one massive show. They could do this because all three original series were made or influenced by the artwork of a single Japanese anime artist. Anyway, the deal would only be struck to make (or reproduce) the series as Robotech if they could guarantee sales of merchandising for toy maker Hasbro. The link between the show and the merchandising was intrinsic to the development of the show – the proof is found on the DVDs in the seven Robotech boxsets (I own them all, suckers!). There are a number of voice-overs and interviews that explain the relationship between Harmony Gold and Hasbro was essential to the re-production of Robotech and therefore, I argue, Robotech fandom.

The next stage in this commodifcation of networks of fandom is not modelled on television programming, but major league sports. Pay per view. With media on demand only a few dreamy sleeps away (like christmas!) the congruence of medias will herald the congruence of lifestyles, production and fandom – the biopolitical production of the perfect consumer.

What spawned this post is the now-running incentive program on the Cartoon Network called _Eyeballs 2_. It connects with Johnathan Beller’s argument regarding the ‘cinematic mode of production’ and check out a response to it also. Through what Beller calls the “labour of looking” kiddies collect ‘eyeballs’ and trade them in. The Cartoon Network is doing a massive favour to tomorrow’s business.

The ‘eyeball’ itself is interesting. It is not the ‘eyeballs’ of the kids (or big-kid PhD students) watching cartoons, but the eyeballs of capital. They are multiple and are only defined by their number – deterritorialised multiplicities. The qualitative differences between cartoons don’t matter. What matters is how many ‘eyeballs’ you have. You are defined by your ‘eyeballs’, or, rather, how many ‘eyeballs’ have you. They call it an ‘eyeD’ card.

The recent furore around mpeg music and movies online gains a different importance. It is not only the labour of looking that is being lost – the pay-per-view factor. What is also lost is the ability to manipulate consumers into circuits of consumption. The crucial scripts that determine the organisation of fandom are taken out of the hands of synergised media conglomerates and back in the hands of consumers. It is a bit like when car enthusiasts go street racing, there is no need to go to the drag strip…

Sequel’s paper is cranking

I have been doing some research on the Matrix franchise as it is my prime example of a series of ‘sequels’ that are not so much the the mimetic reproduction of a series of attributes, but a series of repeated differences that make each its own example or simulation. This includes the three movies the Animatrix series and the videogame.

Anyway, I have been reading various fansites, and I found this cracker Q&A.
Whoever wrote this obviously has not read Jean Baudrillards Simulation and Simulacra (which appears in the first film as an ironic ‘false’ copy for Neo to hide his computer disks). This is some of the funniest shit I have ever read, obviously it was written by Dubya’s speech writer:

Q: Why does the Architect talk funny?
A: All the other inhabitants of the Matrix that we’ve met so far (Agents, Seraph, The Oracle, etc) may be programs, but they interact regularly with humans. They need to be able to communicate with normal people on a regular basis, and their programming reflects that in the way they speak. The Architect is a machine that never has to communicate directly with humans, therefore he tends to talk like a machine would when talking with other machines. He uses big words, overly complicated sentences, and purely logical expressions of his message – not exactly the way people talk to each other.

Team America, ‘fuck yeah’ or ‘get fucked’?

US Narcissism: ‘Pimp the World

The real puppets in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s latest effort are the right and left of politics.

The flick is a comical polemic (or polemical comedy??) that allegedly sticks the boot in to the patriotic neo-cons and F.A.G liberals. Instead it sticks the boot into politics as an institution.

“The right just likes to think the left is stupid and the left just likes to think the right is evil. [laughs]”
– Trey Parker http://movieweb.com/news/news.php?id=5406

Something of a narcissistic take on what it is to be an ‘American’ (rather, US citizen, for those north and south non-US Americans), Trey and Matt seem to have decided that it is more funny to poke fun at the current situation, as Trey says, “where everyone hates us [the US]” than really asking, why does everyone hate the US? Maybe the film makers do not even realise the utter narcissism of their own film. When asked “What should people take away from watching it?” Matt says, “I want people to take away the strees of making it.” (Comments found in the ‘Meaning’ video here: http://www.cinema.com/article/item.phtml?ID=3058>)

The world is seen as a terrain of pussies and assholes that the global dick of the US goes around fucking and fucking up. I really wonder how much ‘quality time’ the duo have spent in any other country? The utterly US-centric world view indicates less about the state of the world and the role of the US in it, than it does about the sorry state of politics in the US. It is shocking that in the most powerful nation citizens are not forced to vote, and therefore not forced to engage in a meaningful way with US politics.

The rhetoric coming out the US at the moment seems like they want everyone to be ‘free’ and without ‘terror’, but to me it all seems like they don’t just want to ‘Pimp my ride’, but ‘Pimp the World’. Who would be the pimps that set up all the pussies and assholes for the US-penis to fuck? Trey and Matt!! With their comedic-penis that hunts for every popular culture nook and political cranny to stick it in and fuck up. Good work guys, you bunch of fuckers.

I understand the film as evidence of the US nation’s Hollywood complex, you know, the stories about whinging, bitching actors who think they are ‘special’ and ‘important’. Just because the US is the most powerful nation in the world does not mean it is the ‘best’ or ‘special’ nation. Stone and Parker attack the actors of the hypocritical Hollywood left (which is understandable!), but they fail to realise (maybe?) they have set up the US to have all the qualities of the arrogant, stupid, self-consumed, and stereotypical Hollywood ‘star’ of the global stage. What is absent from all the debates about the US in any discussion I have read is discussion about the complete absence of US humility. What the fuck has happened to that?

The terror attacks in 9/11 on the WTC were taken to be shock to the US nation. Some of the rhetoric I have heard is that it is like Pearl Harbour, where a slumbering giant awakes and really (to use the rhetoric of Team America) ‘fucks all the pussies and assholes in the world’.

What the terror attacks in 9/11 should have done is make the US more humble, not in the face of the power of terrorists, but in the face of its own power. Instead it did the opposite.

Three years later, now we have a couple of clowns who think this utter lack of humility is funny. It is not funny. Now we live in a global situation where the US has forgotten its own power, not because it is not aware of it, but because it has become totally subsumed by it. Now we live in a world where the future, for some, is terrifying and horrible.

It is not without some irony that politico-puppetry and puppet politicality of Team America got hammer(head)ed by the vacuous Shark’s Tale at the box office and the high school football drama Friday Night Lights kicked Team America down to third place on the box office rankings. It speaks volumes about the priorities of ‘Americans’: politics comes after entertainment. Why? Because they are ‘Team America’ and such dicks don’t have to worry about politics, just fucking things up.

For box office figures:
http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/Movies/10/17/box.office.reut/index.html

On the pussy, dick, and asshole rhetoric of Team America:

“There are three kinds of people in this world,” Johnston says. “Dicks, assholes and pussies. We’re dicks, and the rest of the world are pussies. But sometimes an asshole comes along and wants to shit all over everyone, and the only kind of person who can fuck an asshole is a dick, because pussies are just an inch away from being assholes themselves.” (Diplomatically, Johnston concedes, “Sometimes dicks fuck assholes at inappropriate times, and they need pussies to guide them in the right direction.”)
– from: http://www.corporatemofo.com/stories/041015teamamerica.htm