Consider the Consumables
On YouTube videos and consumption, Aaron Paul Doubles Week, Nathan Fielder (again), and more.
Welcome to Hyperfixate, where we’re aware but not necessarily celebrating Salt Air and the Rust On Your Door Month! Those are probably my favourite set of lyrics ever written by a climate criminal! Sign up here. Support this newsletter here.
The theme of the week is the act of consumption as well as the act of performing consumption. Lots to do with consuming and consumerism, this newsletter is—after all—a chronicle of media I have consumed and the thoughts that have consumed me.
I made a note on my phone about the kind of YouTube videos my niece showed me when she came over. Like me, she can’t really eat unless she’s accompanied by a video or something else running in the background to entertain her passively. Over the years, she’s exposed me to a variety of what the ‘kids’ are into these days. Keep in mind, my niece is six years old.
She watches a lot of educational content—the likes of Blippi and other similar How Its Made-lite aimed at her demographic, a lot of Masha and the Bear, and a roster of young toy reviews and family lifestyle bloggers that have grown up alongside her. One particular subset of videos that absolutely took me out entered around fidget toys, specifically the almost Mythbusters-esque tests these fidget toys were put to.
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There was one where a woman had an assortment of toys—the squishy kind; stressballs, fake carrots, one even shaped like a poo—she tested to see how far they could stretch before they snapped. Another had one YouTuber count how many pink fidget toys alone they had in their massive collection. The one that intrigued me the most was a video of someone cutting open the fidget toys to see what was inside them, what made them extra squishy or fidgety compared to other toys.
Inside these squishy little wonders are a myriad of substances I never would’ve thought of. It’s not just air and rubber like I’d initially thought. A lot of the time it’s sand, and not just dry sand—there was one fidget toy filled with wet sand the YouTuber played with like dough. Some of the toys actually had goo in them, and it was sticky goo. I couldn’t tell what it was made of but I don’t think I want to know anyway. Sometimes, some toys just contain straight up water.
There was something satisfying and unnerving about watching the whole process. I’m a big fan of reverse engineering things, and I am a massive proponent for fidgeting as well so it made sense that I was going to come across this genre of toy reviews eventually. I couldn’t stop thinking about how this very real person bought all these fidget toys, sometimes multiples, just to cut them open.
This isn’t new, people have done this for ages, and this isn’t by any means a new ‘realisation’ (in my Kylie year of realising things, sans climate crimes). A lot of ‘content’ nowadays centres around consumption, be it media, physical products, or otherwise.
We’re so entertained by this! Myself included! I’m not immune to the Unboxing Video. Sometimes it can be a helpful tool, but sometimes you can’t help but wonder whether or not they’ve been paid to say the things they say, or they genuinely feel engaged with what they’ve bought. And there’s a spectrum within that as well, it isn’t as clear as “oh this was for sure sponsored” (which a lot of creators will flag upfront) and what has been strategic or organic trend-wise.
Haul videos freak me out. I’ve watched plenty over the years and we’re all so used to it now. Excess and overconsumption becoming entertainment in itself is a pretty lateral move for late capitalism, if I’m honest. But it still freaks me out. What other species creates only to destroy? Is that all of them? It isn’t unique to us, is it? But we’ve cornered the market on that, haven’t we?
If purchasing power has become such a spectacle, I think Drew Gooden’s videos where he buys weird shit at the mercy of his targeted Instagram ads are a theatre of the absurd. Where my algorithm recommends juices for GERD and ‘scoliosis care’ (because it somehow knows I’m bent out of shape), Gooden gets ads for everything from shirts that can’t stain to beanbag-bed-hybrids that turn out to be a scam.
At least with his videos, he often analyses the silly products he purchases, especially if it comes from the internet creator community. He often buys classes or workout regiments by celebrities or internet personalities to see what’s what—everything from a Jake Paul how-to class to Tom Brady’s diet. His latest one where he buys a streaming Masterclass by Ninja, someone my brother has informed me plays Fortnite on Twitch. I don’t know what my brother meant by any of that, but I was certainly enlightened by Gooden’s video.
Gooden gives a play-by-play of the lessons in the Ninja Masterclass. He concludes that the streamer is charging way too much for information you could learn for free with YouTube tutorials and it seemed like Ninja was less than prepared to actually teach anything. What was really unsettling was how much of he videos encouraged an already paying audience to buy more stuff that they may not necessarily need at the stage of their streaming career they’re currently in.
It goes back to how our culture of performing to each other and ourselves now includes (or has always included) consumption as part of that performance. The same way culture of response, reaction videos and the lot, have become a subgenre of its own. We joke about media consume becoming so warped and entwined with our identities, and for many online it’s becoming a joke with less of a punchline. The taste we develop in our formative years does have some sort of imprint on whatever continually changing concept of identity we have, the same goes to what we expose ourselves to in the here and now.
The funny thing to me about products like that and haul videos is how the accumulation of whatever was ‘hauled’ doesn’t really equal the aspirational wealth it usually represents but it still has that same staying power. Accumulation here is also synonymous with waste, in the case of a haul video anyway. Last year, I couldn’t shut up about Todd McGowan’s Capitalism and Desire: The Psychic Costs of Free Markets, and I’m about to not shut up about it again. About accumulation, he’s said:
“The problem with the model of accumulation is that it hides its own manner of producing satisfaction. While the accumulating subject aims at obtaining the ultimate satisfaction in the future, this subject satisfies itself in the present through the sacrifices that it makes to obtain the object it seeks. Accumulation serves as a cover for sacrifice—the sacrifice of time, of energy, of resources, of freedom, and so on. In doing so, it obscures the role that loss plays in all satisfaction. We don’t find satisfaction in having or obtaining a privileged object through acts of accumulation but rather enjoy the object in its loss or absence.”
