Call me old fashioned. I honestly don’t know who most of the guest judges are on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” even after an explanation that he or she has a YouTube channel or is a hip-hop star. I use Southernisms such as “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir” in everyday conversation despite the nonbinary gender future which is inevitably coming. A suit and tie to dress up for travel or going to church is still de rigeur, and I look askance at anyone who isn’t similarly attired while I wait for my train or get seated in my pew. One of my most prized possessions is a 1940s vintage Bakelite black phone I bought in Milan, something that Bette Davis would’ve used, slamming down the receiver in a fit of spite.
I reflexively write in cursive and keep my notes in an actual Moleskine notebook. Finally, I get my news from reputable sources, reported by professionally trained journalists who seek to find the truth using facts and attributed quotes. In practical terms, this means that I subscribe to the local newspaper Le Monde and get the weekend paper editions delivered on Fridays and Saturdays.
So, yes, I am an anachronism. Of course, I have my modern indulgences. High-speed Internet, with Wi-Fi easily available everywhere, is something that is no longer just a “nice-to-have” but a vital necessity for this impatient, easily distracted bitch. Cultural garbage that makes me feel dirty after watching — I’m recalling how I felt after binge watching the first season of “Are You The One?”— I am not immune to, either. So I don’t judge too harshly the increasingly peculiar manifestations of civilization’s gradual descent into cognitive decay I see around me. References to obscure gay historical figures such as Bayard Rustin met with a blank stare don’t bother me — just don’t expect me to know who Jeffree Star is. The two are not even remotely in the same category of importance.
And yet one of my most trusted sources of “real news” has started including analyses and reports about the “Drama Wars” on YouTube. Now, I watch RuPaul, so I know what “the tea” means, but I had no idea that there was a whole subculture of tea channels where influencers gossip, throw shade, and otherwise stir trouble online for their millions of viewers. Incidentally, I could have easily worn out the quote key on my keyboard writing that last sentence, because I find this entire phenomenon to be so completely ridiculous, but I am not sure if others actually take it all seriously or watch it in the kind of riveted disgust I had for the sexy bachelors and bachelorettes of “Are You The One?”
I suppose it is possible to include these types of stories as a nod to what is happening out there in the virtual world. It just seems perilously close to giving an imprimatur of approval, or a whiff of authenticity to all of it, as if any of it matters in the slightest.
The danger for Generation Z watching comes if they ever give credence to anything claimed by these media personalities. Apparently even their makeup advice is untrustworthy, so if they start pronouncing their opinions on serious subjects such as global climate change, politics, or which season of RuPaul was the best (reasonable people can disagree whether it was nine or five), gurl you need to walk away.
There is a similar threat for folks of my parents’ generation, what used to be called the baby-boom generation but is now dying out, otherwise known as a Fox News viewer. For them, as well as those who are younger and get their news from personalities instead of professional journalists, objective reality disappeared from their life’s rearview mirror a while ago. Instead, because of a steady intellectual diet of Trump-y “alternative facts” and the Big Lie of election fraud, they operate in a completely different world from the rest of us, full of conspiracy theories and subjective claims of truth based on the feelings.
Again, there is a part of me that enjoys a good conspiracy or weird alternative theory (full disclosure, my guilty pleasure is “Ancient Aliens”). I recently came across a podcast with an expert on the Nephilim (if you don’t know what they are, go ask your Sunday School teacher) who claims these half-angel, half-human giants live among us. He was dead serious about it and had spent the better part of the past 40 years in pursuit of them, trying to document their existence. I mean, God bless. But then he began talking passionately about the stolen election and the ballot stuffing in the middle of the night and the Dominion voting machines and … gurl you gotta run away.