(Very shortly, this Tumblr will be three years old; in honor, I’m going to try to clean out its thirty-some dusty draft posts, either deleting or publishing them, basically as they were when I abandoned them. I have deleted many, as they were extremely dumb. This one is from November.)
This reminds me that I’ve been reading Rookie for the last couple of months and trying to figure out what it is about it that rubs me slightly the wrong way. It’s not that I don’t like Tavi or the other writers or appreciate what the site is trying to do (and I think, on the whole, it does what it does very well); it’s just that I have never once thought that it would have made a damn bit of difference to me if it had been around when I was in high school. I do not recognize myself in it, or my friends, in a way I think is more than a difference in personality— I think it’s a perfect example of a microgenerational split.
Because I grew up without the concept of a moodboard.
A moodboard is an assemblage of cultural artifacts intended to evoke a feeling, a series of references appreciated for their literal visual impact as well as the world or the girl they conjure. They assume that all cultural references have some kind of aura, and that you can put yourself together day by day in their glow: that there’s a meta-value to the books and movies you read, not just the truth of the worlds they depict.
Which is to say that I grew up watching Daria and relating to Daria specifically and personally, one to one; I did not have an internet full of people who loved Daria to share screengrabs and GIFs with. I don’t mean I discovered her before she was cool; I mean I discovered her without community, related to her without community, and assumed that this meant that I was without a community, that because I related to her my life was actually like her life. I didn’t draw on her for inspiration; I saw myself grimly reflected, Permanent Outsider in a world that included the Popular and the Outcasts and very few stops in between.
Now these girls watch Daria and they can so easily tap into all of the people around them who watch her too, and the fact of liking her becomes its own content: I mean literally, of Facebook interests or Tumblr posts. Social media means that our social worlds are mediated by those cultural connections like they never have been before. When you post that image, quote, video, song, it becomes content for the blog and context for your self: you put it up on the digital wall, it becomes a series of pixels, it beams out through someone else’s computer screen and its light reveals you to her, picking out your form from the chaos and blur.
(I say these girls but of course I’m implicated in it now; this is my Tumblr, and it is full of cultural reference.)
I don’t have anything against Rookie but increasingly I am bored by moodboards, by this idea that life is a game of dress up. Of course there’s a place for it, in fashion in the specific particular. But I resent the way that mode of thought has crept into the everyday, each month a theme with its own set of cultural antecedents to draw on, evoke, remix and reimagine. There’s something about living so fully in the culture that makes me anxious; I might be fooling myself about the possibility of getting away from it, but for me, recently, the best things have been private and boring, just the pieces of my everyday life, non-evocative, non-replicable, not photogenic or even particularly pretty. I want to interact with media in a way that responds to my real life rather than fantasizing that life through its images. I’ve had enough of moodboards; let me tell you more about my moods.