It's Too Bad...

...when cultural outlets start believing their own hype. There are two recent examples of this, seemingly very different but really more or less equivalent: "The Man Show" and nerve.com.

Let me explain.

The initial incarnation of "The Man Show" was funny. It really was. It was funny because Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel (but mostly Adam) were funny, but it was more specific than that. It was funny because they made fun of themselves - the conceit of the show was, aren't men ridiculous? with Adam and Jimmy acting as Everymen, which they did well. The Juggies were meant as eye candy, sure, but at least as much they were there as an absurdity - the point was that Adam and Jimmy, big schlumps and losers, routinely humiliating themselves for a laugh - could never actually get these women.

Which all changed with the new hosts, Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope. They are Craig Kilborn to Adam and Jimmy's Conan O'Brien; they are cool, or think themselves so; the Juggies are pure eye candy, but now with a nasty misogynistic sneer from the hosts - "Ain't that great?" Now, rather than making fun of what idiots men are, the show celebrates men's idiocies and rewards them.

Which brings us to nerve.com.

From the day the wall went down on indecent content on the internet (1997), nerve provided a great service - as they themselves termed it, "literate smut." It was always just on the boundary of what was acceptable and in the mainstream of even the alternative culture discourse. It was self-aware about sexuality, but in a humanistic way. "The Lisa Files," by Lisa Carver were a wonderful regular feature, and were unique among the offererings in being a first-person-nonfiction narrative. Nerve was about bringing different perspectives on sex, and its staff were - staff. They ran the place.

It's tough to say exactly when the change happened - gradually Lisa Carver stopped her regular column, then stopped altogether. More and more of the site became "Nerve Premium" content (i.e., you had to be a subscriber to see it), and not just the nudie pictures. More and more of the articles became first-person narratives, and not from established writers like Lisa Carver.

And then one day - it had become the snarky, arrogant, self-absorbed New York THING. The staff - and, thus, the writing - was utterly convinced in its own coolness. Whereas sexual inadequacy was once a source for artistic inspiration, it was now a source of fun - me, laughing at you, for being inadequate. It's just so....NEWYORK.

There may be some hope - they're cool enough now that Neal Pollack has just started a regular column, the aim of which is to specifically explore Pollack's own mediocre and humiliating sex life. So, there's that.

But - overall...

It's tough to deal with success. It's tough not to believe the hype. Hmmm, wonder where else that might be true...

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