Fool’s Gold

BHParenting is great because it often challenges us to take an interest in what we do not feel consciously interested in (i.e. violent video games, baseball, Pokémon, elaborate and interminable board-games, etc.).  Part of me feels such things are a waste of time, and part of me feels like there’s just not enough time while another part of me feels Einstein and Buddha were both right in their own way—that time is an illusion by which we live, not a truth in which we dwell.

When it comes to the arcane art of waking up, parenting is to consciousness as is the Shaolin Temple to Bruce Lee—a place of deepening spirit and focusing power—a place to evolve.

While I might rather watch art films, or read, with a fifteen-year-old and a media precocious thirteen-year-old, the line on “appropriate” content has shifted drastically as of late… and so I’ve been catching up on the first seasons of “Entourage” with my boys.

“Entourage” is a guilty pleasure—on the one hand it’s like crappy candy:  sweet and easy to take in, yet loaded with chemicals, toxins and arguably bad for you; on the other hand, in an age of narcissism, Ari Gold is a hero for our time—an emblem of the intrepid warrior who must die in order to save the soul of a ridiculous world.

We are couch-potatoes who, like Narcissus, may soon grow roots and morph into a vegetable-state of consciousness if we don’t wake up and realize that no matter what we think we’re watching, those folks are us on that glowing flat screen—that mirror mirror on the wall.

If Vince is the pretty boy sun in “Entourage,” Ari is the black hole center around which all other vapidity orbits.  Ari steals every scene and the show altogether; he is the most artful in mirroring the naked ambition, unboundaried rage, impulsivity, pulsing pathos and shameless over-compensation that in sum mirrors us as a culture.  Ari is a turbo-charged narcissist who thinks he knows who he is, but actually has no clue; yet Jeremy Piven seems to know who he’s playing (perhaps managing to be more interesting than the “real” agent he models himself on).  Ari name drops the good schools he went to, the stars he has in his pocket and brags about every devalued anima he has managed to have sex with (while needing pills to locate his wood); he behaves like a three or four-year-old—tantruming, sneaking around, grandiosely analogizing movie agenting to war, and living in a self-drawn world of hyperbole; he plays an agent the way power-obsessed four-year-olds play dress up as super heroes.  Ari is a hollow man in agony, but he’s not going softly into the dark night of our collective soul—and as a result he brims with life and is a hoot to watch.  He is both detestable and oddly likeable; he may be someone you wouldn’t ever want to work with or be friends with, yet through his bluff and bluster he goes beyond super human and ends up as actually human.

On another level, “Entourage” is Cheech & Chong for the New Age.  The guys are always smoking pot or drinking—and the nihilistic viewpoint of the show seems to try to have its hash brownie and eat it too:  the characters are insipid and pathetic, and yet the message is that you too can vicariously live in a mansion, drive expensive cars and have sex with an endless stream of hot girls… as long a you’re in with the in-crowd.  Now I must say that having knocked around Hollywood, and then being a shrink to some of its most successful (and I might add nicest) players, the entertainment biz is a magnet for wounded narcissists.  In other words it’s a look-at-me town filled with children who will do anything for attention, and if they can’t be a star, they’ll be a black hole (i.e. an asshole).

My parenting point is that if “Entourage” is a mirror of our culture (which is itself a porned Paris Hilton ever desperate for attention), it serves us to figure out who we truly are so that we can be what Ari calls, “the happy losers.”  It has been said that a person is not happier than their least happy child, and if we want our kids to not end up like Paris and Ari, we are being our best Selves in somehow managing to accurately understand them.  Our kids may make us crazy sometimes, but so long as they are authentic and we are sincerely interested in them and how they feel, they will work through their healthy narcissism and come out the other end as real, unpretentious and ready for both success and happiness (a combo Ari would, out of envy and jealousy, have us believe does not exist).

If James Bond is the impossible icon of narcissism made sexy (i.e. a substance abusing sociopath who cannot sustain intimacy, and yet serves as secret aspirational model for virtually all wounded narcissistic males at some point in development); Ari Gold is the possible icon of narcissism left forever hungry.  This lack of self, and eternal emptiness reflects our secret hungers and takes us from just another fun stupid show to a real world problem:  lack of consciousness. 

Watching “Entourage” with my kids, I wondered if I was being a bad father for letting them watch, thinking about the modeling of over-spending, devaluing women, drinking and smoking pot.  The show is very popular at their school, but my kids did not seem to think the characters were cool, but rather that it was fun to see them prank each other all the time.  And then it made sense to me, the mentality of the show is just about thirteen to fifteen years old; the disturbing thing was in realizing that the actors, and the people they are modeled after, are forever stuck somewhere between three and sixteen.  This is an apt metaphor for our adolescent culture that is struggling to find a way to grow up, but appears to need to lose its money and go to rehab before it can even think about getting real.

I was chatting recently with someone who is friends with someone who knows the real-life Ari’s parents.  They asked Ari’s 82-year-old mom if her son was as bad as the character in the show and she said that he didn’t used to be, but he’s become more like his character in the show, shouting at her on the phone: “Do you know who the fuck you’re talking to?!” 

While I question the veracity of the anecdote, it still cuts to the painful truth of narcissism:  it is we ourselves who don’t know who we are, and thus a mom who doesn’t know her child is quite possibly a trigger of confusion and a target of rage—the feeling that you do big things, but mom and dad are still unimpressed.  The irony is that growing up, via boring and unglamorous work, is the perfect cure for narcissism, which is why nothing beats parenting as a cure for narcissism, if you really roll up your sleeves and deal with it (daring to diaper change and car pool our way to happy losers… and maybe even subversively re-define what it means to be a winner).  I still say it’s cool to be kind. So, let’s consider dedicating today to thinking more deeply about our own guilty pleasures, from “Entourage,” to People Magazine to drugs and alcohol and overspending.    If we’re brave enough to face our own geek, nerd, loser, insignificant, unimportant selves (since we all have them), we can drastically relax, have much more fun and, as SpongeBob might say, “Fly our freak flags” rather than lemming-like try to be someone else’s version of cool.  Let’s do it in honor of all our kids so that they might be spared the sucker’s bet Vanity Parade of our thoroughly confused, and possibly dying, culture.

Namaste, Bruce

p.s. for a taste of some Ari Gold guilty pleasure:



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