The psychic cost of obtaining a desired object is loss. It’s losing the thrill of that desire. I feel like in the age of TikTok marketplaces and SHEIN hauls, there’s less of a concrete desire and a whole lot of loss. Everything about that desire lacks specificity and is always fleeting. It’s why the micro-trend cycle moves so fast, isn’t it?
This newsletter in itself is a chronicle of my own consumption. I often worry that I’m making and writing less in because I’m always trying to make sense of what I consume. It is, of course, necessary to consume to create—at least I think so. I don’t think any creative process can really exist in a vacuum like that. One of the big fears I’m trying to reckon with right now is what my sense of identity will be without the things that I “do”. Like, what am I if I’m not a writer, a comedian, an amateur embroider, or whatever it is I do at any given moment? I’ll still be me, but I often forget that.
Can I divorce myself and redefine what it is to have an ‘identity’ for myself without placing all those identity eggs in the ‘Things I Do’ or ‘Things I Consume basket? Sure. I’ve been feeling like shit because I feel like I’m not doing anything. And if I do nothing, am I nothing? Surely not! But my brain has a way of not letting me exist peacefully without having to be or achieve anything. Working on unlearning that.
I’ve let achievement rule my life, and placing so much of my self-worth in it has caused me so much grief, especially when I’m knowingly and unknowingly comparing myself to other people. I am not my job, because that would really fuck with me when I don’t have one. Learning to let that go is tough, but it’s necessary.
When you cut open the fidget toy and inside it’s a load of wet sand, is it still a fidget toy? That’s a pretty stupid fucking way of looking at things, isn’t it? But sometimes you can’t help it! Because you forget that on the inside, that load of wet sand is what makes the toy squishy, stretchy, and malleable enough for someone to fidget with in the first place! How much we have to cut open and discard to figure that out? Well, that’s up to us. I think.
These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends, Jesse
SPOILERS BELOW FOR WESTWORLD SEASON 4
Aaron Paul has been absolutely stunning on this season of Westworld. When is he not stunning. He’s one of my favourite actors. Even in his little pre-Pinkman guest spot on Criminal Minds as a teen goth suspect (please go find the footage, I urge you) he was out-acting the series regulars!
On this week’s Westworld, I think he was just having the time of his fucking life. Westworld is one of Paul’s favourite show’s to watch, like he’s a proper fan and everything, and we’re watching him live the ultimate dream of playing a Host version of yourself. And he’s not just playing one Host, he’s playing multiple! His character Caleb goes on quite the journey this season, and the big reveal that the version of him we’ve been watching is a Host only makes Caleb all the more human. He may be the most human character out of all of them, even among the actual humans.
The show is still one that constantly grapples with the idea of ‘self’—with Host copies of humans not just looking like their counterparts, they have all their memories, mannerisms, and quirks too. They have directives and agendas the way real people do. What makes someone themselves? I think Westworld puts it into perspective that sometimes the answer is both very simple yet very complicated. This season is by no means perfect, but it is standing on the shoulders of all the grit and groundwork the first season laid. I’m having fun with it. And by God, Aaron Paul is having fun too.
We Have to Pose, Jesse
It has been a massive week for copies of Aaron Paul. The statue of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman was finally unveiled inside the Albuquerque Convention Centre in New Mexico. Just in time for the ‘Breaking Bad’ episode of Better Call Saul! I can’t wait to make my pilgrimage to the site of these monuments in the near future! Now, where is the Gus Fring statue?
Nathan For Me
Last week’s episode of The Rehearsal (notice how I haven’t fucked up that distinction again) was fabulous. Of course, I wouldn’t expect anything less. Nathan has really been delivering the goods.
The episode opens with Nathan in a Batman Halloween costume, only to discover that Angela—the woman he’s been rehearsing with—doesn’t celebrate Halloween. She believes Halloween is Satanic, and therefore doesn’t celebrate it.
Later on in the episode, there’s a montage that included Nathan lifting weights. I’m surprised WomenForFielder hasn’t had a field day with this. Anyway, we don’t talk enough about Nathan Fielder being a Lana Del Rey stan, what with a framed photo of Lana in his Nathan For You office and the following video:
The Bullet Train premiere was this week too, a film staring deadbeat father Brad Pitt and a supporting cast of people I care more about (Brian Tyree Henry, Logan Lerman, The Kissing Booth’s Joey King). Aaron Taylor-Johnson is also in that film, and accompanying him at the premiere is none other than pal of his and InshaAllah-someday-pal-of-mine Jon Bernthal.
I do not have an adequate response to the following images:
Which reminded everyone else of this one particular interaction the two shared sometime last year at a shooting range, where Bernthal said ATJ made his ‘pookie tight.’ His words, not mine. What he meant by that or why he said that? I do not know. I would like to, though.
best of aaron taylor johnson @atjarchiveaaron taylor johnson and jon bernthal at the #bullettrain premiere tonight https://t.co/EjbYeqBDmv
Ending this week’s newsletter with a slice of Dylan O’Brien, a friend of Logan Lerman’s, seen here embodying what he has been referring to as his ‘slut era’.
All my love,