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Cravings of a Barbaric Splendor


photo by Chris "Canon in 2D"

Welcome to the theater of the absurd; the decadent debordian society of the spectacle. We drift among the polychromatic marketing tidal wave of political slogans, jingles, and shameless product placement. Working, especially in the communications industry, is a game of uncertainty: will I lose my job today or tomorrow? Teachers are scarce, education is underappreciated, jobs become urban legends, and credit card bills keep rising.  Zoom out and the world trembles with fears of economic crisis, epidemics, and natural disasters. The cries to help Haiti slowly fade out into the global void as new headlines on the Kardashians and Justin Beiber populate our minds and screens. New reality shows consume our free time as we text and tweet our lives away.

In our obsession with tragedy and glamour, it becomes unavoidable to catch a glimpse of the highly valued flesh parade of luxury bodies in bikinis competing for the crown of the tightest thighs and the most perfect hair. The spectacle becomes an irresistible feast to an audience with a voracious hunger for escapism.

All nations glorify the splendor, blinded by the glitter while they keep an oath of silence inspired by the dresses that nobody dares to say are so out-of-fashion. We applaud the gigantic and expensive factory that takes unpolished girls, cuts them apart, and sews them back together into a vision of perfection. Dipped in silicone and make-up, they are labeled the bottled beauty-by-region. All nations become fiction embodied in long legs and perfect white smiles in a World War of beauty. All eyes become attentive to every heeled move, watchful of any tremble, any omen of a flawed step or cracked smile. Gazes locked to shun the first cultural monument that dares walk out in a forest green or bright orange dress. Among the open fire of the international gaze, who will fall on the catwalk?  This is war.

Behold the multicultural dolls of postcolonialism; the polychromatic prototypes, different versions of the same aesthetic implemented by the star-spangled king of capitalism. They sell their souls to the audience. They fulfill their respective country’s dream of youth and beauty; gracing the stage, they become our avatars, our virtual fantasy—our nationalistic representation of an identity that is socially created—and we lick our lips to savor this caramelized vicarious experience. Forget about the judge panel, we are the judges and we love it. Those that fail to satisfy our needs are condemned to bask in the humiliation of their ignorance of global warming. The winner is embraced with a diamond-studded crown, a brand new car, and free surgery. Once more, the media reminds the public that the quickest way to globalization is through aesthetic.

The cult of the body reflects our hunger for a perfection we will never achieve. A sentimental bubble bursts when we see these girls cry out of emotion once their illusive dream of importance has been attained, even if they will never reach their true goal of becoming a teacher and changing the world one child at a time, a medical researcher to find the cure for cancer, or an international correspondent to aid in achieving peace between countries. Those tears of so-called victory seem to hide a certain type of sadness and resignation that lingers in our social subconscious as personal goals are exchanged in order to become containers of globalized capitalism.

Are we so helpless as to succumb to a machine that marvels us into unconsciously trading in our own dreams and goals for its own? How can we rupture through the phantasmagoria and succeed at discerning if our own desires are genuinely ours?  Perhaps this is precisely why our postmodern era suffers from an intense existential crisis. Our own introspection is eminent in order to cleanse our minds of the overwhelming influx of commercial influences in order to recover our sense of personal identity and control over our own thoughts.

About Sheyla Rivera

Sheyla Rivera has written 37 post in this blog.

Escritora, músico y gestora cultural. Nació en Puerto Rico en la década de los 80s, entre el campo y la urbe. Completó un bachillerato doble en Psicología y Sociología en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Río Piedras, y cursó la maestría en Medios y Cultura Contemporánea de la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Se destaca en el manejo de organizaciones artísticas sin fines de lucro, cultura visual japonesa, estudios de género y teoría cultural.


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