Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, by Chuck Klosterman
$11.20 at Amazon.com
ISBN: 978-0-7432-3601-0
Like me, Klosterman is a jaded, cynical member of Generation X. The subject of his book is pop-culture, and he runs the entire gamut from the internet, tv, magazines, video games, sports, and even breakfast foods. The entire book is incredibly entertaining; what's more, it's surprisingly insightful.
Most of the subjects he touches on should be familiar to Americans born 1961-1981. If you're a fan of American pop, this book is a must.There are some delightful chapters on mindless American tv shows: MTV's the Real World gets a chapter of its own. So does Saved By The Bell, a Saturday morning high-school drama in which the scheming Zach Morris outwits his parents and principal in every episode. It was a mediocre show by any standards, but was broadcast four times a day for many years. As a result, many people my age have stronger memories of Saved by the Bell than our actual, existing high school class.
There's an outrageous chapter on the Sims video game. Many players spent days and weeks developing Sim-characters whose lives were more rewarding than their own. Klosterman plays the Sims for 72 straight hours, trying unsuccessfully to seduce a female character named Bella. SimChuck, he says, remains denied.
In the game, the goal was to make friends, increase one's skills, and fill one's home with mountains of products. Was it mostly a glorification of consumerism that suggests happiness can only be found at the mall?
Consumerism is a constant theme. The Cocoa Puffs in the title derive from a chapter on kids' cereal commercials. He points out that in many childhood cereal commercials, the premise was that the product was so delicious that a fictional character would actually try to steal it. The Trix Rabbit is a tragic figure condemned never to consume a single bowl of the food he craves, while Sonny the C-Puffs Cuckoo will do anything to escape the torment of withdrawal while children taunt him as if he were a street junkie.
Many of the great movies of my youth are mentioned: Star Wars is compared and contrasted with Reality Bites. "What is Reality?" forms the basis for a string of films like the Matrix, Memento, Fight Club, Donnie Darko, and a host of other Gen-Xer hits.
He has some very interesting observations on internet porn. Pornography may not have been good for the advancement of society, but it's done wonders for the advancement of computer technology.
Of course all the books at Hansisgreat are recommended, but this one really gets an A+. Klosterman is incredibly funny, and I never realized how heavily influenced by pop culture my life has been until I read it here. In my mind I kept thinking, "yeah, it was just like that for me, too."
First class work, Chuck!

4 comments:

Kenneth Johnson, or Sebastien Penn said...

wow, i must check this out. although i may be too young to get references that date before the 80's.

Hansisgreat said...

There's nothing in it before the 80s. It's quite modern and trendy.
Do you remember Saved by the Bell?

Kenneth Johnson, or Sebastien Penn said...

of course i remember saved by the bell. one of my first crushes was mario lopez.

but you said the references to this book are familiar to those born from 61 to 81...and since i was born in 87, i just thought i may be born too late for some of the references.

Hansisgreat said...

Well, Generation X is usually defined as Americans born 1961-1981, it's true. So perhaps you were in middle school while Zack and Screech were in Saved by the Bell: The College Years.
In other words, you might be a bit younger than the book's target audience. I'll bet you'd still enjoy it, though.