South Park Self

it's only words

The city's billboard-headline-writers appear to have been on strike, or alternatively the ones who hitherto concocted the witty, playful, linguistically subversive headlines were the first up the wall when the revolution came, and have been replaced by conformist troglodytes. At any rate, the billboards have been boring for months. However, yesterday's rather intrigued me:

CHARLIZE'S NEW MAN BAGS AN EMMY

There's actually a hell of a lot going on in that simple headline. For a start, "Charlize". The first name only carries the assumption that everyone knows who she is: for an American Oscar-winning actress who just happens to have been born in SA and whose name is routinely mispronounced by American commentators, she's been rather wholeheartedly adopted by the country. She's ours, the designation says. It's both familiar and possessive, but also, interestingly, elevates her rank - the actors who merit a first name only are the really big names, George and Angelina and Leo et al. I don't think she's quite up there with them, although apparently her SA homies would like to think she is.

She's also clearly more important than her "new man", who is rather beautifully sidelined by the headline: although he's the one who's won the Emmy, that's almost by the way, as the important thing is actually his attachment to Charlize even if she hasn't actually done anything newsworthy lately. He doesn't even merit a name, although a brief Google suggests that he's Eric Stonestreet, whose Emmy is for his role in Modern Family, which I have not seen, but more power to him and it. (Particularly since it's a series about a gay couple with an adopted daughter, thereby earning my wholehearted approval at least in the abstract. And it's interesting that the headline, while conveying a bunch of information rather succinctly, doesn't mention the SA-constitution-friendly composition of the Emmy-winning TV series, which SA sources are frequently wont to do in a self-congratulatory sort of way when reporting on gay rights issues in the benighted and unenlightened First World. I suppose there's only so much detail a conformist troglodyte can pack in. The old guard would have managed it. Pshaw.)

I am also amused by the fact that he "bags" an Emmy when he could "win" an Emmy in exactly the same number of letters. It's obviously a gesture at deliberate informality, in keeping with the relaxed intimacy of "Charlize", but it continues the effacement process the headline has started. Its effect is to slightly undercut the achievement, not just because he clearly doesn't merit a formal register, but because he's "bagged" it, i.e. acquired it and put it away, with the emphasis on the award itself, whereas "wins" would emphasise the work he's done to earn it.

And, finally, the whole thing is thrown into beautiful relief by the aforementioned quick Google, which instantly reveals that the whole Charlize-has-a-new-man thing was apparently invented out of whole cloth by the UK's Daily Mail, and has been denied with some bemusement by Mr. Stonestreet himself. (Apparently they've met precisely twice). It's a classic example of celebrity gossip as a news-generator: the Emmy win isn't actually important, but you can make something of it if you attach it to a new celebrity relationship, however apocryphal. The SA appropriation of the tale also gives a South African slant and interest to an otherwise fairly arbitrary piece of news.

This random analysis brought to you in the spirit of the 40-minute conversation over Feuerzangenbowle on Saturday night, in which the assembled guests enthusiastically and with perfectly straight faces engaged in spirited deconstruction of the nuances of meaning across various almost-synonomous terms. This may have had something to do with the analytic proclivities of my social circle, but possibly also owed a lot to the mad German process of imbibing red wine having first heated it, imbued it with molten sugar and rum, and set fire to it. To this last can also be attributed the fact that, while I remember the conversation with some fondness, I cannot remember any of the terms.

Finally, because it gave me great pleasure, I recommend to your attention Pride & Prejudice fanfic, which is beautifully written even if not with quite the layers of irony and wit of Miss Austen herself, and which succeeds in rescuing poor Miss de Bourgh from her dreadful mother. I always felt bad for Anne de Bourgh. Imagine growing up with a mother like that!
  • Current Mood: busy randomly analytic
  • 10 comments
Certainly it does. But it's been done before. I have in my possession a charmingly little tome entitled Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen, which adds dodgy erotic encounters into all her novels, and dates back about a decade. I rather enjoyed Frank Churchill propositioning Mr. Knightley, and the Mr/Mrs Collins Lady Catherine cosplay BDSM scene is particularly fine. And the writer manages the voice perfectly, which is always tricky when emulating Austen. (That fanfic I linked makes a valiant attempt, but doesn't quite do it).
That headline tickled me as well. Who is he? We don't care! He's Charlize's main squeeze (or not) and that's all that's important!

My online pal (hah!) @marsroverdriver tweeted yesterday something along the lines of "despite rumors [sic] to the contrary, I am not dating Charlize Theron". I replied that I had not heard those rumours, but hearing them negated was disappointed.

Imagine! Charlize's boyfriend drives giant robots on Mars!! But he already has a girlfriend. Sigh.
I am now bedevilled rather pleasantly by the idea of Charlize dating Curiosity itself, in one of those rather dodgy mesalliances such as fanfic is made of. Clearly my brain is still meetinged out and even more wayward than usual.
Tabloid subs would never be allowed to use "win" in a headline if there's any possibility of other words (bag, scoop, whatever). It's not really about who does/doesn't deserve the formal register, it's about "colour" and "activity" and stuff. Never mind that "bag" is hardly an underused, cliche-avoiding fresh choice, it's just not the word most people would first reach for, and is therefore "better".

Sounds like a Village Voice sub has moved on to (hopefully) better things. Pity for you.
Hah! and I thought Terry Pratchett was making it up! (I'm thinking here particularly of The Truth and its deployment of "fracas" and "rumpus".)
I thoroughly enjoyed the fanfic. I should have been marking though :).
That 'fic has joyously kept me from marking for two weeks now. It's a thing, clearly :>. I also recommend "The Miss Bennets Go Forth" by the same author, which beautifully humanises Kitty and particularly Mary, and which also kept me from marking for days. It's not quite finished, unfortunately, but is right in the final couple of chapters and is still intensely satisfying, particularly since you can totally see where it's going to go :>.
  • 10 comments