Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Chef, Or The Greater Creep Theory of Internet Success
My wife and I watched Chef last night. We enjoyed it. Movies, TV shows, and websites about cooking as serious bidness are thick on the ground these days. We are studiously unaware of them. The milieu was brought to its perfect form by Big Night, and hasn't required any care and feeding from me since then.
I have seen the TV show with the screaming Scot, however, and enjoyed it. Not the execrable American thing. Before he was Intertunnel famous, there was a British version where that wasn't a total fake. There were failing food businesses, he went in and told them how they had screwed the pooch, and showed them how to fix themselves. They rarely did. The reason they all failed, no matter what the hectoring pict did to help them, was that it's easy to know what to do, but hard to do it. The not very lovable losers all secretly liked their lack of success, because it put no pressure on them. Customers are a pain in the arse, after all. They all wanted to have a restaurant to lord over, with no pesky customers or creditors to bother them while they did it.
The American version of the show was more like looking for the restaurant version of a homeless person who was begging on a street corner for a crust of bread, but instead of giving them a tenner for a square meal, you bought them a brothel with a food court in the lobby. No thanks.
Chef isn't about cooking porn, although there's plenty of that in there. Favreau knows he has to put Iron Man in Iron Man movies, and Iron Chef in Iron Chef movies, and he does his duty. The movie is about honest work, which I appreciated, and the movie properly portrayed the mystification of a boy, not yet grown, presented with parents living in separate places.
The movie is trite in the right ways to suit us. Its stereotypes are gentle, and the people in it long for the right sorts of things, and get them in the end by exertions that seem mildly daring but mostly rely on a shoulder to the wheel approach to your circumstances. It's more Aesop than Shakespeare, but a lack of swordplay and mutual suicides never hurt anyone.
For all its cartoonish qualities, there are many accurate details in the movie. The movie gets one thing absolutely right. The tweenish son understands social media, but the father does not. The father participates in it in an off-hand way, but is quickly made to understand what a sewer it is. The child is wary of social media accounts like Jitter and Friendface. He knows about them, but doesn't care about them. He likes Vines.
If you're not familiar with Vines, they were the next big thing in social media for about ten minutes, and then disappeared without a trace. The service archived five-second videos. I suspect they weren't able to prove their value to an insane investor class by hemorrhaging billions every quarter fast enough to look important. They probably didn't have a ball crawl in the boardroom, or a ten-ton chrome panda in the lobby or anything. I bet their CEO didn't even want to go into space.
I can testify that my little son has no interest whatsoever in Jitter and Friendface, but he loved Vines. He watched very wholesome people making quick little jokes that suggested flash fiction written by the Three Stooges. It was all very amusing and harmless. When Vine disappeared, my son was so distraught that he made his own on his desktop. He wrote and recorded hundreds of them on his own. In the Chef movie, Favreau got one detail wrong. When his character watches the Vine compilation his son made from their Crosby/Hope/Leguizamo road trip, he doesn't cry. No man is that strong. Believe me, I know.
The accuracy of that detail highlights a rule about the internet. If you want to know how successful something will be on the internet, judge it solely on how creepy it is. The creepier and more degenerate it is, the more likely it is to prosper.
Twitter is really, really creepy. Uber was creepy long before you found out exactly how it was creepy. The only human thing about anyone who worked there was their hamhanded attempts to grope the help, now that I think of it. When that's the top of your interpersonal heap, Dante Alighieri should write your yearly reports. Facebook, and the avaricious little twerp that runs it, is the creepiest thing I've ever encountered on this world, and I've renovated apartments that had a dead body in them. Google is creepy turtles, all the way down.
Snapchat prospers, if you define success as the ability to use up borrowed money for a longer period of time than your creep competitors before the laws of supply, demand, and plain old addition and subtraction start to apply. Snapchat gives their users the impression they can get away with being a creep on their service. Being creepy is the appeal. Google Glass failed because they lied, and said it wasn't supposed to be creepy. Snapchat makes the same thing, and touts creepiness as a feature, not a bug. That's how you do it fellows. You'll be able to borrow another half-a-tril with that approach.
Virtual Reality goggles can't work. Because of the way your brain and eyes work, they will invariably make you physically ill, or deranged, or both. So what? They are immensely creepy, so they will be a success. People will drug themselves, or vomit and go back to them, for another suckle on the creep tit.
You can tart it up any way you like, all you Singularitarians with a dream of a WestWorld honey, but you're just humping a knothole in a dress dummy, and always will be. It's a supremely creepy concept, so you can't go wrong dumping your 401K into it. Your broker will just dump it into another Creep Unicorn if you don't.