Neil Gabler’s Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality describes our society as “A Nation of Gatsbys,” in which, like that perennial teenager Jay Gatsby, we promote an image of ourselves, a “personality,” which trumps character and substance. Gatsby embraced the adolescent longing to find self-worth and acceptance by becoming a larger than life celebrity figure. It is a pathological longing that now possesses millions of Americans. As a result, advertisers sell their wares by promising us that their products will make us the center of attention everywhere we go. For example, one commercial from my high school days showed an elegant woman wearing Chanel No. 5 perfume inside an expensive restaurant. Her suitor, a dark, piercing-eyed Romeo, gave her an engagement ring. Normally a private experience, their intimate moment consumed the restaurant’s other patrons. But the invasion on their privacy was not a source of consternation. To the contrary, the romantic couple smiled with arch delight at knowing they were the center of attention and they positively glowed.
In the mid 1980s, I heard the comedian Sandra Bernhard on The David Letterman Show referring to this celebrity moment of glory as a “Chanel No. 5 Moment.” This experience is so coveted that millions of Americans live pay check to pay check in order to sustain their addiction to these Moments and in fact their lives have been reduced to enduring the excruciating intervals between one Chanel No. 5 Moment to the next.
Commenting on our obsession with dramatic “self-presentation,” Neil Gabler quotes the twentieth century playwright Nicolas Evreinoff who writes about the human penchant for high drama or “theatricality”: “The birth of a child, education, hunting, marriage, war, the administration of justice, religious ceremonies and funeral rites—every important event in life is made by the primitive man . . . the occasion for a purely theatrical spectacle. His entire life is a succession of such ‘shows.’”
Perhaps blogging is little more than one’s pathetic attempt to procure a Chanel No. 5 Moment. Nothing like a little confessional self-incrimination for the soul.