Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Draper-Cooper Continuum of Subjectivity

I apologize for posting so lightly over this past month.  I’ve got a couple of movie, book and television reviews to type up, but I thought I’d dip my toe back into the blogging pool by noting a few sort-of-related observations about subjectivity inspired by some dots connected by James Fallows and one of his readers with regard to Facebook and the recent resignation of Dave Weigel from his position as conservative movement correspondent at the Washington Post.

As far as the Weigel debacle is concerned, it seems to me that the Post wanted an uncritical hack but with Weigel they accidentally got themselves a real reporter smart enough not to suffer fools gladly.  That’s a bit beside the point I’d like to get to though.

As Fallows notes, Michael Zuckerburg, the evil boy-genius behind the plastic police state that is Facebook, has been catching some heat lately for the way the website nudges its users to exhibit themselves as much as possible to as large and public an audience as possible.  One good reason to gently corral the privacy options of facebook users in the direction of greater access is obviously to market that access to advertisers.  However, for Zuckerburg, profit doesn’t seem to be his only motivation.  According to some recent comments, he appears to think that his timely innovations have catalyzed nothing less than a revolution in subjectivity.  Witness the audacity of youth:

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.” (quoted at Crooked Timbers)

His comments reminded me of a favorite exchange from the first season of Twin Peaks between Audrey Horn and Special Agent Dale Cooper, who is surprised as he enters his hotel room at the Great Northern to discover Audrey naked in his bed.  Coop does the right thing (of course).  He resists the sexual advances symptomatic of Audrey’s father issues and resolves instead to be the comforting, emotionally present confidant/analyst she needs:

cooperfacebook Cooper: Now I’m going to go down and get us two malts and some fries downstairs. Then I want you to tell me all your troubles.
Audrey: That could take all night.
Cooper: The night is young. Now I’m going to get the food and you're going to get dressed.
Audrey: I can’t tell you all my secrets.
Cooper: Secrets are dangerous things Audrey.
Audrey: Do you have any?
Cooper: No.

That “no” at the end, the lack of pretense, of masks, and of secrets is the essential mark of Agent Cooper, it seems to me.  That disciplined, deliberate authenticity is what distinguishes him so radically from nearly everyone else in Twin Peaks and what enables the viewer to rely upon him so securely and without reservation throughout the series’ run.  It is the reason we find the conclusion of the show, rushed and weird though it was, so strangely devastating.

But Zuckerburg’s remarks also made me think of what I have previously written about Mad Men’s Don Draper:

Like Hitchcock's mad north-by-northwest man, Roger O. Thornhill (What's the O stand for?), there was nothing at Draper's core...nothing to resist or belie the succession of masks he wore.  Though he appeared selfish, Draper was in fact only the other of others.    Each mask was like an advertisement, modelled on someone else's desire, loving the one it's with.

So I guess what I’m getting at is that Cooper and Draper might define the two extremes of a sort of spectrum of subjectivity, ranging from the radical cored-ness of Cooper to the radical masked-ness of Draper.  Each represent such pure examples of each type so as to be capable of existing only in the abstract of fiction.

I’ll also observe that each extreme possesses its own form of psychosis: 

In the case of Agent Cooper, psychosis takes the shape of the paranoiac, whose every movement of thought, every fleeting whim, is rendered visible.  He surveils himself and keeps nothing private.  Does Diana, his confessor/secretary, really exist?  Does the guard at the center of the panopticon?

The form of Draper’s psychosis, on the other hand, is that of the schizoWho he is changes to fit the rhetorical situation.  His “true-self,” should such a thing be imagined, would be the obscure totality unknown to itself.  Its name is legion.

I may revisit this thoughts later, but this will suffice for now.

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