And as someone who finds her writing compelling and unusual (Hi, I'm a 24 year old male who visits XOJane!) and also as someone who doesn't have a moralizing bone in my body (except for maybe the one...ladies) (huh? what?) I consider myself an unabashed Cat Marnell partisan. Haters to the left! (Rehab is also on the left.)
Marnell has obviously incited controversy during her time at XOJane--blah blah blah birth control (you know what, just go read the third paragraph of some other article about Marnell and you will get the gist of what should be here)--and also she periodically disappears from the site and into some haze or another. But right now, lady is on a roll.
II. First came her reflection on Fashion Week--what it once signaled for her, and what it signals now:
And yes, my life is more"glamorous" now than ever before—unbelievably so, sometimes, professionally and socially—and yet still I'm always looking for the exit sign. Whether it’s from a fashion tent or the best new club, I'm always slipping out. I go outside and smoke cigarettes and walk home without saying goodbye to anyone. And then I go do drugs alone at my apartment.
You want that?
If I close my eyes and muddle through the darkness of these past few years I can remember who I was years ago and how happy I thought I would be to be exactly who I am right now. I'm crying and dripping snot all over my laptop. My phone is blinking; my friend wants to get high.
It's so hard remembering who I used to be.BOOM. But the even better piece came when she wrote about the death of Whitney Houston. The article is mostly about Marnell herself, a person who (she is quite willing to admit) was once fairly likely (and is still sort of likely) to die in a bathtub too. And a person who wasn't surprised at all by the news.
It would be wonderful if we lived in a world free of drugs and drug addiction, but we don’t. In the end, the addict will die of overdose, of disease, or serious self-neglect, and half the time, you won't even see it coming for her. So I am telling you that there are people all around you with one foot in the door—where you see them—and one foot out, where you can’t.I could quote a lot more of it, but I want you to read the whole thing. It's a memorable one. Even Gawker praised it! But of course commenters there and elsewhere are complaining, calling Marnell a "narcissistic psycho."
III. So, the "psycho" part she may not actually contest, but let's talk about this Narcissism Question. You see it a lot. Look at ANY article you've heard about recently, but especially the celebrity profiles: Julie Klausner's profile of St. Vincent, Edith Zimmerman's profile of Chris Evans--those kinds of comments (they made it "too much about themselves") are always among the first you will see. Before that people said it about Chuck Klosterman, and before that about Hunter S. Thompson, and before that... I mean, where could this line of complaint have come from? You'd think it would have started when writers started inserting themselves into the stories they wrote. So, uh, the thirteenth century, or so? ("Ugh, why does Dante think we want to hear about HIM? I just wanted to read about hell, dammit!"-a commenter) But I think the prevalence of this argument has more to do with the Internet than anything.
For good or ill, the Internet makes people want to say things. Lots of people without microphones now have microphones. And the volume varies, but everybody has one, and nearly everybody's using them. The saying goes "everyone's a critic," but it wasn't empirically true until recently.
And I've written before about how this "critical mass" phase of the Internet we seem to be in values people who can churn out a lot of reasonably clever writing very quickly. So one thing you see is increasing coverage of bottom-denominator stuff. M.I.A. gave the middle finger and people pounced. That one was easy to write about.
(There's a concurrent, and I think separate phenomenon on TV, because of 24 hour news cycle, and sometimes the topics chewed up and spat out by both machines are the same. Or, they feed off of one another: M.I.A. flips the bird, the TV news machine groans to life, and the blogosphere snaps into action to write about the TV news machine groaning to life.)
And the other thing you see is recurring lines of criticism--ones you can cut and paste and apply to any piece. Saying that the writer shouldn't have inserted herself so much is such an easy complaint that people trot it out immediately, whenever they can. It's so important to have something to say, after all.
(But is that really what you want? For Dante to just talk about hell? Were there not 2,000 other articles about Whitney Houston these people could have read if they just wanted an obit? Is Britney Spears as interesting as Chuck Klosterman? Well, maybe NOW, but ten years ago?)
I look back at old blog posts (usually looking for a joke to steal from myself) and see that I have often been the victim of this craze too (hey look, this author is making it about himself, too). Sometimes forcing myself to write a blog post created some interesting ideas, lines of reasoning I wouldn't have come up with organically. But sometimes I just fell back on old tropes. Cut and paste. You have to say something, after all. And it gets repetitive.
This post's sister article (essentially) is here. Have a President's Day Weekend, y'all.