Fake Edgy

A great example of “cool capitalism” is HBO. It sells seemingly edgy content that allows viewers to feel rebellious while consuming the most conformist of ideas. And it’s especially telling that one has to pay extra for this fake edginess. Because being part of the financially comfortable class that can afford to access the “cool capitalist” version of capitalism is a large part of the enjoyment.


8 thoughts on “Fake Edgy”

    1. Of course, you are absolutely right. It wouldn’t be so successful if it didn’t feed very important needs. But capitalism is also good at training people since infancy to have the needs it can fill.

      As for the HBO, let’s take Sex & the City. It seems edgy with all the nudity and revolving-door sex lives. But the ideas the shows communicates are patriarchal in the extreme: men and women are so completely and utterly different that no understanding is possible.

      The Sopranos, the Wire – it’s all the same thing. It looks provocative but the actual content is beyond soothing because it perpetuates the stereotypes that are very pleasing to those who can afford to subscribe.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you for your elaboration!

        Your point about capitalism shaping the wants and needs of people is incredibly interesting – but also much more complex than it is possible to appreciate. The interplay of social and economic conditions and biological drives is so complicated that it seems impossible to ascertain what comes first.

        You are probably right that the content you describe is much more crowd-pleasing than ground-breaking when one really pays attention what’s going on.


  1. I think you’re being unappreciative of how significant those shows were at the time of their debuts. Today, they seem hackneyed and familiar since their distinguishing traits have been emulated, copied, and pureed through the high-pressure blender of cable programming. But 15-20 years ago, they were truly novel approaches that pushed against the zeitgeist. SaC was a women-centric show that treated their seemingly mundane concerns as not frivolous, and their “revolving-sex door lives” as a matter of choice instead of being clear depravity and an opportunity to teach moral lessons. The Sopranos was groundbreaking in terms of introducing serialized drama as an antidote to the notion that television was a medium only fit for populist trash; it also presented an anti-heroic protagonist who was neurotic and pitiable instead of the aspirational, ultra-masculine mob boss. And The Wire bothered to portray poverty and lack of social mobility as a complex product of systems, not personal responsibility and ill fate. Treating inner-city destitution as Greek tragedy was innovative…for its time.

    If there was a patriarchal element in Sex and the City, it was the indelible conspicuous consumption (upper-middle class women always be buying stuff durrrrr). But that was also present in the original book.

    I don’t find the capitalism angle particularly enlightening on this topic. Channels like HBO and FX do cater to the demographic that conflates edginess and anti-mainstream bent with intellectualism, but this is branding; it’s no different than CBS’ commitment to traditionalism and cop shows. It’s also important to note that with a few exceptions (SatC and The Sopranos among them), demographic fragmentation ensure acclaimed cable shows have low audiences. They get most of their clout through cultural dissemination and social media.



    1. I’m sorry I hurt your fan feelings. These are extremely entertaining, well-made shows and I have enjoyed them massively. They are very entertaining, very consumerist, very trashy manifestos of complete and utter compliance. The Dr Phil show is more progressive in comparison.


        1. At least, Dr Phil promotes the idea that commodification of children is wrong. He’s also against aggressive medicalization.

          And by the way, whenever African Americans appear on his show, they are always and only middle or upper middle class educated professionals.


    2. If there was a patriarchal element in Sex and the City, it was the indelible conspicuous consumption (upper-middle class women always be buying stuff durrrrr). But that was also present in the original book.
      What could be more patriarchal than a show in which a younger woman of uncertain means chases after a rich older intermittently available man? The friends are only really united by their quest to find a suitable man. They have nothing in common otherwise.
      The shoes and the clothes were meant to make the whole thing less depressing and boring because it gave you something to look at.

      Many of the shows are enjoyable and nice to look at. And some even have great acting. But none of them challenge any world view in their audiences.

      The Sopranos
      Mob bosses have feelings too.

      Mad Men
      Rich white men have emotional problems.

      Game of Thrones
      Fantasy but grim dark! Also: boobies.

      Millennials are hapless, inept and infuriating. “My kids are not/I’m not like that so I’m fine.” Or “Those idiot kids.” Also: “New York City is still really white.”


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