Monday, August 08, 2005

Nick & Nora

Adam Cohen, the New York Times "Editorial Observer," editorially observes that a collection of the Thin Man series has been at or near the top of Amazon.com's DVD best sellers. Cohen suggests that they are popular for the same reason now as they were in the 1930s -- escapism. "We are not in a Great Depression. But with the economy feeling precarious, the war in Iraq going badly and the headlines filled with London subway bombers and North Korean nuclear weapons, it is comforting for many people to imagine that a rich person might want to take care of them - or that they are rich themselves, with little more to worry about than how to get over a martini-induced hangover."

That might be the reason. The economic indicators are reasonably good, but I see too many check cashing businesses, rent-to-own stores, signs offering to buy homes quickly and places where you can borrow money on your car title; to believe that the economy is genuinely healthy.

While building his case, Cohen skips over another potential reason. "Leaving the world's grittiness behind to wallow in a life of luxury is a fantasy that is particularly prevalent right now. On a new television show on VH1, 'Kept,' young men are competing to be the kept man of a wealthy woman. On another, NBC's 'I Want to Be a Hilton,' young people are vying to be part of a family of rich celebrities." So much of what passes for entertainment is awful and insulting to the intelligence of anyone remotely sentient. There is obviously a large market for watching ordinary people make fools of themselves for a bit of wealth and fame. Even already rich people such as Paris Hilton and Donald Trump are eager to debase themselves in public for a sort of third-rate, famous-for-being-famous sort of celebrity.

Fortunately, we have so many options these days. It is a healthy sign that at least a few, after turning on the TV and seeing Paris and Donald, decide to replace them with Nick and Nora Charles.

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