Mika’s cultural angst

I’ve been up for almost two hours this morning. (It’s 6:50 am as I type this.) I guess six hours of sleep was enough rest.

Baldo and Chica were in their selected sleeping sites, but anticipating my rise.

I got up, performed my regular routine including feeding the kids and letting them outside.

While I was brewing my morning java and making breakfast sandwiches for me and dad I occasionally glanced at the TV broadcast of Joe Scarborough’s “Morning Joe” to get some reliably annoying neo-con conventional wisdom.

I don’t know why I watch the show—I originally started watching it while I lived in St. Paul, Minnesota last year, during a one-year visiting assistant professorship at the University of Minnesota—but it wakes me up and motivates me in subconsciously useful ways.

At one point in the show, one announced topic was replaced by another without notification to the co-hosts Scarborough and (daughter of Zibignew) Mika Brzezinski.

Instead of focusing on whatever topic it should have been, the producers, despite their protestations of innocence, seemingly consciously replaced the serious topic with an extended provocation of a story about the popularity of the MTV reality series, “Jersey Shore.”

Whether or not it was a planned provocation—if the story placement at that moment was truly a mistake and not a provocation because it seemed to be a two to three minute story which is significant in television time, I think it would have been pulled for a later time slot—the story played and served to tick off the co-hosts predictable self-righteous, puritanical, conservative indignation.

Especially the predictable indignation of the lovely, white Brzezinski.

Where “values” and “morals” have been appropriated by the neo-right/white conservative culturalists, both Scarborough and Brzezinski serve MSNBC as a safe space for a subliminal link to the rabidly explicit white racist reconstructionists at Fox News.

This becomes particularly evident at moments like these when topics such as these brown, transgressive bodies—the objective/promotional video replays during the objectionable segment included on-screen representations of violence, sexuality, drunken, anti-social behaviors—disrupt the neat and tidy cultural value representations of self-contained white bodies like Mika’s and Joe’s.

Mika was especially disturbed by the representations, expressing her disgust at such behavior.

Even more disturbing for her, though, was the point of the news story: that this series has become one of the most popular MTV series ever!

That fact served to represent a serious sign of social decay for her, a moment of deep shame for and reprimand of the national culture that would be interested in such programming that, at some level (without her explaining her deepest moral beliefs) represented instinctual life over the life of morality and reason.

Indeed, this moment of Mika’s expression of disgust at the grotesque, uncontained display of uncivilized, savage behavior by these self-described “guidos” and “guidettes” and the media exploitation of their transgressive behaviors goes to the heart of a national political and cultural imaginary that continues to set boundaries for acceptable expression and behavior.

This assimilationist concern that has at its center notions of disembodied whiteness (as mind over matter) has been highlighted and reinforced simultaneously by the protests of Italian American interest groups who critique the stereotypical tending toward racist portrayals of Italian Americans (as primarily bodies ruled by instinct and passion) that have been historically propagated in mainstream media.

These concerns about negative cultural representations–dare I say cultural imperialist diatribes?–that are aired in mainstream media culture and politics—those who get and perpetuate their power are typically able to represent their thought and actions as examples of pure reason taming instinct, shedding light on darkness and mystery, civilizing and containing the beast, etc.—continue to be played out as I observed and heard them expressed in Mika’s cultural exasperation this morning.

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