Decorum is dead! Long live the outburst!

Kanye West, Serena Williams and Rep. Joe Wilson usher in the era of blurting

Topics:

Decorum is dead! Long live the outburst! Kanye West takes the microphone from best female video winner Taylor Swift as he praises the video entry from Beyonce at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, September 13, 2009.

It’s been a year of shocking and deeply saddening deaths. Michael Jackson. John Hughes. Jim Carroll. And the unexpressed thought.

The silent sentiment, which survived from the dawn of consciousness to the birth of Twitter, will be missed. Among its contributions to civilization are the stiff upper lip, the novels of Henry James, and the song “Jesse’s Girl.”

It had been languishing for years, hobbled by the blogosphere, Fox News, and in particular the recent spate of town hall meetings. But in the last several days, it received a number of severe blows from which it could not recover.

On Tuesday, reality star and Ed Hardy enthusiast Jon Gosselin went on “Good Morning America” to announce that he loves his 22-year-old girlfriend more than he loved his estranged wife, Kate, throwing in that he now “despises” the mother of his eight children.

That same day, Los Angeles’ KCAL-TV aired a tape of married “family values” Assemblyman Michael Duvall in front of an open microphone at a Sacramento hearing, mouthing off to a colleague about his sexual conquests. Because, there is no point in getting a little side action if you can’t brag to anyone within earshot, “So I am getting into spanking her … Yeah, I like it … I like spanking her. She goes, I know you like spanking me, I said yeah, that’s ’cause you’re such a bad girl.” Displaying remarkable endurance in the field of TMI, Duvall went on in this vein for quite some time.

Duvall resigned on Wednesday, the same day that South Carolina Republican Rep. Joe Wilson found himself with an impulse that he too could not control. Brimming with outrage during a healthcare speech by the president, blurted the now-famous words “You lie!” Though his display was the vocal equivalent of John Hancock’s signature, let us not ignore the other rumbly voices among our elected officials that night, forced by the sheer magnitude of their righteous indignation to boo while Obama spoke.



On Thursday, following in the tradition of such luminaries as Demi Moore and Alice Hoffman, Lindsay Lohan chose to air her inner pain to the world via the medium of Twitter, alerting one and all that she’s been crying herself to sleep over her ex-love Samantha Ronson’s “cheats, errors.”

Saturday night, Serena Williams, tennis great and part-time hothead, earned herself a $10,500 fine for losing her shit with a line judge during a U.S. Open match. When the judge called a foot fault, Williams responded by, among other things, offering to “shove this ball down your f—— throat.”

After Williams’ tirade, personal and professional decorum as we know it was placed on life support.

Finally, last night, Kanye West delivered the coup de grâce at the MTV Video Music Awards. The end, ultimately, came quickly and loudly. As Taylor Swift clutched her award for best female performance, Mr. West leapt to the stage, because he had an opinion that ergo needed immediate transmission to the entire world, and took the microphone from Miss Swift. “Yo, Taylor,” he said. “I’m really happy for you, I’m going to let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time! One of the best videos of all time!”

The inner monologue was declared dead immediately.

Mr. West had previously attempted to definitively slay restraint with his rants at the American Music Awards, the Grammies, and the European VMAs. Apropos of the now mandatory need to say and do everything in public, West expressed remorse over his behavior on his blog, stating in part, “IM SOOOOO SORRY TO TAYLOR SWIFT AND HER FANS AND HER MOM. … I’M IN THE WRONG FOR GOING ON STATE AND TAKING AWAY HER MOMENT!” He also added, because God forbid anybody quit while they’re ahead, that “BEYONCE’S VIDEO WAS THE BEST OF THE DECADE!” and “I’M NOT CRAZY YALL.”

Across the world, reactions to the demise of the unexpressed sentiment were mixed. In the United Kingdom, a few old people said they had no comment. On Facebook, the consensus was best reflected by PartyWhore877, who said, “OMG THAT’S SOOO CRAZEEEE!!! ALSO, I HAVE HERPES AND BONGDOUCHE4455 U NO IT WUZ U!” She then posted a photo of her sores.

The thought is survived by the now defunct profession of mind reading, and the penny, which is no longer valid in exchange for anything in anybody’s head.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of "Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream." Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>