The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays

The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays

The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays

The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays

Excerpt

Romantic primitivism has two faces, and its romantic face is by far the prettier. This is the one that gave the world a whole collection of colorful and eccentric Englishmen who liked to dress up as Arabs, jump onto camels, and ride about over the sands of the Middle East.What the camels made of it is anyone's guess—but it was harmless stuff on the whole, and Lawrence of Arabia was only the most famous of his countrymen to enjoy the masquerade.

The primitivist face is more problematic. Not long ago, in 1996, actress and ex-model Lauren Hutton ventured into tourist-anthropology among the Masai in Africa.Taking her two little boys along with her, she visited a witch doctor, tasted his potions, saw a cow slaughtered, and watched red-robed Masai warriors drinking blood from the carcass—the whole episode accompanied by maternal yelps of "wow!"

But there weren't many wows from her boys. In fact they barely cracked a smile, and one of them burst into tears. Watching their reactions it was impossible not to think of the Hans Andersen tale about the emperor who had no clothes.Both of the Hutton children clearly wanted to tell their gushy mum that no matter how hard they looked at those warriors, and no matter how much she enthused about the wonders of Africa, Masai culture "had no clothes"—in other words, it didn't match the romantic idealization she seemed to have fixed in her mind.Despite lots of prompting, they were still not convinced that the life of the Masai was better than the life they knew, or that hot blood straight from the beast tasted better than Coke.

But that was the lesson Ms.Hutton wanted her children to learn. That was the enlightenment their African visit was meant to achieve. The missionary purpose of this Turner Productions show was to con-

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