Critiques (maybe just observations?) of America in “Big Red Son”

           In the opening piece of Consider the Lobster, Premiere Magazine sends DFW to the AVN awards, adult entertainment’s version of mainstream film’s Academy Awards.   The whole article is wrought with Wallace’s trademark humor, which comes at a rate previously unseen in what we’ve read.   This is partly due to the subject at hand, which lends itself well to jokes, but through the filth and debauchery Wallace includes some compelling observations about America and the nature of its modern culture.   Wallace, without breaking stride, exposes just how extreme America’s emphasis on material accumulation, consumption, and especially instant gratification can become.    

                      The first time Wallace turns away from the events of the AVN awards is to describe Las Vegas, and give his impression of the city.   Immediately apparent is the tremendous lengths businesses go to emphasize luxury and pleasure.   Picking up in the middle of his great list of Vegas’s traits, he mentions, “Smoking not just allowed but encouraged… A museum that features the World’s Biggest Coke Bottle… Caesars Palace. The granddaddy.   As big as 20 Wal-Marts end to end. Real marble and fake marble, carpeting you can pass out on without contusion… In Caesars Palace is America conceived as a new kind of Rome: conqueror of its own people. An empire of Self” (9-10).   Wallace here uses the excesses of Caesars Palace as one strong example of the larger American need, or desire at least, for gratification, pleasure, and consumption.   He notes that the AVN awards show has only one logical location: Caesars Palace.   Las Vegas as a city and as a spectacle is a kind of microcosm for the excesses that American culture celebrates and almost deifies, like a classical Roman god or something.   But Wallace never condemns this degradation, or offers any sort of straighter path for our country and our culture.   He doesn’t need to.   Wallace does his best to expose what he believes to be the heart of Vegas culture and by extension American culture.   The rest is up to the subscribers of Premiere.

                      Another instance in which Wallace is able to encapsulate one aspect of American culture is when he is interviewing some of the AVN awards attendees.   He asks, “Q. $4,000,000,000 and 8,000 new releases a year- why is adult video so popular in this country?”   A famous porn actor and a reputable porn beat writer both respond in telling fashion, “A. Veteran woodman Joey Silvera: ‘Dudes let’s face it- America wants to jerk off,'” and “A. Industry journalist Harold Hecuba: ‘It’s the new Barnum.   Nobody ever goes broke underestimating the rage and misogyny of the average American male'” (35).   These two responses both reinforce the American aspiration for instant gratification, be it sexual or not.   Harold Hecuba’s response is notable in that he doesn’t pay respects to porn enthusiasts or perverts, but the average American male.   Hecuba knows where the lifeblood of the industry lies, and simply uses it to his advantage.   Silvera does the same thing.   They both have developed a sense of where American culture can be exploited (as any legitimate businessman would) and have probed and worked until they turn a profit.

                      Both of these instances, describing Vegas and interviewing porn insiders, help DFW unveil some of the more extreme aspects of American culture in the modern technological era.   With such desire for gratification and consumption, it is no surprise that the porn industry thrives as it does, and makes Silvera’s words more true than absurd.

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